There is a possibility of food having horse meat in could contain bute (phenylbutazone), a harmful chemical administered as medication to horses. The revelation that horse meat was found in a number of foods such as lasagne, burgers, and other fast foods was quite disturbing. However, consuming horse meat does not pose any health threats since it is still being eaten in a number of European countries including Italy.
Concerns in the country still remain as to whether horse meat contains bute, a drug administered to horses as a painkiller and to treat fevers. The major fear is that bute may cause harmful side effects since in the past, it was administered to both women and men to treat conditions like arthritis and gout till it was found that the chemical triggered aplastic anemia, a blood disorder, in a number of the patients.
Aplastic anemia is characterised the loss of both white and red blood cells and without immediate medical attention the condition may become life threatening. This is the reason as to why phenylbutazone is no longer used to treat human beings and was banned by drug organizations many decades ago.
Professor Chris Elliot acknowledges that the issue at hand was the fact that bute may be present in horse meat and consequently the horse meat was used in food like lasagne and burgers, raising concern that consumers could develop aplastic anemia from unwittingly ingesting chemically contaminated food.
In an interview with the Observer, Prof Elliot confirmed that bute was indeed something to be worried about, but the real question was whether the traces that were likely to be found in contaminated food posed any real threat to consumers.
He added that the amount of the chemical that was likely to have been obtained from ingesting a burger made from horse meat was a millionth of the dosage administered to those who suffered from gout and arthritis and therefore, the probability of developing aplastic anemia from having horse meat burgers was indeed very low.