Best of Health

This week I’m going to talk about horse meat. You will have seen this all over the news in the past few weeks.

Following investigations launched by the Food Standards Agency, horse meat has recently been found in a variety of processed meat products including burgers and ready meals.

Despite the significant “yuk” factor, and the issues with incorrect food labeling, there is nothing that has been found in the products that would be harmful to health. Even the discovery of the commonly used veterinary drug phenylbutazone, known as bute, in some of the processed meat products presents a very low risk to us. Bute is also prescribed to some patients who suffer with an extreme form of arthritis.

The chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davis has said that it is extremely unlikely that anyone who has eaten horse meat containing bute will experience any side effects.

You would need to eat 500 to 600 burgers that are 100 per cent horse meat to get close to consuming a human’s daily dose!

What the horse meat scandal has done very effectively, is encourage us think more about the types of foods we eat and the amount of processed foods and red meat that we eat.

Red meat includes beef, lamb and pork. It does not include chicken or turkey meat.

Processed meat refers to meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. This includes sausages, bacon, ham, salami and pâtés.

Guidance from the Department of Health says that people who are eating more than 90g (cooked weight) of red meat or processed meat per day should cut down to 70g. 90g is the equivalent of about three thin-cut slices of roast beef, lamb or pork, where each slice is the about the size of half a piece of sliced bread.

Red meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, such as iron and zinc. But evidence shows that there is probably a link between eating red and processed meat, and risk of bowel cancer.

People who eat a lot of these meats are at higher risk of bowel cancer than those who eat small amounts.

Even small changes to your diet can make a big difference. You can cut down on red and processed meat by eating smaller portions, and by eating them less often.

Try some of these swaps:

Breakfast: if it’s a full English, swap the bacon or sausages for extra mushrooms or


Sandwiches: swap ham or beef for chicken or fish.

Burger: swap your quarter pounder burger for a standard burger. Or choose a chicken, fish or a vegetable burger.

Sausages: have two pork sausages rather than three, and add a portion of vegetables.

Sunday roast: swap roast beef, pork or lamb for roast chicken.

For more information on eating well visit