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An equine drug that can harm humans has been found in horse carcasses exported from Britain to France and may have entered the human food chain, a British minister said Thursday.
But agriculture minister David Heath said the drug phenylbutazone, which can cause a serious blood disorder in humans in rare cases, was not found in tests on products made by Findus, the food giant embroiled in a Europe-wide horsemeat scandal.
Heath told parliament that the Food Safety Agency (FSA) had tested the carcasses of 206 horses slaughtered in Britain for traces of the painkiller, also known as "bute".
"Eight have come back positive. Three may have entered the food chain in France. The remaining five have not gone into the food chain," he told lawmakers.
"FSA are working with French authorities in an attempt to recall the meat from the food chain."
He added: "The results of bute testing in withdrawn Findus food products have come back negative."
However, the FSA gave a higher number, saying six horse carcasses were sent to France "and may have entered the food chain".
Supermarkets across Europe have pulled millions of frozen ready meals off the shelves after tests revealed that meat labelled as beef contained large quantities of horsemeat.
Some Findus lasagnes on sale in Britain were found to contain 100 percent horsemeat.
British officials also stressed that it was extremely unlikely that eating horsemeat containing traces of bute could cause people serious harm.