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Food tests for horse meat ordered

One food firm is also told to test for a drug used by vets to treat horses
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

8th February 2013 - Food businesses have been told they must carry out tests to prove the authenticity of a range of beef products after the discovery that horse meat has been used in the manufacture of Findus lasagnes.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has also ordered Findus to test their lasagnes for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or 'bute', which could pose a risk to human health if it entered the food chain.

The last discovery of horse meat on sale in shops follows the discovery last month that beefburgers and other beef products on sale in the UK and Ireland contained horse meat.

How did the latest discovery come to light and what does it mean for the food industry and consumers? Read our FAQs.

How was horse meat found in lasagnes?

The products supplied by Findus were made by a French supplier, Comigel, who raised concerns about the type of meat that was going into the beef lasagnes.

Subsequent tests found that contaminated products contained at least 60% horse meat.

The French firm also contacted Aldi about two products supplied to the supermarket: Today’s Special Frozen Beef Lasagne and Today’s Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognese. These have now been withdrawn from sale

What has happened to the contaminated lasagnes?

The products affected had been distributed to the main UK supermarkets and smaller convenience stores.

Findus UK says that it is withdrawing all affected beef lasagnes in 320g, 360g and 500g sizes from all retailers.

The company says it has tested other products and these are not affected.

Why have tests been ordered to check for a drug used by vets?

The drug phenylbutazone, often referred to as bute, is used for the short term relief of pain and fever in animals, including horses.

Bute is not allowed into the food chain because in humans it can cause rare cases of a serious blood disorder called aplastic anaemia. Because it is not possible to say what triggers the anaemia, it is not possible to identify a safe level of residue in meat.

Could people's health be at risk from the contamination?

According to the FSA, Bute was banned from use in humans after it was found that about one person in 30,000 recipients suffered a serious side effect. However, in levels reported in previous FSA testing of contaminated meat, the maximum level found would have to be multiplied a thousand-fold to be at the same level as that which used to be given to humans.

This suggests that even if someone eats contaminated meat, the risk of damage to their health is very low.

Is it otherwise safe to eat horse meat?

Yes. Horse meat is consumed in several European Union member states.

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