EU bans Mexican horsemeat imports on safety fears

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

The EU has banned horsemeat imports from Mexico, including from animals of US origin, on food safety fears
The EU has banned horsemeat imports from Mexico, including from animals of US origin, on food safety fears

Related tags: Medicine, Veterinary medicine, Eu

The EU has banned horsemeat imports from Mexico, including meat from horses of US origin, after fears they may threaten food safety, according the Humane Society International (HSI).

The EU ban followed audits by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), which revealed serious problems with the lack of traceability of horses slaughtered for EU export. Horses originating both in Mexico and the US consistently lacked reliable veterinary medical treatment records.

HSI’s EU executive director Dr Joanna Swabe said the ban was long overdue. “For years, Humane Society International has repeatedly sounded the alarm about horsemeat entering the food chain that does not fully meet EU safety standards.

‘Safeguarding EU consumer safety’

“As well as safeguarding EU consumer safety, closing our borders to horsemeat from these countries is important for animal welfare, too. Horse slaughter, regardless of which country it is in, is fraught with inherent cruelty.”

At present, 87% of the eligible horses slaughtered in Mexico for meat export to the EU originate from the US. But horses are not bred for human consumption in either country.

“The use of veterinary drugs such as phenylbutazone, banned for use in food animals, is widespread and mandatory lifetime medical record-keeping is non-existent in both countries,”​ said the HSI.

FVO officials have consistently questioned the reliability and accuracy of vendor statements about US and Mexican horses’ treatment records. That meant meat from the horses could contain banned veterinary drugs, it said.

Could contain banned veterinary drugs

The latest audit in Mexico concluded that it was impossible to guarantee the reliability of vendor affidavits and traceability for horses of both US and Mexican horses with regard to veterinary medicinal products and residues.

In addition to safeguarding EU consumers, the ban was said to also benefit animal welfare impact in reducing the number of horses claimed to be suffering in the Mexican slaughter pipeline. The FVO also confirmed HSI’s concerns regarding the poor welfare conditions at export facilities sited in the US, during transport from the US to Mexico and at Mexican slaughterhouses.

The HSI also called for a ban on horsemeat from Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, where similar traceability problems with horsemeat exports were said to persist.

The EU has ruled since July 2010 that the only horses allowed to be slaughtered for export were those with a lifetime medical treatment history and medicinal treatment records showing they satisfy the veterinary medicine withdrawal periods.

In May 2013, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) boss Andrew Rhodes said that traceability was the key to assessing food safety risks. The swift traceability of meat involved in the horsemeat crisis had allayed fears about food safety​, said Rhodes, FSA head of operations.

“What we have seen in these ​[horsemeat] cases is that the traceability immediately showed where the horsemeat had come from. As it had come from approved slaughterhouses, the issue here was really labelling and that’s how we can say we don’t believe there was a risk.”​ 

Meanwhile, earlier this month researchers at the Institute of Food Research, at Norwich, released news of a new DNA test​, claimed to rapidly and cost-effectively, distinguish horsemeat from beef. 

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3 comments

Thank you. This has been long overdue.

Posted by morgansinkc,

In the U.S., there is no way to tell which horses have been given which drugs, in what quantities, for how long, etc.

What was happening was falsified paperwork, and this was wrong.

Companies stopped putting U.S. horse meat in dog food decades ago because it was killing people's pets. It has been terrible that it has continued all this time to be wrongfully sold for people to eat.

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Horse welfare will be WORSE because of this

Posted by Cherylyn Baynor,

This is NOT good for horse welfare in the US. Now, there is even less reason for dealers and haulers to take care of the horses they own and sell for slaughter. Unwanted horses will suffer even more because of this. There will still be as many unwanted horses (about 125,000 a year). Now they will be be worth even less so there will be even worse care for them and even more will starve to death out in back pastures.
Unless YOU want to buy and care for about 100 or them, the horses will not be jumping up and down for joy as their level of care will drop right along with their value.
There IS a worse fate than slaughter.
There is also NOT ONE SINGLE case of anyone being sickened by any horse meat that has come from the US or Mexico. Unlike beef, where many have died from Mad Cow disease, there is not one documented case of anyone getting sick. Only the animal rights activists like the fraudulent Humane Society have tried to scare everyone without one shred of evidence of any harm every being caused. Tests of meat have shown that there are many more cases of drug residues found in cattle and poultry than in horses.

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You can NOT accurately trace any horse meds given in the U.S.

Posted by Christy Lee - USA,

Thank goodness the EU has stepped up to protect people. This should cover the Mexico imports, but what about the nearly 40,000 horses that were shipped last year from the US to facilities in Canada - and then on to the EU. We know here in the States that a major portion of any horse's health clearance has been made up as clean for shipment, done by the side of a pasture by someone who needs to dispose of a horse or horses and will say anything to do it. The health hazards are serious and documented, and I for one am very happy that this is being stopped. When you add the horrific cruelty involved in slaughtering an extremely intelligent flight animal, I am literally jumping for joy. Horses are not meant to be eaten. Period.

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