• Share to Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Email
    • Print

April 16, 2013

European Commission Tests on Horsemeat Safety Are Incomplete

Officials must enact moratorium on sale of horsemeat that does not meet EU import requirements

Humane Society International/European Union

  • North American horses are regularly administered veterinary drugs which are prohibited by EU and US food safety regulations. istockphoto

STRASBOURG – In light of the European Commission’s report released today, Humane Society International European Union Director Joanna Swabe, Ph.D., issued the following statement:

“Testing for just one of the many drugs banned for use in animals that enter the food chain falls short of a precautionary and thorough approach to addressing fraud and ensuring food safety standards are met. It isn’t just phenylbutazone (“bute”) in horsemeat that poses a potential risk to human health. The European Commission has failed to seek tests for a whole host of other banned veterinary drugs, which are commonly administered to horses, and is thereby failing the public by allowing meat from these animals to be sold in the European Union in contravention of its own food safety and consumer protection regulations.”

HSI continues its call for a moratorium on the sale of horsemeat from North America and any third country that does not meet EU import requirements. For years HSI has raised concerns about the cruelty of horse slaughter. Most recently, the organisation is helping bring to light the issue of food safety with regard to horsemeat derived from animals that are raised as companion, sport and working animals and are ubiquitously treated with drugs prohibited for use in animals slaughtered for human consumption. The European horsemeat scandal has sparked an ever-growing lack of consumer confidence in the quality and origin of meat products labelled as beef that contain large quantities of misidentified horsemeat. 

Facts about horsemeat of North American origin:

  • Approximately 20 percent of the EU’s horsemeat is imported from North America, primarily from horses originating from the United States, according to EU statistics. Horses in the US are raised for show, sport and recreation and are not raised or treated as potential food animals. They are regularly administered veterinary drugs which are prohibited by EU and US food safety regulations for use in animals intended for human consumption.
  • Given that medical recordkeeping is not required for horses in the US, slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico are unable to secure accurate information on these animals’ medical histories. Equine identification documents created to satisfy EU import requirements have been found by the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office to be prone to fraud. In fact, recent FVO audits conducted in Canada and Mexico found that the veracity and reliability of identification documents for horses of US origin could not be guaranteed. And unlike Europe, there is no system in the US to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat complies with EU export regulations, or is safe for human consumption.
  • EU food safety regulations ban for use in food-producing animals several veterinary drugs for which no maximum residue limit has been established. Regulations state that if an animal receives specific drugs even once in their lifetime, that animal is banned from entering the food chain whether residues can be detected post-mortem or not.


US Media Contact: Rebecca Basu, +1 (240-753-4875), rbasu@humanesociety.org

Humane Society International and its partner organisations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organisations. For more than 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands on programmes. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide—On the Web at hsi.org.

  • Sign Up

    Sign up to receive news and action alerts from HSI

  • Take Action
Media Contact List2