Horsemeat: Switzerland finds bute in horsemeat from Canada

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Horsemeat imported from Canada has tested positive for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone in Switzerland.

The drug – also known as bute – was detected in one out of 30 samples during routine tests, food safety inspectors in Berne said on Friday (1 March). The product that tested positive was a horse entrecôte imported from Canada.

Phenylbutazone is not allowed in the food chain, and there is no official safe level for the drug in food products. Swiss officials stressed, however, that the concentration of bute found in the entrecôte – 1.7 micrograms per 1kg of meat – was very small and therefore unlikely to pose a risk to human health.

Unlike in the UK, the consumption of horsemeat is not considered taboo in Switzerland, although it is not eaten as widely as in Italy, France or Belgium. According to figures from the Swiss horse industry, Swiss consumers eat, on average, between 600g and 700g of horsemeat a year.

Readers' comments (20)

  • Over 100,000 U.S. FDA unregulated horses are exported to Canada and Mexico annually. U.S. horse dealers are allowed to fabricate foreign drug affidavits immediately after they acquire a horse and ship it within a few days. It is NO surprise to U.S. horseowners since bute can be found in almost every stable in the U.S. among many other drugs that are not allowed in food animals. The U.S. does NOT raise horses for food. They are not regulated. No permanent identification system. Horse dealers are allowed to slap a number on them right before they ship. No drug history transfers through the life of a horse. Dealers holdings aren't even regulated. It is absurd that with a stroke of a pen, dealers are allowed to send unregulated horses into a food chain!

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  • Our study showed that 18 thoroughbred race horses were given bute and sent to slaughter for human consumption. Just based upon this number of horses 9,000 pounds of contaminated horse meat was sent overseas for people to eat. Horses are NOT raised for food in the United States and these horses should not be slaughtered for food by Mexico and Canada. This is a HUGE gap in food safety and a public health risk.

    The hypersensitivity syndromes and the serum sickness-like illnesses caused by bute are NOT dose-related. Also, bute causes cancer and no one knows what amount of bute causes cancer. This is why the drug is banned and this is why the Food and Drug Administration says there are NO SAFE LEVELS of the drug.

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  • Over 167,000 horses from the US were sent to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. 70% of the horses slaughtered in Canada were from the US. We do not raise horses for food in this country under food safety guidelines. Bute is one of the most common drugs give to US horses, it's like horse aspirin. Canada only checks about 1% of the horses and the test only checks the fat cells, not the liver tissue where bute is actually found.

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  • Even thought it was a small amount, it still poses a risk. Bute is a hypersensitive drug, meaning what is safe for one person, is not safe for another person. Children are especially susceptible as the rapid cell division in their bone growth. To make a blanket statement that it shouldn't pose a health risk is irresponsible at best.

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  • Bute does pose a risk, and it's unrelated to dosage.

    According to the US Dept. of Agriculture, “phenylbutazone is considered to be one of the most toxic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It is not approved for use in food animals and there are no regulatory limits, such as acceptable daily intake or safe concentration for meat, established by the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, the presence of any amount of phenylbutazone in food animal tissue will be considered a violation and likely to be unsafe for human consumption.”

    No safe levels were set by food-safety regulators. Therefore, the drug was banned for all animals intended for human consumption, and there is no withdrawal time.

    Read about the health hazards posed by bute and other drugs in “What’s In Your Horse Burger: Chemicals That Cause Serious Health Risks” published today by Newsweek.

    http://nswk.ly/XfVTj7

    If the food industry wants to express concern for consumers, let it be by either keeping drugged horses out of the food chain, or at the very least, labeling every horse meat product: “Warning: this product could contain numerous, unknown, banned prescription drugs for horses known to be fatal to humans.”

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  • Two points:

    What amount of a banned substance IS permissible in human food products? Would "Swiss officials" say that 1.7 micrograms of cyanide per kilogram of meat was safe, knowing that the species was ROUTINELY given cyanide? I doubt it, because the amount that shows up is totally uncontrolled, and that is the point.

    Secondly, this article (http://www.petmd.com/news/care-safety/nws_hr_Swiss_stores_withdraw_horsemeat_after_cruelty_scandal%20#.UTTwNYWRo9k) states "Most Swiss supermarkets on withdrew horsemeat products from their shelves last week, not due to the spiraling fake labeling scandal but over allegations of cruel conditions on farms where horses are bred for meat." Bute is far from the only issue here. Every aspect of horse slaughter for human consumption reflects a third world barbaric attitude toward service animals. Presumably the Swiss will swiftly set things right.

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  • Horses in the U.S. are NOT raised or managed as food animals in any way, shape or form. BUTE is not the only thing we routinely give them that is clearly labelled "Not for food animals." There are also the hoof hardeners with formaldehyde, wormers, and thousands of other medicines, treatments and supplements. Beyond that, we do not treat them as food animals; we train them, build trust, ask them to serve us in many different ways; bond with them; and in return they give us all we ask. Then all too often we betray that trust by shipping then to slaughter.

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  • Swiss officials are CLEARLY and KNOWINGLY violating their own regulations, and of those who produce BUTE, where they CLEARLY state the drug should NEVER be administered to animals in the human food chain.
    It should be OBVIOUS, to the Swiss PUBLIC, that their own officials are KNOWINGLY comprimising food safety.
    IT IS NO SURPRISE THEREFOR, THE E.U. IS DEALING WITH FRAUD AND CORRUPTION ON A MASSIVE SCALE.

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  • The sad thing is, as bute clears from the body in a week or two, that someone cared enough th give these horses pain relief, not long before they died.

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  • Bute is in almost every horse slaughtered in Canada or the United States. Now maybe it will be taken seriously. Symptoms from eating drug contaminated meat even in small quantities may take years or ever generations to show up and then it can't be traced back to the source like e-coli that shows up within 48 hours.

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