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However, tests on Findus processed beef products withdrawn from sale after they were found to contain horse meat had found no bute traces, MPs were told by agriculture minister David Heath.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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on