Horsemeat: Bute found in Asda corned beef

Traces of the horse drug phenylbutazone have been found in Asda’s own-brand corned beef, tests have confirmed.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) released a statement last night confirming the product – 340g tins of Smart Price Corned Beef – contained trace amounts of the drug, commonly known as bute.

The product was tested by Asda as part of the industry testing programme, the FSA said, and was withdrawn from the shelves on 8 March after tests confirmed it contained horse DNA at the level of 1% or above. "As with all products that have tested positive for horse DNA over 1%, it was tested for bute, as required by the FSA. This product has been found to contain very low levels of bute – four parts per billion (4ppb) – and is the only meat product where bute has been found," the FSA added.

Meanwhile a statement released by Asda explained that, although there was a "very low health risk", they were recalling the product. "This simply means that we ask anyone who has tinned Smart Price Corned Beef (340g) in their cupboards at home to bring it back into store for a full refund," it said.

Asda also explained that it had carried out more than 700 tests for horse DNA since the issue came to light in January, adding that it had moved swiftly "to remove any products from our shelves whenever we’ve had the smallest concerns".

The FSA concluded: "Since the horsemeat investigation began in January 2013, this is the first product that has tested positive for bute. In the UK horse carcases must have a negative bute test before they are allowed to enter the food chain."

Of the discovery a Defra spokesperson said: "Consumers have a right to expect that food is exactly what it says on the label. Due to the Government’s swift action, food businesses carried out 5430 tests for horse DNA in a matter of weeks with over 99% testing negative. All products testing positive for more than 1% horse DNA were named, withdrawn from sale and tested for bute as quickly as possible."