BELGIUM – Two European Union agencies will conduct a joint assessment of the risks to human health from phenylbutazone, or "bute", in horse meat.

The European Commission asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to conduct the assessment after horse meat was found in a variety of products throughout the EU, and the discovery of phenylbutazone in "a small number of horse carcasses" intended for human consumption. EFSA and EMA have a deadline of April 15 to advise the Commission on any potential health risks to consumers from the presences of phenylbutazone residues in horse meat.

"In this regard, the agencies will consider both the risk posed from consumption of horsemeat itself as well as that arising from other products illegally contaminated with horse meat," according to an EFSA news release. "The agencies have been asked to advise, where appropriate, if additional control options are needed to minimize any risks identified."

Phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug, can be used to treat non-food producing animals, such as dogs and sport horses. But it cannot be used to treat food animals in EU member states. EFSA stated that any residues found in food containing animal meat resulted from the illegal use of carcasses of treated horses.