Update from BETA on Zilpaterol contamination

Thursday, 22 October 2020

The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), on behalf of a number of its horse feed manufacturing members would like to clarify the situation with regards the recent contamination by Zilpaterol in some horse feeds.

It has very recently been confirmed that the cane molasses containing Zilpaterol Hydrochloride supplied by ED & F Man Ltd into Ireland did then enter the UK some months ago and was supplied to a few equine feed companies.  In that period there have only been positives detected under the rules of racing in France from feed originating from one Irish company.

In the absence of any confirmatory analysis from E D & F Man Ltd as to whether and/or what levels of Zilpaterol were in any molasses supplied into companies, once aware that the contamination may have affected the UK supply, all companies took precautionary measures and stopped using the shipment of molasses in question from ED & F Man Ltd and replaced it with an alternative source or another raw material.

Since then BETA has been working with our member companies in their efforts to identify the nature and scale of the contamination that has been beyond their control.  All have tried to act in the best interests of their customers to deal with an impossible situation. A number of these companies are in direct contact with their known clients to advise on the situation and provide any advice and instruction they can.

ED & F Man Ltd contacted companies in the last few days to confirm that the material was contaminated but at lower levels than was the case in Ireland. We have also today received confirmation that the Food Standards Agency in the UK is taking no further action due to the very low concentrations in the finished feed which are not considered significant in terms of food or feed safety and are not a risk to equine health or welfare.  The level of Zilpaterol which has been found in feed was less than 1 part per billion, well below the level which would trigger food or feed safety considerations.   

The racing and sporting regulatory bodies have different priorities to our feed regulators and so whilst posing no health risks to horses, it is prohibited for horses competing under rules. 

The BHA have offered a seven day moratorium in racing during which any horse that returns a positive result for Zilpaterol through raceday, out-of-racing or Elective Testing will not be subject to BHA regulatory action, provided the positive sample is consistent with the feed contamination. 

Elective testing undertaken through the BHA has indicated that Zilpaterol is not present in horses that had contaminated feed withdrawn for four clear days.  Investigations are ongoing so this is not yet considered a confirmed withdrawal period for the substance.

Below is a list of the BETA member companies affected by the contamination that we have heard from to date. Please remember that unless you are participating in affiliated competitions with your horse and therefore could be a subject of a dope test, these feeds are safe to use. 

If have questions about the feeds you use that have been made in the relevant period (broadly up until 10 October) please contact your supplier direct.

List of Companies that have notified BETA

There may be other companies affected but these are the companies that we are aware of to date.

Allen and Page

Products as follows made up to 10 October 2020 - Stud & young stock mix, Quiet mix, Herbal quiet mix, Old Faithfuls special, Quiet cubes & Sustain   

The manufacturing date can be found on the white sew in label and is shown after Batch Number in the bottom right hand corner.                              

Baileys Horse Feeds

Baileys range of cubes (primarily, No.2 Working Cubes, No.4 Top Line Conditioning Cubes, No.11 Racehorse Cubes, No.23 Racing Light Cubes, No.24 Ease & Excel Cubes) and of these, only those with batches dated prior to 8 October 2020, which will appear as 08102020 printed on the bottom of the bag.

Hilight Horse Feeds

Range of cubes with batches manufactured prior to 8 October 2020.

Honeychop Horse Feeds

A limited number of their fibre range up to manufacturing week (41) which can be found on the label on the front of their bags.

Saracen Horse Feeds range of mixes (not their cube range)

Mixes with a best before date prior to 8 April 2021 may be affected. Please call the Saracen dedicated line 01622 713 887 if you have questions.


Mixes and fibres manufactured before the 10 October 2020- all cubes and balancers are unaffected.

Mixes with Best Before date 9 February 2021 or before

SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF™ with Best Before date 9 April 2021 or before

All other chopped fibres with Best Before date 9 February or before

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Zilpaterol?  Zilpaterol used as a feed additive used in the USA and other countries to promote weight gain, mainly in cattle. It is not approved for use in Europe.

Q: How did it get in my horse’s feed? Cane Molasses originating in South Africa was contaminated, however how this happened is not clear and still being investigated by the supplier ED&F Man Ltd. Molasses is a common ingredient in horse feed, used mainly for its binding and nutritional properties.  It is only this one shipment of cane molasses that was contaminated.  Other sources of cane molasses have been confirmed as clear of any contamination as have other types of molasses and molasses products.  

Q: Is feed containing Zilpaterol safe for my horse to eat?  Yes, there are no health or welfare issues in a horse consuming feed containing the level of Zilpaterol found. The Food Standards Agency has also confirmed this with no further action required.

Q: Are all feeds containing Molasses affected? No, this only impacts the one shipment of cane molasses and has no implications for beet molasses.

Q:  Is there any risk of cross contamination in my yard? If you have had affected feed in your feed bins and are still actively competing then cleaning of feed bins, bowls and stirrers is recommended as a precaution.

Q: What is a part per billion?  Part per billion (ppb) is the number of units of mass of a contaminant per 1000 million units of total mass.  1 ppb = 0.000001g/kg. In other terms this equates to less than 3 seconds in a 100 years.