UK: Horse Drug May Have Entered Human Food Chain
Six horse carcasses that tested positive for an equine painkiller may have entered the human food chain in France, Britain’s food regulator announced Thursday - and the agency’s chief said horsemeat tainted with the medicine may have been sold to consumers "for some time."
The Food Standards Agency said eight out of 206 horses it checked had tested positive for phenylbutazone, commonly known as bute. It said of those eight, six - all slaughtered by a firm in southwest England - were sent to France and "may have entered the food chain."
The agency said it was working with French authorities to trace the meat.
Environment Minister David Heath earlier told the House of Commons three horses might have entered the food chain, but the ministry later said six was the correct figure.
Britain’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, insisted that horsemeat containing bute "presents a very low risk to human health."
Davies said the drug is occasionally prescribed to patients suffering from severe arthritis, and while it sometimes produces serious side effects, "it is extremely unlikely that anyone who has eaten horsemeat containing bute will experience one of these side effects."
"If you ate 100-percent horse burgers of 250 grams (8.8 ounces), 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."
Authorities across Europe are testing thousands of meat products for the drug, and for horse DNA, after horsemeat was found in food products labeled as beef in several countries.
Food Standards Agency head Catherine Brown said that before the current crisis, the agency had tested about 5 percent of the horses slaughtered in Britain - and about 6 percent of those had shown traces of bute.
"That would say there has been a significant amount of carcasses with bute in going into the food chain for some time," she said.