On the 9th, we noted here that the most serious aspect however is not the mislabelling but any medication administered to the animal concerned. The UK’s Veterinary Residues Committee (VMD) warned last year that 8,000 horses a year due to be exported from the UK to other countries for food were not being thoroughly tested, and small but noticeable amounts of phenylbutazone were getting through.

Belatedly the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said that horsemeat could contain “a substance injurious to human health”. His comments referred to veterinary drug “bute”, which can trigger a serious blood disorder in some humans.

Mary Creagh mpA day after Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh was reported to have told the Commons: “Unwanted horses are being sold for ten euros and sold on for meat for 500 euros — a lucrative trade” she  opened the Commons debate on the 12th. She moved: “That this House . . . notes with concern that seven horses which tested positive for phenylbutazone (bute) contamination have entered the human food chain, including one in England”.

She asked: “Has the loss of more than 700 trading standards officers in three years made this type of consumer fraud more widespread and less likely to be detected?” She continued:

“. . . at DEFRA questions nearly three weeks ago, I asked the Minister with responsibility for food, the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath) . . . about problems with the horse passport system.

“I was concerned that horses contaminated with bute were being slaughtered in UK abattoirs and entering the human food chain. Of the nine UK horses that tested positive for bute in 2012, one was stopped, five went to France, two to the Netherlands and one to the UK. Has the Minister considered the possibility that horses are going from UK abattoirs into the food chain?

And noted:

“The FSA sampled 156 horses for bute out of the 9,405 horses that were slaughtered in UK abattoirs in 2012. Nine of those horses tested positive, which is a 6% positive rate. If we scale that up to the 9,000 figure, we will see that it suggests that more than 500 horses contaminated with bute may have entered the UK human food chain last year”.

Ms Creagh ended: “I raised that point two and a half weeks ago, but received a garbled response from the Minister”.

West Bromwich MP Tom Watson weighed in:

tom watson mp“On my side of the political and economic debate, this is probably the most perfect example of predatory capitalism I have ever seen. Findus UK was a company in crisis. Private equity investors took possession of the company a few years ago, started putting pressure on the supply chain and refinanced the company. I think that that pressure led to corporate failure and its failure to do the right thing.

“This is how capitalism eats its young. It gobbles up our money and our health, it scoffs down our dignity and our children’s safety. We eat whatever it puts in the box, and it calls it whatever it likes. I say “we”, but that does not include one man, and his name is Mr Dale Morrison (Ed: Findus chief executive appointed in 2012, an American private equity specialist), who right now is sitting on the 43rd floor of his Manhattan offices on Wall street, failing to get a grip of the biggest food fraud this country has probably ever seen. That is a failure of capitalism, whatever side of the House we sit on”.


The Opposition Day debate in the Commons may be read here.

Debate on this subject on Radio WM at 10.30am today