The enforcement of strict import requirements on horse-meat products entering Europe has been labelled farcical by the advocacy group Humane Society International (HSI).
The charity renewed its call for the European Commission to halt the import of horse-meat from outside the European Union (EU).
It said strict import controls had been in place for four years but were not being well implemented by some nations sending meat to Europe
“These EU import requirements look great on paper, but the implementation thereof by non-EU countries has been farcical,” said Joanna Swabe, HSI EU director.
The organisation has repeatedly warned that the measures implemented by Canada and Mexico to prevent meat from horses treated with banned substances, such as phenylbutazone, from entering the EU food system are fundamentally flawed and susceptible to fraud.
“Even the European Commission’s own audits have highlighted this, which makes it all the more outrageous that they have failed to take action to suspend the import of horse-meat products that do not meet EU food safety standards,” Swabe said.
The group asserts there is mounting evidence suggesting that the issue was not restricted to horse-meat from North America.
Food and Veterinary Office audits in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay indicated that the measures implemented in these countries to prevent meat from horses treated with substances banned for use in food animals were also vulnerable to fraud.
Drug treatment histories of horses slaughtered for export to the EU may also have traceability issues.
A report on horse-meat imports produced recently by a coalition of European animal protection groups corroborates HSI’s own findings.
HSI wants the European Commission to uphold its own import requirements for products of animal origin and to take urgent action to ensure that meat from horses that do not qualify for slaughter for export no longer ends up on EU consumers’ plates.
Since July 31, 2010, the EU has required that only horses with a known lifetime medical treatment history, and whose medicinal treatment records show they satisfy the veterinary medicine withdrawal periods, will be allowed to be slaughtered for export to the EU.
Food and Veterinary Office audits in both Canada and Mexico conclude that the reliability and veracity of vendor affidavits with respect to the animal’s medical treatment history cannot be guaranteed with respect to horses from the United States.
HSI recently submitted a petition to the new European Parliament urging it to take action to ensure that the commission takes steps to protect the health of EU consumers by suspending the import of horse-meat from non-EU countries that do not meet EU import requirements.