Mass spec finds bute in horsemeat

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  • Published: Feb 15, 2013
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Chemometrics & Informatics / Atomic / X-ray Spectrometry / Proteomics / Infrared Spectroscopy / NMR Knowledge Base / Raman / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Base Peak / MRI Spectroscopy

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The tests conducted in the UK that uncovered the presence of the veterinary drug phenylbutazone (bute) in horsemeat were carried out by LC/MS/MS. During tests on a total of 206 horse carcasses from 30 January 30 to February 7, eight were found to contain bute at a maximum level of 1.9 mg/kg meat. The mass spectrometric tests were carried out by The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) on behalf of The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) using a UKAS accredited method.

Six of the positive horses were exported to France where they might have entered the food chain but the other two were disposed of according to EU rules. Based on these results, it is likely that other horses have also been treated with bute, which is not permitted to enter the food chain.

However, the UK Chief Medical Officer moved quickly to counter the sensational press headlines and calm any fears that the general public may have about the safety of processed meat products. Dame Sally Davies said “If humans have eaten contaminated meat, there is very low risk. A person would need to eat between 500 and 600, or even more, 100% horsemeat burgers in one day to get to a therapeutic dose." So, although it remains unacceptable that bute might enter the food chain, the risks are low, based on the findings to date.


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