BVA and BEVA express concern at the latest bute (phenylbutazone) test results and highlight problems that leave systems surrounding the UK Horse Passport Regulations vulnerable to fraud.

Veterinary experts have expressed concern at the latest bute (phenylbutazone) test results and announced their intention to work with the FSA and DEFRA in any way they can to assist investigations into these incidents.

Prof Dame Sally DaviesDEFRA minister David Heath announced on February 14, 2103, that bute had been confirmed in 8 samples out of 206 tests.

However, Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies has stated that horsemeat containing phenylbutazone presents a very low risk to human health.

She explained: “At the levels of bute that have been found, a person would have to eat 500 to 600 burgers a day that are 100% horse meat to get close to consuming a human’s daily dose. And it passes through the system fairly quickly, so it is unlikely to build up in our bodies.”

According to sources, the highest level of bute found in tests was 1.9mg per kilo of meat.

Responding to these latest developments the BVA and BEVA have issued the following statement: “The presence of phenylbutazone (or bute) in horses intended for the food chain will be of concern to consumers who rightly expect the UK food chain to be robust. We are grateful to the Chief Medical Officer for clarifying the very low level of risk that this presents to human health and we will work with the FSA and DEFRA in any way we can to assist their investigations into these incidents.”

However, they went on: “The ability to treat horses with bute is very important for equine welfare. Bute provides affordable, long-term pain relief for horses and is unique in this respect.

horse passport“The UK Horse Passport Regulations are designed to facilitate the ongoing medical treatment of horses not intended for the human food chain, while ensuring that these animals do not enter the food chain.

“We fully support the concept of the Horse Passport Regulations but have argued for some time that there are problems with the system in terms of the number of Passport Issuing Authorities and the vulnerability of the system to fraud. We are very keen to continue our dialogue with DEFRA and others to find ways to make the system more robust.

“Our members are aware of the strict rules regarding the regulation of medicines (including bute) and the use of horse passports, and in recent years we have provided clear guidance on the regulations to help both vets and their clients. These incidents will hopefully reinforce these messages amongst horse owners and all of us involved in equine healthcare.”

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