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Horse carcasses test positive for bute: 'six may have entered food chain'

14 February 2013

Tests conducted by the Food Standards Agency have identified the presence of phenylbutazone (bute) in eight horses slaughtered in the UK.

The FSA checked 206 horse carcasses between 30 January 2013 and 7 February 2013.

According to the FSA, of these eight: six were sent to France and may have entered the food chain. They were slaughtered by LJ Potter Partners at Stillman’s (Somerset) Ltd, Taunton. The remaining two did not leave the slaughterhouse in the UK (High Peak Meat Exports Ltd, Nantwich) and have now been disposed of in accordance with EU rules. The FSA is gathering information on the six carcasses sent to France and will work with the French authorities to trace them.

The samples for bute testing were taken on the day of slaughter and the confirmed results have been received by the FSA. Since 30 January, the FSA has been testing 100% of horse carcasses for bute.

An FSA spokesperson said: “From this week, a ‘positive release’ system for horses slaughtered in the UK has been in operation. This will mean that all horse carcasses have to test negative for bute before they can enter the food chain. The Agency has now developed a testing regime which enables results to come through in approximately 48 hours from when the test is carried out. The results of this are consistent with extra surveillance carried out by the FSA in 2012, when a selection of horses slaughtered were tested for bute. 6% of those tested contained bute.”

Bute is not allowed to enter the food chain; however, even if people have eaten products that contain contaminated horsemeat, the risk of damage to health is said to be ‘very low’.
The FSA introduced 100% testing of horse carcasses on 30 January. Prior to this, samples were taken from a selection of horses slaughtered.

The agency added: “The results announced today are the last set to have been carried out under the previous testing system which takes a couple of weeks for results to be determined. This is why carcasses were released from slaughterhouses before test results were known.

Now that a 48-hour testing system has been developed, no carcasses which test positive for bute will be released from slaughterhouses.”

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