Horse Meat in U.K. Beef Products: What’s In the Lasanga?


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The molecular structure of phenylbutazone, which is often give to horses. Photo by: Dschanz

The molecular structure of phenylbutazone, which is often give to horses. Photo by: Dschanz

Eating Horsemeat: Health Risks?

If you eat meat from a horse, whether intentionally or unintentionally in the case of the frozen lasagna, are there any health risks to worry about?

According to the BBC News, there are no associated health risks with consuming the contaminated products. However, the FSA has required that Findus test their products for the veterinary drug called phenylbutazone, or “bute.”

Animals that have been treated with this drug are not allowed to enter the food system, as it poses a risk for human health. Phenylbutazone is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is used to treat inflammatory conditions with the horses’ musculoskeletal system.

The health risk? According to a study entitled, Association of Phenylbutazone usage with horses bought for slaughter: A public health risk – this drug, if consumed by humans, can result in “serious and lethal idiosyncratic adverse affects in humans.” Idiosyncratic adverse affects result from mechanisms that are not currently understood and reactions are unpredictable, according to the Merck Manual.

Although rare, these reactions can include skin rashes, jaundice, decrease in white blood cells, impaired vision and hearing, kidney and nerve damage.

Is Horsemeat Legal – and Healthy?

Horsemeat is legal in other countries such as Europe, Asia, Canada, and Mexico, but it’s not legal in the United States right? Wrong.

In November 2011, Congress lifted a ban on funding horse processing inspections. However, it isn’t likely that Americans will be eating horse products, according to ABC News. The meat could be shipped to Europe and Asia where there is less of a cultural bias against eating horse meat.

Unified Equestrian, a private company that is working to open horse slaughterhouses in the U.S., states that horse meat has 55 percent more protein than ground beef, 40 percent less fat, and is high in iron and other nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. Unified Equestrian also reports that in countries where horse meat is sold, it is 40 percent cheaper than beef.

What’s Really On Your Plate?

Often times we take for granted that the food companies are 100 percent honest and what they say is in the food, is what is really in the food. However, there have been multiple examples of food contamination here in the U.S. and elsewhere. If you are in Europe and have a package of frozen lasagna or frozen dish that contains meat, you may want to check and make sure it’s not being recalled for having horse meat in it.


Food Standards Agency. FSA statement on horse meat investigation. (2013). Accessed February 8, 2013.

ABC News. Horse Slaughterhouses May Reopen After Five Year Ban. (2011). Accessed February 8, 2013.

BBC News. Beef products consumer advice sought after horsemeat find. (2013). Accessed February 8, 2013.

Dodman, N., Blondeau, N., Marini, A. Association of Phenylbutazone usage with horses bought for slaughter : A public health risk. (2010). Food and Chemical Toxicology 48. 1270-1274. Accessed February 8, 2013.

Findus UK. Welcome to the Home of Findus. (2013). Accessed February 8, 2013.

Merck Manual. Types of Adverse Drug Reactions. (2012). Accessed February 8, 2013.

Unified Equestrian. Facts and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed February 8, 2013.

The Guardian. Horsemeat scandal: Comigel is huge exporter of French frozen meals. (2013). Accessed February 8, 2013.

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