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January 14, 2014

Call Renewed for EU Moratorium on Horsemeat from North America

European Parliament urges Commission to act on food safety audits

Humane Society International

  • Horsemeat is imported to Europe from Canada and Mexico. Jennifer Kunz/HSUS

STRASBOURG—HSI has renewed calls for the European Union to issue a moratorium on the import and sale of North American horsemeat following the adoption of a strong and wide-ranging European Parliament report entitled, "The food crisis, fraud in the food chain and the control thereof."

About 20 percent of horsemeat sold in the EU is exported from Canada and Mexico, but a significant proportion of this derives from horses born and raised in the United States. These animals are routinely treated with veterinary drugs banned in the EU for use in food producing animals. Despite audits from the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office in Canada and Mexico concluding that measures implemented in those countries are wholly inadequate to preclude meat from horses treated with such drugs from the food chain, North American-derived horsemeat continues to be imported to the EU for human consumption.

The Parliament’s own-initiative report comes in the wake of last year’s horsemeat scandal that shook EU consumer trust in the food system. Amongst other things, MEPs call for the Commission to follow up more vigorously on FVO reports and recommendations.

Joanna Swabe, HSI’s EU Director, said:

“During the past three years, Humane Society International has repeatedly raised concerns that the Commission has turned a blind eye to a series of FVO audits in Canada and Mexico. The FVO found that safety measures in both countries to meet EU horsemeat import requirements are fundamentally flawed. It has unequivocally stated that it is impossible to verify the reliability and veracity of veterinary treatment history statements for US origin horses. Nevertheless this horsemeat continues to be placed on the EU market to this day. It beggars belief that the Commission has consistently ignored the findings of its own veterinary inspectorate, and we are pleased to see the Parliament taking the Commission to task. We urge the Commission to act now and exclude from the EU food chain horsemeat from North America or any other country that does not meet EU import requirements.”

The Parliamentary report urges both the “Commission and Member States to act on the findings of FVO audits with regard to fraudulent medical treatment records of animals destined for slaughter for export to the EU, and to exclude meat and other animal products from third countries, which cannot be guaranteed to be compliant with EU food safety requirements from being placed on the EU market”.

Facts:

  • Around 20 percent of the horsemeat on the EU market comes from North America. A significant proportion of this meat derives from US origin horses, exported via Canada and Mexico. Born and raised in the US, most of these animals are bought up at auction by ‘kill buyers’ and shipped over the border for slaughter. Such vendors are required to sign an affidavit attesting to the animal’s medical history, but given that these horses have only been in their possession for a very short time, it is impossible to do this truthfully.
  • The FVO has published a series of audits relating to the production of horsemeat and controls on veterinary drug residues.
  • Third countries seeking to export horsemeat to the EU are required to implement residue control plans that are at least as strict as those implemented in the Union itself. Only horses with a known medicinal treatment history, and which on the basis of medicinal treatment records can be shown to have satisfied the appropriate veterinary medicine withdrawal periods, are permitted to be slaughtered for export to the EU.
  • Record keeping for horses bred and raised in the US is not mandatory, and the transfer of information regarding the substances a horse received is not required when the animal is sold. The administration of various substances, such as Phenylbutazone, that are banned for use in food-producing animals in the EU, is endemic in the US because these animals are neither raised nor generally regarded as food-producing animals.

ENDS

Media Contact: Wendy Higgins, HSI/UK: +44 (0)7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org

Notes:

The EU is the biggest export market for horsemeat from Canada and Mexico. According to official EU statistics, 14,303,600 kg of horsemeat valued at €43,469,577 was exported from these countries to the EU in 2011 alone.

Statistical data on EU27 imports of meat of horses, asses, mules or hinnies, chilled or frozen (020500) from Canada and Mexico extracted from the Eurostat database, EU27 Trade Since 1995 By HS6. Accessed 13th August 2012. Read our detailed overview of the extent of the EU horsemeat trade. [PDF]

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