The UK Food Standards Agency has admitted that it found traces of a cancer-causing drug in horse meat exported to Europe in 2012, but there is no link to the recent cases of horse DNA in burgers.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said today (24 January) that, in 2012, it dealt with five cases of horse meat emanating from the UK that was passed unfit for human consumption. It is believed this is due to traces of phenylbutazone, a carcinogenic drug, being found in the meat.

Its statement follows comments by the UK opposition party, Labour, in Parliament, in which shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh warned that horse meat containing 'bute' may have entered the food supply chain.

FSA officials stressed today that there is no link to the recent findings of horse DNA in several beef burgers on sale in the UK and Ireland.

Tests for bute in those burgers by Ireland's food safety body have already come back negative.

The FSA also said that none of the unfit horse meat had gone on sale in the UK. "Where the meat had been exported to other countries, the relevant food safety authorities were informed," it said, adding that it regularly checks on horses going for slaughter in the UK.

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FSA issues statement on bute in horsemeat

The Agency has issued a statement on bute in horsemeat. Horses that have been treated with the drug phenylbutazone or ‘bute’ are not allowed to enter the food chain.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) carries out checks in slaughterhouses to ensure that horses presented for slaughter are fit for human consumption, in the same way as they do for other animals such as sheep and cattle. The FSA also carries out regular enhanced sampling and testing for phenylbutazone in meat from horses slaughtered in the UK.

In 2012, the FSA identified five cases where horses returned non-compliant results. None of the meat had been placed for sale on the UK market. Where the meat had been exported to other countries, the relevant food safety authorities were informed.

During the recent horsemeat incident the Food Safety Authority of Ireland checked for the presence of phenylbutazone and the samples came back negative.

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