Veterinary drug found in Asda budget corned beef

Asda supermarket sign
Image caption The food watchdog says bute poses a very low risk to human health

Asda is recalling all corned beef from its budget range after traces of the veterinary drug phenylbutazone were found in some batches.

The Food Standards Agency said "very low levels" had been detected in the Asda Smart Price Corned Beef product.

The painkilling medicine often used on horses is commonly known as "bute".

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it was the first time bute had been found in a meat product in the UK since the horsemeat scandal started.

Animals treated with bute are not allowed to enter the food chain because the drug could pose a risk to human health.

However, the risk is very low even if people have eaten contaminated horsemeat.

The Asda product was tested as part of an industry-wide programme and found to be positive for horse DNA above 1%. It was then further tested and found to contain four parts per billion of bute.

Horse carcasses

Asda had already withdrawn the product on 8 March.

But now customers who have bought the 340g tins with any date code have been urged not to eat the corned beef and to return it to the supermarket for a refund.

Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: "Horsemeat containing phenylbutazone presents a very low risk to human health.

"Phenylbutazone, known as bute, is a commonly used medicine in horses. It is also prescribed to some patients who are suffering from a severe form of arthritis.

"In patients who have been taking phenylbutazone as a medicine there can be serious side effects, but these are rare. It is extremely unlikely that anyone who has eaten horse meat containing bute will experience one of these side effects."

In the UK, horse carcasses must have a negative bute test before they are allowed to enter the food chain.

Asda has also recalled tinned Chosen By You Corned Beef (340g) as a precaution - even though the product has not tested positive for phenylbutazone - because it was made in the same factory.

Asda said in a statement on its website: "We have taken an extremely cautious approach since the very beginning and have carried out more than 700 tests, moving swiftly to remove any products from our shelves whenever we've had the smallest concerns.

"Our commitment to you is to continue to test our products regularly and update you with the very latest news as soon as we can."

'Deeply worrying'

The Food Standards Agency's director of operations, Andrew Rhodes, said it was working with authorities across Europe to establish how the food became contaminated.

"If someone has done something illegal, and not taken measures to stop that happening, they can face sanctions. But we need to understand exactly what has happened in this case," he said.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said the discovery was "deeply worrying". She said the fact that the product has only just been recalled "exposes weaknesses in the government's handling of the horsemeat scandal where products were withdrawn, but in some cases not tested".

Earlier, the FSA said two beefburger products withdrawn from sale over concerns they may contain horsemeat had tested positive.

The King Fry Meat Products burger was from Pig Out in Walsall and the Burger Manufacturing Company product was from Nefyn Pizza and Kebab House in Gwynedd.

Five samples were checked for the presence of horse DNA above a 1% threshold. Two samples did not contain horse DNA and one result is still to be returned.

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