Chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said the DH is working with the Food Safety Agency (FSA) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to investigate how horsemeat entered the UK food chain after further reports of contaminated beef products.
Dame Sally said there was nothing to prove that phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain in animals including horses, was present in the contaminated products but that further tests were being carried out.
‘There is nothing to suggest a safety risk to consumers who may have eaten the products,' Dame Sally said. 'All of the retailers involved so far have removed potentially affected products from their shelves.
‘Phenylbutazone is used in some people who suffer from ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis. However, there are international checks to prevent phenylbutazone from entering the food chain because there is a low risk of serious effects - such as aplastic anaemia - in some people. As such, it presents a limited public health risk and CMO supports the FSA advice that it should be excluded from the food chain.
‘There is currently no indication that phenylbutazone - bute - is present in any of the products that have been identified in this country but the FSA has ordered further tests to confirm this.
‘It's understandable that people will be concerned, but it is important to emphasise that, even if bute is found to be present at low levels, there is a very low risk indeed that it would cause any harm to health.’