Bute painkiller in food chain 'for some time' - but you'd have to eat 500 horsemeat burgers a day to be affected

 

The horse painkiller bute, which is potentially harmful to humans, may have been entering the human food chain for some time through horsemeat produced in Britain, according to the head of the Food Standards Agency.

The alarm went out today for six British horse carcasses known to be contaminated with bute which are thought to have been sent to France for consumption – but the FSA chief execute, Catherine Brown, said that as much as six per cent of horses slaughtered recently may have contained the chemical.

However, tests on Findus processed beef products withdrawn from sale after they were found to contain horse meat had found no bute traces, MPs were told by agriculture minister David Heath.

The Government was at pains yesterday to play down the horsemeat risks of bute, or phenylbutazone, which is occasionally used on humans affected with severe forms of arthritis such as ankylosing spondylitis, and in rare cases, can have serious side effects.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, said the levels found in horses were such that someone would have to eat more than 500 horsemeat burgers in a day to receive a human dose.

But it was emerging as more of a concern that the drug had actually got out into the food chain. Ms Brown said that the “horse passports” of horses sent for slaughter, which had to be signed by the animal’s owner and a vet, were intended to certify that the animals were bute-free.

Yet it was detected in eight horses out of 206 tested by the Food Standards Agency in the first week of this month. Two were intercepted and destroyed before leaving the slaughterhouse but the other six were sent to France, where horse meat is commonly eaten.

Ms Brown told a press briefing in London that the FSA had tested five per cent of carcasses, of which six per cent had tested positive. “That would say there has been a significant amount of carcasses with bute going into the food chain for some time,“ she said.

Asked whether it would be fair to assume that six per cent of the 9,000 horse carcasses she said were exported from Britain every year - which amounts to 540 animals – contained bute, she replied: ”That seems as reasonable a basis for making an estimate as any other.“

The FSA had now adopted a “positive release” system whereby carcasses were only allowed into the food chain if they had tested bute-free. In the past this could not be done, Ms Brown said, because the tests took too long.

The Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh accused the Government of ”catastrophic complacency“ over the danger of bute entering he good chain.

She reminded Mr Heath in the House of Commons that she had raised the issue with him three weeks ago and asked why he had not acted earlier.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect