Unauthorised drug found in Canadian horsemeat

Humane Society International/Europe raises animal welfare concerns and calls for a suspension of imports

Humane Society International

  • HSI/Europe has consistently argued that current measures are insufficient to prevent horsemeat contaminated with veterinary drug residues from entering the food chain. istock

Belgium has notified the European Commission that authorities found oxyphenylbutazone, which is a banned substance in food-producing animals in the EU, in chilled horsemeat from Canada. The substance is widely administered to horses, particularly in the United States. These animals may end up in the slaughter pipeline by being shipped over the border from the U.S. to Canada and eventually landing on European consumers’ plates.

Last year, the European Commission adopted new requirements to regulate the import of horsemeat from non-EU countries more strictly given concerns about traceability and food safety. Under these new rules, which will enter into force on 31 March 2017, horses must be resident in the country of slaughter for at least six months before they may be for slaughtered for export to the EU.”

Live in the EU? Take Action to Suspend Horse Meat Imports.

Humane Society International/Europe has consistently argued that these measures are insufficient to prevent horsemeat contaminated with veterinary drug residues from entering the food chain and could be detrimental to animal welfare. Indeed, as Joanna Swabe, HSI/Europe’s executive director, notes:

“The EU’s new residency requirement is also likely to have a serious impact on animal welfare given that large numbers of horses will be kept together on feedlots for at least six months. It will also fail to prevent meat from horses treated with substances that should be mandatorily excluded from the food chain for life, such as oxyphenylbutazone, from entering the EU food chain. As we have repeatedly argued, the only way to protect EU consumers is to suspend the import of horsemeat from Canada and other non-EU countries that cannot ensure that substances banned for use in food animals have not been administered to horses.”


  • Belgium’s notification to the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed can be found here: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/rasff-window/portal/?event=notificationDetail&NOTIF_REFERENCE=2017.0207
  • Since 31st July 2010, the EU has required that the only horses allowed to be slaughtered for export within the Union are those with a known lifetime medical treatment history and medicinal treatment records that show they have not been treated with banned substances and satisfy the veterinary medicine withdrawal periods.
  • In 2014, the latest Food and Veterinary Office audit in Canada concluded that it cannot be guaranteed that horses slaughtered for meat export to the EU have not been treated with illegal substances within the last 180 days before slaughter.
  • In 2014, the European Commission suspended the import of Mexican horsemeat imports owing to serious traceability and food safety concerns.

Media Contacts:
US: Raul Arce-Contreras, rcontreras@humanesociety.org, +1 301.721.6440
UK: Wendy Higgins, whiggins@hsi.org, +44 (0)7989 972 423

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