Animal Aid

'Bute' found in corned beef, and 50,000 tons of meat recalled

Posted 11 April 2013

There have been two serious developments in the ‘horsemeat scandal’ in the past few days. First, a banned veterinary drug was found in Asda’s corned beef, which also contained horsemeat, and yesterday the Food Standards Agency contacted British companies ‘as a matter of urgency’ after the Dutch authorities recalled 50,000 tons of meat.

Asda Smart Price corned beef, which was withdrawn from shelves on 8th March after being found to contain as much as 50 per cent horsemeat, has now been found to contain phenylbutazone – the veterinary drug popularly known as ‘bute’. This news comes despite government assurances that food contaminated with horsemeat does not represent a health risk and that all horses slaughtered for human consumption are checked for the drug.

Bute is a painkiller and anti-inflammatory commonly used in horses. It can lead to serious adverse reactions in people and has been banned from entering the human food chain. All horses treated with bute should have this recorded in their passport, which is presented when they are taken for slaughter. In addition, all horse carcasses must test negative for the drug before they can be approved for human consumption. However, it is clear this is not happening in all cases.

The problem of meat contaminated with veterinary drugs is not limited to horsemeat. Most farmed animals, including cows, pigs, chickens and sheep, are routinely given a range of medicines in an attempt to help them survive in the often crowded, filthy conditions in which they are kept. Such practices are contributing to the rise in drug-resistant diseases. Residues of some of these drugs have been found in meat from the slaughtered animals – even after it has been cooked – which raises additional concerns about the consequences for human health.

Yesterday (10th April), the Dutch food authority recalled 50,000 tons of meat after it discovered that the source of the meat could not be traced, and ‘therefore, its safety cannot be guaranteed’. It is not yet known whether this meat contains horse or how much of it will be recalled, as some was sold as long ago as 2011. The Dutch companies at the centre of this scandal are facing criminal investigations, while the Red Lion slaughterhouse in Cheshire – where horses destined for slaughter were filmed being beaten – was closed down by British authorities this week.

The only way to ensure your food is free from both veterinary drugs and cruelty is to eliminate animal products by adopting a vegan diet.

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