Humane Society International is calling on European Union officials to protect consumer health and immediately ban the sale of horsemeat coming from North America.
Its call is in response in response to news reports that up to 100 per cent horsemeat has been found in Findus beef products marketed in France, Sweden and Britain.
“It is alarming to learn that European consumers may have fallen victim to large-scale food fraud, unwittingly consuming horse-meat products incorrectly labelled as beef,” the group’s European Union director, Jo Swabe, said.
“Consumer alarm is understandable as many people would ordinarily avoid eating horse flesh.
“Humane Society International calls on officials to acknowledge the potential risk to public health and safety, as this horsemeat could have originated from anywhere in the world, including from North America, and to immediately ban its sale from North America.”
The group argued there was a strong likelihood that some of the horsemeat had been imported into the EU from either Canada or Mexico. France, it said, was one of the biggest importers of North American horsemeat.
Most horse meat exported to the EU from both Canada and Mexico actually originates from United States horses shipped over the border.
France also receives horse-meat imports from other Member States, a proportion of which are actually re-exports from Canada and Mexico, too. In addition, French statistics show that a total 16,970 horses were slaughtered domestically during the same year.
There were significant concerns about horsemeat of US origin containing residues from veterinary drugs that in the EU are banned for use in animals killed for food, the society said.
It noted that recent audits conducted by the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office in Canada and Mexico have concluded that the medical treatment records for US horses are insufficient to guarantee that standards equivalent to those provided for by EU legislation are applied.