Cancer fear raised over horsemeat

Horsemeat cancer fears raised by Labour

Mary Creagh says she has evidence that horses slaughtered in UK abattoirs tested positive for bute

A drug which can potentially cause cancer in humans will have entered the food chain via horses slaughtered in UK abattoirs, Labour claims.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said “several” UK-slaughtered horses had tested positive for the carcinogen phenylbutazone.

Agriculture minister David Heath said all meat was checked to make certain it was safe to eat.

The news comes after horse and pig DNA was recently present in some burgers.

Some of those were sold in Tesco, Iceland, Lidl and Aldi and Dunnes. Tesco took out adverts in British newspapers apologising for the problem.

There is not any suggestion that these burgers contained phenylbutazone.

‘Right to know’

Phenylbutazone is an anti-inflammatory drug that’s given to horses for the treatment of lameness, pain and fever.

It is banned from entering the human food chain inside the EU and horses which have been administered the drug must have the guidelines recorded on their passport.

But Labour claim the issuing of horse passports within the UK is fragmented, as there are 75 approved issuing organisations within the UK, and not using a national database to trace the info.

Ms Creagh told Mr Heath within the Commons: “i’m in receipt of evidence showing that several horses slaughtered in UK abattoirs last year tested positive for phenylbutazone, or bute, a drug which causes cancer in humans and is banned from the human food chain.

“It’s far possible that those animals entered the human food chain.”

When she asked if Mr Heath was acquainted with the cases, the minister replied: “The Food Standards Agency perform checks in slaughterhouses with the intention that equine animals presented for slaughter are edible inside the same way as they do for cattle, sheep and other animals.

“Additionally, the FSA perform subsequent testing for phenylbutazone and other veterinary medicines in meat from horses slaughtered during this country.

“Where positive results for phenylbutazone are found, the FSA investigates and takes follow-up action to track the beef.”

‘Very serious’

Ms Creagh then asked if that meant Mr Heath was aware about the problem.

“I’m astonished that you’ve got not raised this and that i think the general public have a right to grasp,” she said.

She also said the inside track was a “very serious development” and demanded action in order for “illegal and carcinogenic horsemeat stops entering the human food chain”.

And she called at the government to reverse a “reckless” decision to finish the National Equine Database.

But Mr Heath replied: “There isn’t any difficulty in tracing using a horse passport. To indicate the National Equine Database was required to do this is solely erroneous.”