European Horsemeat Scandal Exposes Danger of Consuming Meat Tainted with “Bute”

04 Apr 2013
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Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., the world leader in serving science, recently mobilized its Food Safety Response Center (FSRC) to develop a method to test for the presence of the veterinary drug phenylbutazone in horsemeat. Phenylbutazone, also known as “bute,” is a potent painkiller banned in any horsemeat intended for human consumption. Although horsemeat is not approved for human consumption in the U.S, it is commonly sold and consumed in many countries worldwide.

The new Thermo Fisher method overcomes previous challenges of testing horsemeat by using a simple two-step solid-phase extraction (SPE) cleanup protocol that is significantly faster than the manual liquid-liquid extraction procedures required by other methods. The method has been validated by Thermo Fisher FSRC scientists according to guidelines set by the EU, AOAC International and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

“We activate the Food Safety Response Center when risk of a foodborne illness is widespread and potentially life-threatening,” said Michal Godula, Ph.D., marketing manager, food safety and environmental applications for Thermo Fisher Scientific. “Lost in discussions of mislabeling and fraud is the fact that some horsemeat may contain chemicals that are toxic to humans, and our response, in the form of a new testing method, can rapidly detect ‘bute’ and help protect the food supply.”

In 2007, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service stated that “phenylbutazone is considered to be one of the most toxic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It is not approved for use in food animals and there are no regulatory limits, such as acceptable daily intake or safe concentration for meat, established by the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, the presence of any amount of phenylbutazone in food animal tissue will be considered a violation and likely to be unsafe for human consumption.

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