Horsemeat: Used To Be Common Place

14 February 2013, 15:37 | Updated: 14 February 2013, 16:39

Despite the recent shock from shoppers over horsemeat appearing in food products, it used to be a much more common sight on the British high street.

A picture from the archives of Westminster City Council shows a shop advertising the sale of horse meat ``for human consumption'' in Harrow Road, London, in 1953.

1996 - horsemeat for saleEven as recently as 1996, a butcher was pictured showing off a prime slab of horse meat at his butcher shop in Smethwick in the West Midlands.

However the issue consumers have is in the traceability of the meat as well as the honesty in packaging, with some companys claiming a product to be beef when it's not.

It's as the head of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said on Thursday the 14th of February that horse carcasses containing the painkiller bute could have been entering the food chain in significant numbers for some time

FSA Chief Executive Catherine Brown spoke as it was revealed authorities in Britain and France are trying to trace the carcasses of six horses contaminated with the painkiller, which were slaughtered in a UK abattoir and may have entered the human food chain across the Channel.

The drug, which is potentially harmful to human health, was detected in eight horses out of 206 tested by the Food Standards Agency in the first week of February. Two were intercepted and destroyed before leaving the slaughterhouse but the other six were sent to France, where horse meat is commonly eaten.

Ms Brown told a press conference at Defra headquarters that FSA had increased testing of horse carcasses over a three-month period last year after intelligence from abbatoirs suggested bute was getting into the food chain.

Of 63 tested - four of them tested positive for the painkiller, prompting it to start testing 100% of horse meat in January, which revealed the eight contaminated carcasses.

Meanwhile, tests on Findus processed beef products withdrawn from sale in the UK after the discovery of traces of horse meat found no evidence of phenylbutazone - or ``bute'' - which is banned from products intended for human consumption.

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said that although the drug was linked to side-effects in patients who have been taking it as a medicine for arthritis, the risk was very low.

``If you ate 100% horse burgers of 250g, you would have to eat, in one day, more than 500 or 600 to get to a human dose,'' she said.

``It would really be difficult to get up to a human dose.''

The highest level of bute found in tests was 1.9 milligrammes per kilo of meat, she said.

The six bute-contaminated horses which were sent to France had been slaughtered by LJ Potter Partners at Stillman's (Somerset) Ltd in Taunton, Somerset, said the FSA.

The remaining two, slaughtered at High Peak Meat Exports Ltd in Nantwich, Cheshire, did not leave the slaughterhouse and have been destroyed.