FSA statement on horse testing

Last updated:
11 February 2013
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Following tonight's announcement by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson, the Food Standards Agency has announced that it has begun a system of 'positive release' for horses slaughtered in the UK. This means that horse carcasses will require a negative phenylbutazone (bute) test before they are allowed to enter the food chain.

The Agency has developed a testing regime which enables results to come through in approximately 48 hours from when the test is carried out.

The carcass will be kept in storage by the responsible food business, pending the result. If the test result is negative, the horse will be released into the food chain; however, if the horse tests positive for bute it will be disposed of as animal by-product under the authority of the FSA.

Testing for bute

The FSA has been testing for bute in all horses slaughtered in the UK that are meant for human consumption since 30 January. Horses that have been treated with bute are not allowed to enter the food chain.

In 2012, samples taken by the FSA identified nine cases where horses tested positive for bute. None of the meat was placed for sale on the UK market. Where the meat had been exported to other countries, the relevant food safety authorities were informed.

Currently in the UK, any horse being sold for its meat and destined for the food chain must be slaughtered in one of five slaughterhouses specifically approved by the FSA. Around 9,000 horses were slaughtered for this purpose in 2012, with the bulk of the meat destined for markets in Europe.