What started as yet another fast food horror story last week, When Burger King admitted that their UK restaurants might have been serving horse meat last week, it looked like just another fast food horror story. But it’s turning out to be a much bigger, scarier problem, especially if you live in Europe: The unwanted flesh has been found in ground meat supplied to supermarkets, and now, German retailers are pulling frozen lasagne for containing the same stuff. But the scariest part is that, along with the unwanted meat, a common horse drug known as “bute” seems to making its way into the food chain.
The German ‘Real’ supermarket chain said today that they’re pulling TiP frozen lasagne, because it’s been found to be contaminated with horse meat (that’s supposed to be beef). But this is just one of several similar incidents in the horse meat scandal that’s been unfolding over in Europe. Products have been recalled in 10 countries as of today–mostly over concern that meat labelled as beef actually contains horse meat. But a new, more urgent concern is forcing officials to grow more concerned over the scandal: Scientists are now worried that horse drugs are making their way into human food, too.
The drug in question is phenylbutazone, or “bute,” an anti-inflammatory drug used for pain relief and fever reduction in horses. The drug may sound benign, but according to a primer from America’s Horse Daily, it comes with some risks:
“People fail to recognize the risks of phenylbutazone and assume it’s perfectly safe,” he says. “They don’t understand that, although very rarely, horses can become very sick after administration of bute for even a brief course of treatment.”
Ulcers are a more common reaction horses can develop over time. “If they develop ulcerations,” Dr. Black says, “they might have weight loss or poor hair coat, or show repeated mild signs of colic. When that happens, the first thing we do is take them off medication.
…and that’s for horses. In humans (who are unaware that they’re consuming the drugs), they could be vastly more harmful.
The horse meat fiasco has grown into such a big problem, it’s causing the New York Times to wonder if the era of cheap food is over. Personally, I think if our appetite for fast food burgers and bargain ground beef can survive the slew of nauseating pink slime articles that came out last year, Americans won’t likely be deterred by tales of unwelcome ingredients found over in Europe, but I hope that it at least adds to the case. Because even if a little horse meat in place of your beef doesn’t scare you (but, ugh, god, it should), the health threat of having unwanted, untraceable ingredients turning up in all kinds of food all over the place should at least put you on alert.