Horse for beef: banned drug Bute found in British horses

Feb 14, 2013

Tests reveal veterinary drug from horses slaughtered in Britain has entered French food chain

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THE CONTAMINATED meat scandal continued to widen today after a parliamentary select committee criticised the government’s for its "flat-footed" response to the discovery that horsemeat has been passed off as beef. A month since the scandal surfaced, here are the latest developments:

Bute discovery. At least six British horse carcasses contaminated with the drug phenylbutazone - or Bute - have entered the food chain in France, tests by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have found. Bute is administered as an equine pain killer (it’s also sometimes prescribed for humans with severe arthritis) but is banned from entering the human food chain because it can cause cancer. Farming minister David Heath told MPs the FSA was "working with French authorities in an attempt to recall the meat", The Times reports. The levels found so far are unlikely to harm humans: you’d have to eat 500-600 horseburgers a day to suffer side-effects, said Britain’s chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies.

Criminal conspiracy. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, meeting with EU colleagues in Brussels yesterday, agreed that processed beef products should now be subject to random DNA tests. Paterson said consumers had fallen victim to a "criminal conspiracy" to defraud the public, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Flat-footed response. A report by the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said the government's response to the horsemeat scandal had been "flat-footed", while consumers had been "cynically and systematically duped in pursuit of profit by elements within the food industry". Committee head Anne McKintosh said: "The scale of contamination emerging in the meat supply chain is breathtaking".

Horses from Aintree. The owner of a north of England abattoir shut down on Tuesday had a contract with Aintree, the Daily Mail reports. Peter Boddy, whose West Yorkshire slaughterhouse was closed by police and FSA, had an agreement with the home of the Grand National to remove horses put down or fatally injured on the course. However, Aintree bosses stressed that it is illegal to allow meat from a racehorse to enter the food chain because they are likely to contain drugs such as Bute. Boddy has insisted that no horsemeat from his abattoir has gone directly to meat processors.

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