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Horse drugs found in corned beef


A picture taken on Feb. 22, 2013, shows traceability labels on horse meat at a slaughterhouse in the Belgian city of Charleroi.


Virginie Lefour

British shoppers buying discount corned beef may be getting more than they bargained for.

A British supermarket chain called Asda has recalled its Asda Smart Price Corned Beef after trace amounts of the powerful phenylbutazone drug have been found in the food. The drug, commonly known as bute, is a painkiller given to horses. However, it is banned from the human food chain,  the Food Standards Agency says on its website

“Asda is recalling this product and anyone who has Asda Smart Price Corned Beef should not eat it,” the FSA wrote on its website. The FSA says that the drug may pose a risk to human health, but also tries to reassure consumers that "even if people have eaten products which contain contaminated horse meat, the risk of damage to health is very low." Thanks, but no thanks.

 More from GlobalPost: Horsemeat: What if the scandal happened in the US?

In fact, some have been critical of the FSA's reaction to the discovery. Mary Creagh, the environment spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, told the New York Times that the discovery was deeply worrying:  "This product was withdrawn from sale on March 8 yet has only been formally recalled now, after testing positive for bute, meaning people could have unwittingly been eating meat containing this drug for the last month."

She added that “this exposes the weaknesses in the government’s handling of the horse meat scandal where products were withdrawn but in some cases not tested either for horse meat or bute."

Asda insists that it has taken a cautious approach, the Daily Telegraph reported, and it is recalling another corned beef product that hasn't tested positive for bute as a precautionary measure.