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Europe still turning blind eye to US horse meat – welfare group

stock-eyeThe European Commission is accused of continuing to turn a blind eye to the source of a significant amount of horse meat imported for human consumption.

The animal advocacy group, Humane Society International (HSI), has renewed calls for the European Union (EU) 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 it derives from horses born and raised in the United States.

HSI said these animals were 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 (FVO) in Canada and Mexico concluding that measures implemented in those countries were wholly inadequate to preclude meat from horses treated with such drugs from the food chain, North American-derived horsemeat continued to be imported to the EU for human consumption.

The European Parliament’s report comes in the wake of last year’s horse-meat scandal that shook European consumer trust in the food system.

Amongst other things, members of the European Parliament called for the Commission to follow up more vigorously on FVO reports and recommendations.

“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,” said Joanna Swabe, HSI’s European director.

“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 horse-meat 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”.

The EU is the biggest export market for horse meat from Canada and Mexico.

According to official EU statistics, 14,303,600 kilograms of horse meat valued at €43,469,577 was exported from these countries to the EU in 2011 alone.

The HSI’s call comes as the United States Congress is on the verge of defunding mandatory federal inspections required for horse abattoirs to operate.

The legislation will ensure a continuing steady stream of US horses to slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada unless lawmakers pass another bill which aims to stop the export of US horses for butchering.

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