By Thomas Moore, Health Correspondent
Low levels of a potentially dangerous drug have been found in horsemeat destined for human consumption.
(Feb. 14, 2013) — New figures released by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) show that eight horses slaughtered in the UK between January 30 and February 7 tested positive for the veterinary painkiller bute.
But FSA tests on Findus processed beef products withdrawn from sale in the UK after the discovery of traces of horsemeat found no evidence of the drug.
Six of the carcasses that tested positive were from the abattoir LJ Potter Partners in Taunton, Somerset.
They had already been exported to France and may have entered the food chain. Authorities are urgently trying to trace the meat.
The other two carcasses were found at High Peak Meat Exports of Nantwich, and were disposed of.
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said bute – also known as phenylbutazone – can cause skin rashes and problems with blood cell production when used in humans at therapeutic doses.
But the contaminated horsemeat contained levels much lower than those used to treat patients.
“If you ate 100% horse burgers of 250g, you would have to eat, in one day, more than 500 or 600 to get to a human dose,” she said.
“It would really be difficult to get up to a human dose.”
The FSA said it is investigating how contaminated horses slipped through the net.
All horses are legally required to have a passport, which is stamped if they are treated with bute.
Abattoirs are required to check the passport before slaughtering the animal, and discard all those where bute has been used or their treatment history is uncertain.
Around 9,000 horses a year in Britain are slaughtered for human consumption. Almost all the meat is exported. Read more, watch video >>
If they found low level amounts only, and bute is not that dangerous, then why all the alarm about bucking up failed medical documentation systems and absent or inadequate drug testing? Why is there a policy that horses whose treatment history is uncertain are “discarded”? (whatever that means).
It sounds like they are trying to dodge some bullets here and mollify the public. Horsemeat has been found in baby food. Would you feel safe feeding your baby bute-contaminated horsemeat?
At any rate, we would love to see the theory proved, and the best way to test it is most likely the Courts. We are watching for lawsuits against the government, the abattoirs and the purveyors who mislabeled potentially toxic meat and sold it to the public.
— Horsemeat and bute: Q&A — As farming minister tells MPs that veterinary painkiller bute may be in the food chain, here are answers to the key questions; The Guardian; 14 February 2013