A potenitally dangerous horse painkiller has not been detected in Findus food products – but traces of the drug have been found in carcasses slaughtered at UK abattoirs, MPs have been told.
Agriculture Minister David Heath told the House of Commons that eight carcasses had tested positive for traces of the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, known as bute.
Three of those carcasses entered the food chain in France, Mr Heath said, but the other five had not.
“The FSA (Food Standards Agency) is working with France to recall the meat,” he said.
The minister added that the FSA tested 206 horse carcasses for bute, which is commonly used to treat sick horses but is potentially harmful to human health. Of the eight that tested positive, six were slaughtered by LJ Potter Partners at Stillman’s in Taunton, Somerset.
Six of the eight carcasses with positive results were sent to France, and may have entered the food chain.
The remaining two, from High Peak Meat Exports in Nantwich, Cheshire, did not leave the slaughterhouse and have been destroyed.
Chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said that although the drug was linked to side-effects in humans who took it, the risk was very low.
“If you ate 100% horse burgers of 250g, you would have to eat, in one day, more than 500 or 600 to get to a human dose,” she said.
“It would really be difficult to get up to a human dose.”
The FSA has said there is no evidence to suggest the horsemeat detected in beef products poses a danger to humans, but the agency ordered tests for bute because animals treated with the drug are not allowed to enter the food chain.
Bute was used on humans to treat rheumatoid arthritis and gout in the 1950s. But it was later banned due to negative side effects, including causing blood disorders.
Mr Heath met representatives of British food retailers and suppliers on Wednesday.
He said he had received assurances that “meaningful” results will be available on Friday from tests designed to detect the presence of horsemeat in products labelled beef.
Earlier in the day German supermarket chain Real said it had found traces of horsemeat in frozen lasagne that it had pulled as a precautionary measure off the shelves last week. Other German supermarkets are also testing products.
It came as a Sky News poll suggested a fifth of shoppers in the UK are changing what they buy as a result of the horsemeat scandal.
There are now calls for more testing of processed meat.