HSI claimed a significant proportion of the meat from horses born and raised in the US for use in the food chain was routinely treated with veterinary drugs banned in the EU for use in the supply chain.
Around 20% of the horsemeat on the EU market comes from North America, according to HIS. A significant proportion of this meat derives from US origin horses, exported to the EU via Canada and Mexico.
HSI’s EU director, Joanna Swabe, told FoodManufacture.co.uk she regarded Canada and Mexico as potential sources of the horsemeat that was implicated in the horsemeat scandal. Her suspicion increased when news broke that it had been traced to a French supplier, as France is the second biggest importer of horsemeat from North American countries, she added.
The European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) has conducted audits in Canada and Mexico, concluding that measures implemented in those countries were inadequate to prevent meat from horses treated with such drugs from entering the supply chain.
‘Repeatedly raised concerns’
Swabe 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.”
Despite this, North-American-derived horsemeat continued to be imported to the EU for human consumption, said HSI.
“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,” Swabe added.
“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.”
Peter Bennett, head of the food team and a partner at Roythornes, said that America had a totally different set of regulations that could not be compared to those in the EU.
However, Bennett told FoodManufacture.co.uk that he expected prosecutions from the original horsemeat scandal to take place within the next two to four months.
He called on stricter penalties to be handed down to those found guilty of such crimes as a deterrent to “unscrupulous people trying to make a fast buck”.
“We should impose penalties that make it un-worthwhile for those doing the fraud. The current fine is peanuts compared to the money that is saved [from committing the fraud],” he added.
Bennett also called for a general “tightening-up” of food laws and regulations within the UK to improve standards.
Failing to meet food standards
Meanwhile, a report by Which?, released yesterday (January 14) claimed some parts of the UK were failing to test for food fraud.
“In some areas of the UK no testing is being carried out to check for food fraud. Overall, work around food standards and checking food is what it is claimed to be dropped by 16.8% from the year to March 2012, to the year to March 2013. Some local authorities are also struggling to ensure businesses comply with hygiene rules,” the report stated.
The report also named and shamed the areas of the UK where food standards were failing to be met.
Bexley, in London was highlighted as the worst area for food standards implementation, with 57.3% of food businesses rated as broadly compliant.
The other nine places that make up the top 10 worst local authorities in the UK are Ealing, Medway, West Dunbartonshire, High Wycombe, Harrow, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Moyle in Northern Ireland and Enfield, according to data collected by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
High and medium-risk businesses were broadly compliant with food hygiene regulations, with a hygiene rating score of three or more stars, said Which?
It should become mandatory for all food businesses in the UK to display their hygiene rating scores so that consumers can trust the places in which they eat, Which? claimed.
It is currently only compulsory for businesses in Wales to prominently display their hygiene scores.
The FSA in Northern Ireland is proposing to make it mandatory, the FSA representatives in Scotland have consulted on powers that would enable mandatory display. There are currently no plans to change voluntary display in England.