Yorkshire ‘horsemeat’ abattoir has Grand National contract

The Peter Boddy slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.
The Peter Boddy slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.
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THE owner of a Yorkshire abattoir caught up in the horse meat scandal is contracted to remove fatally injured horses from the Grand National, it emerged today.

Peter Boddy, whose slaughterhouse in Todmorden was raided by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on Tuesday, removes the carcasses of some horses which have been put down during the world famous meeting, Aintree Racecourse said.

The Liverpool racecourse said it was “confident” no unfit meat had entered the food chain.

In a statement, a spokesman for Aintree said: “The racing industry takes every possible course of action to ensure that horses, fatally injured on a racecourse, cannot enter the food chain.

“Pro-active and considered measures are in place to prevent this, such as passport identification backed up by a sticker on the passport and close liaison with licensed disposal organisations.

“Aintree Racecourse follow these guidelines to the letter and can confirm that Peter Boddy, who has been mentioned in newspaper reports, is contracted by Aintree to remove carcasses if required.

“By the time these carcasses are returned to the disposal organisation’s premises they are totally unsuitable for consumption.

“They are fully signed off as unsuitable.

“Indeed it is illegal for horses humanely put down by injection on the racecourse to enter the food chain.

“We are as confident as we possibly can be that no unfit meat ever reaches the human food chain.”

During last year’s Grand National race joint favourite Synchronised and According to Pete were both put down following falls.

Four horses died at the meeting in 2011, including Dooneys Gate and Ornais during the big race itself.

The British Horseracing Authority added: “The British Racing industry is among the most strictly regulated of all equine activities and sports.

“This includes a range of checks and balances for horses after they leave the sport.

“Since 2000 every thoroughbred registered in Britain has had a microchip enabling each and every horse to be identified. All racehorses are also issued with their own equine passport containing information including where appropriate their lack of suitability for consumption.”

The Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse, in Todmorden, and Farmbox Meats in Aberystwyth, West Wales, became the first UK suppliers suspected of passing off horse meat for beef when they were raided by the FSA and police on Tuesday.

Production at both plants was suspended pending the outcome of investigations into claims they supplied and used horse carcasses in meat products purporting to be beef for burgers and kebabs.

The FSA said it had “detained” all meat found at the premises and seized paperwork and customer lists from the two companies.

Mr Boddy said today he had “no comment at the moment”.

Speaking yesterday to ITV, he said he would co-operate with FSA officers and claimed they had not “raided” his premises.

He told the broadcaster: “It was not a raid - they are welcome to visit whenever they want, they just wanted to see my records which I will be showing them.”

Meanwhile, the head of the Food Standards Agency admitted today ahat horse carcasses containing the painkiller bute could have been entering the food chain in significant numbers for some time.

FSA chief executive Catherine Brown spoke as it was revealed authorities in Britain and France are trying to trace the carcasses of six horses contaminated with the painkiller, which were slaughtered in a UK abattoir and may have entered the human food chain across the Channel.

The drug, which is potentially harmful to human health, was detected in eight horses out of 206 tested by the Food Standards Agency in the first week of this month. Two were intercepted and destroyed before leaving the slaughterhouse but the other six were sent to France, where horse meat is commonly eaten.

Ms Brown told a press conference at Defra headquarters that the FSA had tested 5% of carcasses, of which 6% had tested positive.

“That would say there has been a significant amount of carcasses with bute in going into the food chain for some time,” she said.

Meanwhile, tests on Findus processed beef products withdrawn from sale in the UK after the discovery of traces of horse meat found no evidence of phenylbutazone - or “bute” - which is banned from products intended for human consumption.

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said that although the drug was linked to side-effects in patients who have been taking it as a medicine for arthritis, the risk was very low.

“If you ate 100% horse burgers of 250g, you would have to eat, in one day, more than 500 or 600 to get to a human dose,” she said.

“It would really be difficult to get up to a human dose.”

The highest level of bute found in tests was 1.9 milligrammes per kilo of meat, she said.

Ms Brown said the agency had upped its testing for bute after intelligence work raised concerns in the spring of last year. In three months last year, 63 carcasses were checked, with four testing positive.

Labs have since developed a test producing results within 48 hours, allowing the FSA to test all carcasses since January this year “partly to get to the bottom of what was going on and partly to act as a deterrent”.

Ms Brown said both vets and horse owners have to sign horse passports if an animal is treated with bute, to ensure it is not subsequently sold on for human consumption.

“If both these people have done the right thing, horses with bute in don’t make their way into the food chain,” she said.

“Someone has always broken the rules.”

The six bute-contaminated horses which were sent to France had been slaughtered by LJ Potter Partners at Stillman’s (Somerset) Ltd in Taunton, Somerset, said the FSA. The remaining two, slaughtered at High Peak Meat Exports Ltd in Nantwich, Cheshire, did not leave the slaughterhouse and have been destroyed.

Announcing the results of the bute tests in the House of Commons, agriculture minister David Heath said that the FSA was working with French authorities in an attempt to recall the contaminated meat from the food chain.

Mr Heath said the Government had instigated the “biggest investigation ever” into criminal activity in Europe over horsemeat contamination of beef products.

He told the Commons that retailers and suppliers would provide “meaningful results” by tomorrow from tests to detect the presence of horsemeat in processed meals labelled as beef.

But shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh accused the Government of “catastrophic complacency” over the danger of bute entering the human food chain.

Reminding Mr Heath that she raised the issue with him in the Commons last month, Ms Creagh said she was “astonished” to learn that contaminated horsemeat may have been sent to France for human consumption.

“We must make sure horsemeat intended for humans is not contaminated with bute, it really is as simple as that,” said Ms Creagh.

“Why did you not act immediately when I raised this issue three weeks ago in this House?”

Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said: “Bute should not be present in horses that go into the food chain. It is incredibly important that we get to the bottom of what is happening.

“My understanding is that we are working very closely with French authorities on tracing the three carcasses involved that went to France. We are doing that as a matter of urgency with the French authorities.”

EU ministers agreed at an emergency summit in Brussels last night to the random testing of meat products across Europe for both horse DNA and bute.

But a parliamentary report today condemned the Government for its “flat-footed” handling of the scandal, warning that its ability to respond has been weakened by cuts at the FSA.

The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said the public appeared to have been “cynically and systematically duped” for financial gain by elements of the food industry - raising wider concerns about the safety of the contaminated products.

Today’s report from the EFRA Select Committee urges immediate action to prevent contaminated meat entering the food chain.

It calls for the Food Standards Agency to be given the legal power to force producers to test products and for companies to divulge the results to the FSA.

Chairwoman and Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh said the scale of contamination emerging was “breathtaking”, adding: “There is every indication horsemeat has been intentionally substituted for beef by criminals with access to the food industry. Elements within the food industry have duped consumers in the UK and Europe in pursuit of profit.”

The committee criticised a promise made by the FSA last week to order companies to undertake DNA testing of their beef products, warning a lack of laboratory space meant it was a promise “made in haste without the necessary thought and planning to ensure it could be delivered”.

The report calls for systems to trace food products from other parts of Europe and for the EU to carry out checks of abattoirs and at ports to check labelling.

MPs also want action to reduce the risk of horsemeat contaminated with veterinary medicines entering the food chain.

The Yorkshire Post revealed earlier this month how horsemeat found to contain bute had been sent to a farm in Yorkshire for human consumption.

Speaking in the Commons a day after the FSA raided the Peter Boddy slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and processing plant Farmbox Meats at Llandre in Aberystwyth, Mr Cameron said the Government had asked for “meaningful tests” from producers and retailers.