A British Labour MP says she has evidence showing that several horses slaughtered at UK abattoirs last year tested positive for a drug capable of causing cancer in humans.
Mary Creagh, Labour’s shadow environment secretary told the House of Commons: “I am 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 is possible that those animals entered the human food chain.”
Creagh made her remarks as authorities continued their inquiries into the discovery of horse DNA in beef burgers.
The tests were conducted by Ireland’s food safety watchdog, with the product identified to date having come from two plants in Ireland and one in England.
Authorities have repeatedly said there is no risk to human health from eating the contaminated beef burgers.
Creagh said: “Ministers need urgently to set out what they are doing about this situation.
“It is clear that the Government’s decision to scrap the National Equine Database has made it harder to trace horses.
“Last week I challenged the Minister about the chaos in the horse passport system and he dismissed my concerns.
“Phenylbutazone is a dangerous drug that is banned from food for human consumption. Consumers must have confidence that the food they buy is correctly labelled, legal and safe.”
Britain’s Food Standards Agency has since confirmed that it identified eight cases where horses tested positive for bute during 2012. Five were exported for the food chain. None of the meat was destined for the UK.
Where the meat had been exported to other countries, the relevant food safety authorities were informed, the agency said. The other three did not enter the food chain. None of the meat was placed for sale in Britain.
It added that, during the recent cases of horse meat contamination in beef burgers, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland checked for the presence of phenylbutazone and the samples came back negative.