Six horse carcasses slaughtered in Somerset 'may have entered food chain'
Six horses slaughtered in Somerset 'may have entered the food chain' after being sent to France, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said today.
The FSA said it checked 206 horse carcasses between January 30 and February 7, testing for the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone (bute).
Today it announced that eight carcasses had tested positive for the drug, and that six of them were slaughtered by LJ Potter Partners at Stillman’s (Somerset) Ltd in Taunton.
The FSA said it is gathering information on the six carcasses sent to France and will work with the French authorities to trace them.
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"The samples for bute testing were taken on the day of slaughter and the confirmed results have been received," said the FSA in a statement.
"Since January 30, the FSA has been testing 100 per cent of horse carcasses for bute.
"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.
"Bute is not allowed to enter the food chain; however, even if people have eaten products which contain contaminated horse meat, the risk of damage to health is very low."
The Department of Health's chief medical officer Sally Davies said investigations into how horse meat got into the UK food chain were continuing.
“There is nothing to suggest a safety risk to consumers who may have eaten the products," she said.
"All of the retailers involved so far have removed potentially affected products from their shelves.
“Phenylbutazone is used to treat some people who suffer from ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis.
"However, there are international checks to prevent phenylbutazone from entering the food chain because there is a low risk of serious effects – such as aplastic anaemia – in some people.
“As such, it presents a limited public health risk and I support the FSA advice that it should be excluded from the food chain.
“It’s understandable that people will be concerned but it is important to emphasise that, even if bute is found to be present at low levels, there is a very low risk indeed that it would cause any harm to health.”
In a statement, LJ Potter Partners said all the horses it slaughtered had been accompanied by DEFRA's Horse Passport Regulations.
It also said it had warned the Government that the passport scheme "would not ensure public health when the regulations were being drafted into British Law".
LJ POTTER PARTNERS - FULL STATEMENT
"LJ Potter Partners warned DEFRA that the Horse Passport Regulations would not ensure public health when the regulations were being drafted into British Law.
"All equines humanely destroyed by us have been accompanied by their passport permitting entry to the food chain.
"In addition to EU Regulations all suppliers are required to sign a declaration declaring that the animal has not been treated with drugs that would require permanent exclusion from the food chain, and that withdrawal periods have been observed for permitted drugs; prior to the 2005 regulations we required a strict 28 day withdrawal from all medication and in those circumstances we had zero positive test results for residues of Phenylbutozone during a period covering more than 20 years.
"We wish to produce meat that is wholesome, nutritious, good value and, most importantly, safe.
"The current EU Regulations have been proved, beyond all doubt, to be ineffective in permitting us to do this; they additionally are inappropriately excluding large numbers of horses from the legitimate food chain.
"It is our belief that this has been the causal condition that has led to large numbers of horses entering the food chain illegitimately.
"The fraudulent misrepresentation of horsemeat is a direct consequence of ignorant, mis-informed, badly drafted EU legislation.
"It is our belief that the majority of equines with a passport signed out of the food chain have a similar residue profile to those permitted to enter the food chain, and that the current news story proves that the Horse Passport Regulations 2005 & 2009 are wholly inappropriate to the control of equines permitted to enter the food chain.
"Having been informed of positive samples taken over the past two weeks, we have already taken steps to recall meat delivered to France in order to protect our French customers.
"We have, also, not processed horses this week to permit the FSA to put in place a test that is able to provide results prior to meat being despatched.
"We believe that this interim measure will ensure public safety. We will not process horses again until these measures are in place.
"We firmly believe that the humane destruction of horses for the human food chain has an important role to play in ensuring horse welfare, as otherwise unwanted horses would be left to enter a downward spiral to neglect.
"We are seeking a fundamental reappraisal of the legislation to permit our legitimate industry to perform its dual role in protecting horse welfare and providing customers who wish to purchase and consume horsemeat with a product in which they can be confident."