David Cameron is allowing horsemeat that could contain a banned drug harmful to humans to be exported from Britain for human consumption.
The potentially contaminated meat could then be exported back to Britain in the form of processed food.
Phenylbutazone—commonly known as bute—is an anti-inflammatory drug. It is banned for human consumption because it can cause health problems.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is testing all horsemeat exported from Britain for human consumption in Europe for bute. Yet exports are continuing before test results are known.
Cameron has tried to play down the scandal. Others have blamed the contamination on Romanian butchers or Italian mafia gangs.
But the ongoing revelations suggest that the use of cheap meat and animal parts that could harm humans is widespread in the global food industry.
Environment secretary Owen Paterson has said the scandal is a “fraud and a conspiracy against the public”.
Yet he is content to continue putting people at risk. So Paterson said that, “It is down to the retailers to decide what are the appropriate measures needed to give people confidence in their products”.
In other words, the food industry will be largely left to regulate itself.
The Tories have lied about the scale of the crisis.
Shadow environment minister Mary Creagh told the Independent on Sunday last week, “I raised this in parliament two weeks ago and was told all meat was tested.
“It has become clear since then that all meat has not been tested and the Food Standards Agency is only now testing all horses for bute.”
Governments have repeatedly ignored warnings about contamination.
The Veterinary Residues Committee has found that over the past decade 23 samples tested
positive for the drug.
The committee has “repeatedly expressed concern over residues of phenylbutazone entering the food chain”. It says that warnings were passed to the FSA and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The EU warned last year that chilled horsemeat exported from Britain had been found to contain bute.
Horses in Britain have passports that confirm whether they are fit for human consumption.
In June last year a European Commission directorate noted “numerous shortcomings” in horse passports.
Because the food industry is global, it’s hard to establish where all of the ingredients in a finished product have come from.
The US exports horsemeat to Europe. Many US horses were previously racehorses. Bute is so common for these racehorses that one scientist called them “walking pharmacies”.
The FSA says more contamination cases were “probable”.