Slaughterhouse suspected of supplying horse meat for burgers had Grand National contract
Horses at Aintree - food safety inspectors believe equine carcasses were given to a Welsh meat plant. photograph: reuters
Horses killed during Grand National meetings at Aintree have been taken away for years by a Yorkshire slaughterhouse now suspected of supplying horse meat for burgers and kebabs.
The firm, owned by Peter Boddy, was closed down earlier this week after it was raided by police and food safety inspectors, who believe it supplied horse meat to a Welsh meat-plant.
Two horses were put down by lethal injection in last year’s Grand National, including the JP McManus-owned Gold Cup winner Synchronised, though it was not released to the slaughterhouse.
‘Unsuitable for consumption’
Saying it followed the rules “to the letter”, Aintree confirmed Mr Boddy had the removal contract, saying any carcasses removed would be “totally unsuitable for consumption”.
Over 1,100 racehorses were killed or rendered by British slaughterhouses in 2011, according to charity Animal Aid, which said it feared some will have entered the food chain.
Aintree racecourse said the racing industry “takes every possible course of action” to ensure that fatally injured horses did not enter the food chain.
Six British horses treated with bute (phenylbutazone) were shipped to France by a Somerset slaughterhouse.
The UK’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said bute posed little risk, since a person would have to eat up to 600 burgers made entirely of horse meat to breach daily dose limits. From this week, horses slaughtered in the UK will have to test negative for bute before they can enter the food chain, with results available within 48 hours.
No serious side-effects
Professor Peter Lees of the Royal Veterinary College said: “Bute is an excellent pain killer in horses: that makes a significant contribution to improved welfare, and has done so for some 60 years.” In very rare cases, it could cause life-threatening anaemia in humans, but the drug caused no serious side-effects for those who had taken it over prolonged periods before it was banned for humans.
In the Commons, minister of state for agriculture David Heath said the paperwork seized at the Yorkshire slaughterhouse and the Welsh meat-plant was “ a little difficult to interpret”.
He told MPs he could not give “a categorical assurance” that the Yorkshire supplies had not entered the human food-chain because “some of the meat present appears to have been unlabelled and therefore its destination is unknown”.
Last night, Dyfed-Powys police arrested a 64-year-old man and a 42-year-old man at Farmbox Meats near Aberystwyth, while a 63-year-old was held at the Yorkshire slaughterhouse.
Former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson – now in charge of environment, food and rural affairs – has been accused of responding too slowly to the crisis and for having experienced “a Damascene conversion” towards EU labelling regulations, despite his Eurosceptic beliefs.
Meanwhile Asda last night withdrew a Bolognese sauce after it discovered the presence of horse meat.