Steps taken by countries exporting horse-meat to the EU to exclude animals potentially contaminated by drug residues are fundamentally flawed, the Humane Society of the United States claims.
Its president and chief executive, Wayne Pacelle, said the EU had, since July 2010, required that only properly identified horses with a known lifetime medical treatment history that met mandated withdrawal periods for certain drugs could be slaughtered for export to the EU.
“The countries exporting horse-meat say they’ve taken steps to implement measures to preclude contaminated horse-meat from ending up on the EU market, but we have repeatedly pointed out to the European Commission that these measures are fundamentally flawed and virtually impossible to enforce,” Pacelle wrote in his blog, A Humane Nation.
Pacelle was commenting following the release this week of a European Commission audit suggesting that horsemeat imported from Canada did not fully meet European food safety standards.
“A similar audit from the commission last year found similar problems with horse-meat from Mexico,” said Pacelle, who has repeatedly condemned what he calls a barbaric and predatory trade. It sees more than 100,000 US transported across US borders to Mexican and Canadian abattoirs each year.
The European Union suspended further imports of horse-meat from Mexico after last year year’s audit, which be described as a huge blow to the North American slaughter industry.
The audit of Canada could could turn into a devastating second blow, he said.
The audit was carried out from May 2-15 last year, and involved inspections of five slaughterhouses.
The audit team also visited one border crossing from the US and three feed lots.
No major problems were identified in relation to general and specific hygiene requirements, the auditors reported.
However, they continued: “There are serious concerns in relation to the reliability of the controls over both imported and domestic horses destined for export to the EU.
“It cannot be guaranteed that horses have not been treated with illegal substances within the last 180 days before slaughter.”
Humane Society International said audits by the EU’s Food and Veterinary Office had repeatedly identified serious problems with the lack of traceability of American and Canadian horses slaughtered for export to Europe.
Its EU executive director, Dr Joanna Swabe, said: “It is high time that the commission takes action and suspends all horsemeat imports from Canada.”
The organisation noted that, in the US, veterinary medicines and other substances banned for use in food animals were broadly administrated to horses, and lifetime medical record-keeping was not mandatory or practiced.
It urged the European Commission to impose a moratorium covering Canada and any other horse-meat-exporting country to the EU that did not fully comply with EU food safety requirements.
The full report can be read here.