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Phenylbutazone in Horse burgers? Neigh.

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Unless you've been living in a cave for the past week you will have heard about the scandal that has uncovered the use of horse meat in prepared meals by Findus and other companies. Personally I have been trying to avoid all of these news stories the way I avoid ready meals, but what did come up in conversation with my friends is how no-one was really that bothered about eating horse meat. The main point raised was that if it was so detrimental to our health, how do the French get away with eating it and not end up running around on all fours occasionally vaulting hedges and fences.

Despite me trying to circumvent every horse based story out there, my friend did alert me to one of the main controversies that the meat may contain a drug for the treatment of horses. This drug, phenylbutazone, commmonly referred to as Bute caused controversy as it is not meant for human consumption however residual levels may have been found in these horsey burgers and lasagnes. In horses phenylbutazone, as an NSAID, is used to relieve pain and fevers however since the 1950's has been removed from use in the treatment of humans.

The drug was initially developed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, gout and osteoarthritis in humans. But due to the appearance of severe adverse effects like bone marrow suppression causing a low blood cell count and subsequent aplastic anaemia, the drug has been removed from the market. Although it is still used for treatment in a few select patients for whom other avenues have proved unhelpful.

Whilst still being used in a select number of cases there are heavy restrictions on those patients who fit the criteria. For example it can't be used by those women who are pregnant or breast feeding, those patients with asthma, hives or other allergic reactions to NSAIDs. Also due to it being an NSAID it can aggrevate peptic ulcer disease, and due to its method of elimination can worsen levels of renal impairment. It also has to be used with caution in those taking anticoagulants as can cause increased bleeding, and for those patients taking Lithium can cause toxic blood levels resulting in a need for closer monitoring.

After reading several newspaper articles with experts commenting on the levels of phenylbutazone that would likely be present in these prepared meals, from what I can conclude the chances of it being present are exceedingly low. One expert went as far to say that the phenylbutazone isn't what consumers should be worried about, but instead the increased levels of fat and salt contained within these meals. This in particular sparked a heated debate in the comments section about how Inuits eat high levels of fat throughout their lives and are fine healthwise. Although its likely Inuits don't eat a lot of Findus lasagnes to obtain this high fat diet.

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