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70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland

12 February 2013

An estimated 70,000 horses remain unaccounted for in Northern Ireland, while unknown meat flooding markets could be carrying drug extracts or diseases harmful to humans. These are the findings of the Labour party and food safety expert Professor Mike Lean from the University of Glasgow.

Prof Lean, a leading nutritionist, warned that criminal gangs were flooding the market with unknown meat that could be carrying drug extracts or diseases harmful to humans.

According to Lean, crooks in countries like Romania, where much of the contaminated meat is being sourced, ignore any quality control checks that may be in place. He demanded that the Government stops sales of these meat products until they know exactly what is in them.

“This horsemeat has come from criminals and it is unlikely they would adhere to the close controls we would expect for foods being prepared for human consumption,” Prof Lean told The Daily Record. “We have no idea which horses they were – whether they were old or diseased – or what bit of them was used in these burgers. How do we know it wasn’t the brain, spinal chord or other potentially dangerous tissue? These horses have not been raised for human consumption, they’re just horses. There’s been no control about what has actually gone into them. There are various drugs that are given to horses that are hazardous to humans and some of them have already been detected in foods.”

Last year the Food Standards Agency tested almost 80,000 samples of food, but were not responsible for DNA testing to show whether the meat was authentic. Prof Lean believes that ‘drastic action’ is needed to resolve the issue.

“What the system needs to do now is stop the sale of these meat products unless the meat in them has complete traceability and find out what’s gone wrong,” he said. “I think a blind eye has been turned to this subject for quite a long time. We should say ‘no thanks’, get rid of it all and start again. We now have very tight controls in place after the BSE scandal so consumers can be very confident that Scottish beef is of a very high quality and should eat it instead.”

Meanwhile, Shadow Environment Secretary, Mary Creagh, yesterday claimed there are an estimated 70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland. She added that unwanted horses were given false paperwork before being sold for £8 and resold to dealers for meat for as much as £423.

Creagh said: “The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have clear evidence of an illegal trade of unfit horses from Ireland to the UK for meat, with horses being re-passported to meet demands for horse meat in mainland Europe. It says that there are currently 70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland. Unwanted horses are being sold for €10 and being sold on for meat for €500.

“It is very convenient to blame the Poles and the Romanians but so far neither country have found any problems with their beef abattoirs,” Creagh warned. According to the Labour MP, many horses are also believed to be contaminated with the carcinogen phenylbutazone, often referred to as bute. Describing the lack of information from the Government as a ‘disgrace’, she claimed confidence in the food chain was ‘sinking like a stone’.

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