FACTS about Horse Meat & BUTE

Safety of Horse Meat as Human food some FACTS.

None of us view our horses as potential ‘beef’ burgers and it is completely unacceptable that food labelled beef should in reality be 60 – 100% horse, but is there a safety issue – or is it just an labelling matter?

There has been much wild speculation about dangers to human health from BUTE in horse meat with some comments in the media that it might cause cancer, blood disorders and all kinds of other problems. It needs to be noted that in no way should we condone any contamination of food with a drug BUT is it dangerous? The first worry – cancer – is easy to deal with. There is NO evidence or even a suggestion of such that EPZ can cause cancer even after prolonged therapeutic administration – let alone from food contamination.

BUTE was introduced as a human medicine in 1949 – it proved very popular because it was effect, cheap and had few side effects. Unfortunately it transpired that around 1 in 30,000 humans had an unusual reaction to the drug causing blood dyscrasia (this is potentially serious and could even be potentially fatal). Thus EPZ was removed from use as a human drug (it is ironic that BUTE is perhaps safer than some NSAIDS still in regular use!) It should be noted that all the individuals that did suffer from blood dyscrasias were being treated with BUTE at normal dose rates. BUTE has been used in horses since 1950 and has proved one of the most successful NSAIDS ever produced for horses. It is cheap, effective, and has very few side effects if used at the recommended dose rates. But is it finding its way into horse meat for human consumption?

The answer would seem to be yes – but at a very low incidence. In 2011 1.86% of horses sampled at slaughter in human meat plants in the UK were positive for EPZ. In 2012 it was 3.4% that corresponds to 286 horses (OK a very low incidence but not if your meat comes from one of these carcases). So what would happen if you or a 40 kg child ate ‘beef’ burgers made from horse meat that contained EPZ. The answer is IF the horse had been given BUTE , 6 – 12 hours before slaughter (when it would be at its maximum absorption) and IF a 40 kg child ate two Tesco Value burgers and if they were 100% horse meat (which they are not): then the worst possible dose given to the child would by 1.0 MICRO grams per kilogram (4,400 times LESS the correct dose for a horse). That is the child would ingest 0.000001g/kg. This is to say the least a tiny amount. It should be emphasised that this is a WORST case scenario a more realistic calculation suggests that the dose is likely to be 44,000 times LESS than the safe therapeutic level in the horse. In known cases of human toxic reactions to EPZ doses higher than 250mg/kg have been taken (and the victims survived albeit after intensive care).

The point is that in the worst case scenario the intake of phenylbutazone would be well below the level where they are any possible pharmacological or toxicological effects.  The blood dyscrasias seen were ALL in patients who received  months of treatment at between 2 and 6 mg/kg / day FAR higher than possible from eating even worse case ‘beef’ burgers.

The Irish Agriculture Minister stated that ‘the products pose no risk to public health’. Any rational examination of the facts would suggest he is right.

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