I blogged a few days ago about the stories now circulating that somehow ragwort was contaminating the horse meat that has got into burgers and other supposed beef products on sale in the UK.
I have tracked down the source of this story. It comes from a statement made by Nick Ferrari on ITV's This Morning programme last Friday.
He said, in the context of problems from horse meat contamination of meat products, that horses got a liver complaint from ragwort. It was the repeated by people on twitter as posing a risk to human health, which was the context in which the remark was made.
It simply isn't true that there is a risk. It is one of a long list of ragwort myths which are circulated frequently. It is almost understandable, because they are repeated so often, that people believe them to be true.
The first question really is "why horses?", any grazing animal might be a cause. Ragwort poisoning is rare.
Despite all the stuff that has been made up about it. Animals won't eat it unless it is in hay, this is because of their basic biology. Animals always instinctively avoid common poisons and these chemicals are in 3% of the world's plants.
This is a statement Dr Peter Cheeke of Animal Sciences Department Oregon State University, a leading researcher into Ragwort. It is in the context of sheep but it applies equally to other meats.
The PA [ pyrrolizidine alkaloids] are not accumulated in the tissues; it is the damage that is cumulative. The damage is confined to the liver, which in an animal with ragwort toxicity would be shrunken and fibrotic. The carcass would likely be condemned because of the liver damage. In sheep which had consumed ragwort but did not show obvious liver damage, there would be no residues of PA in the meat. The PA are metabolized in the liver, and excreted as conjugates in the urine. Small amounts of pyrrole bound to DNA in the liver would not be measurable. Thus in my judgement there is no concern whatsoever about possible human toxicity from consumption of meat from sheep which had consumed ragwort.
So we can see that it just it isn't true.
Always these two sites will give proper information.
Ragwort Myths and Facts