Horse drug may now be in human food chain in France: UK

Bute is sometimes also used as a drug to treat individuals suffering from a severe form of arthritis.

London: An equine drug found in horses that could be harmful to humans may have entered the human food chain in France, British Agriculture Minister said on Thursday.

Carcasses of 206 horses slaughtered in Britain were tested and out of them, 8 were found positive for the painkiller "bute" and anti-inflammatory used on horses which can cause a serious blood disorder in humans in rare cases.

According to UK`s Food Standards Agency (FSA), meat from three of these horses may have entered the food chain in France. The remaining five have not gone into the food chain.

"FSA is working with French authorities in an attempt to recall the meat from food chain," Britain’s Agriculture Minister David Heath told Parliament.

The drug was not found in the tests on products made by Findus, the food giant embroiled in Europe-wide horsemeat scandal.

"The highest level detected was 1.9mg of bute per kg of horsemeat, which posed very little risk to human health," England`s chief medical officer said.

He added that a person would have to eat 500-600, 100 percent horsemeat burgers a day to get close to consuming a human`s daily dose.

"The drug passes through the system fairly quickly, so it is unlikely to build up in our bodies," said Prof Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer of the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Bute is sometimes also used as a drug to treat individuals suffering from a severe form of arthritis.

Supermarkets across Europe have pulled millions of frozen ready meals off the shelves after tests revealed that meat labelled as beef contained large quantities of horsemeat.

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee was highly critical of the way UK government had dealt with the scandal since the discovery of horsemeat last month in a series of beef products sold by some of the country`s biggest supermarket chains.

"Whilst ministers are properly responsible for policy, the FSA`s diminished role has led to a lack of clarity about where responsibility lies, and this has weakened the UK`s ability to identify and respond to food standards concerns.

Furthermore the current contamination crisis has caught the FSA and government flat-footed and unable to respond effectively within structures designed primarily to respond to threats to human health," the MPs on the committee said.

"We recommend that Government and FSA should undertake a broader spectrum of testing for products found to have the highest levels of contamination to provide assurances that there is no other non-bovine DNA or any other substances that could be harmful to human health present," they added.

EU ministers agreed on last night to the random testing of meat products for bute as well as for horse DNA.

The decision came as German supermarket chain, Real said that it has found traces of horsemeat in its frozen lasagne and withdrawn the product from sale.