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One in 50 horses test positive for bute

12 April 2013

The total number of horses that have tested positive for bute at UK abbottoirs since the end of January is 22 – a ratio of one in fifty.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) tested 1042 horses for the veterinary painkiller phenylbutazone as part of its new 100% testing regime.

Most of the positive tests have been found since mid-February, when ministers said no carcasses could leave abattoirs until tests had proved they are clear from the drug. However, the government says that the levels of bute present a very low risk to the public.

The figures were released to the Guardian after it emerged that supermarket Asda was recalling a range of budget corned beef because ‘very low levels of bute’ had been found in a product that had previously had traces of horsemeat.

The extra precautions on releasing carcasses after slaughter were introduced after David Heath, the food and agriculture minister, revealed that six out of eight carcasses tested in the first weeks of the scheme had tested positive and six may have entered food in France. He called the presence of bute ‘unacceptable’ and said anyone found to have broken the law would be dealt with.

Mary Creagh, the shadow environment secretary, said tougher rules must be imposed on the food industry: "A lot of these products are long life or frozen so the stick around in people's cupboards and freezers for up to a year. Every product found to be contaminated with horsemeat from the beginning of the scandal should be recalled and we should be absolutely clear about what those products are."

Creagh said the FSA should have publicised a central list of affected products that could be easily accessed by worried shoppers. "Some supermarkets have been clear about it and some have not."

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