Upcoming changes to the equine passport system in Europe will make the system more reliable and reduce the chances of horses being inadvertently or fraudulently slaughtered for human consumption, the European Commission says.
The revised rules, covering the 7 million equines in Europe, will require foals to be issued with a single passport having a unique identification number, before their first birthday.
The passport will also serve as a medical record and will remain with the horse over its lifetime.
All horses born after July 1, 2009, will need to be micro-chipped. Technical security features aimed at reducing the risk of falsified passports have also been put in place.
The introduction of a compulsory centralised database in all EU member-states will help authorities to better control the issuing of the passports by different bodies.
It will also substantially simplify, for the keepers, the procedures for updating the identification data in both the passport and the database of the issuing bodies.
The new regulation will apply from January 1, 2016. EU countries not already having a centralised database have until that date to put one in place.
The European Commission’s proposal for passport changes were endorsed by experts from EU member states.
The commission says the changes will provide a more reliable and safer European system for the registration and identification of horses in the EU.
One of the basic aims is to prevent the inadvertent or fraudulent slaughter for human consumption of horses which must be excluded from the food chain.
The EU Commissioner in charge of Health, Tonio Borg, said: “As promised, this is another lesson drawn from last year’s horse meat fraud: the rules endorsed by the member states will strengthen the horse passport system in place.
“I believe that closer co-operation will enhance the safeguards which prevent non-food quality horse meat from ending up on our plates.”
Rules for the identification of horses are laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No 504/2008 of 6 June 2008, which is based on animal health and zootechnical legislation which allows for more than one passport-issuing body to be approved and supervised at national level.
EU veterinary medicine legislation lays down rules on the slaughter of horses for human consumption after medicinal treatment.
Horses treated with phenylbutazone (bute) or other medicines not authorised for food-producing animals are banned from entering the food chain.
If a horse receives a specific medicinal treatment with substances listed specifically for use in horses, a six-month waiting period needs to be respected before that horse can be slaughtered for human consumption.