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Tainted US horse meat puts world consumers at risk: welfare body

17 commentsBy Ben Bouckley , 29-Sep-2011
Last updated on 04-Oct-2011 at 15:59 GMT

US horse meat tainted with the illegal chemical phenylbutazone (bute) is putting consumers worldwide at risk of illness, according an equine welfare organisation located in the country.

European Union (EU) regulation No.504/2008 requires that all horses in Europe hold a ‘passport’ to allow traceability of veterinary records in particular.

The European Commission (EC) said that horses designated as ‘athletes’, and not intended for human consumption, should hold records of use of bute as an potent analgesic, to guarantee the absence of contaminated meat from the food chain.

In particular, EU regulations on drug residues in horse meat intended for human consumption define the risk to children in particular of eating horse meat containing banned substances such as bute.

Aplastic anemia in children

A recent Irish research paper in the Irish Veterinary Journal (Vol. 63 No.10) warned: “The difficulty with phenylbutazone is that it, or its metabolite, can cause aplastic anemia in children.

“If a child were to consumer an animal-based product containing even the minutest amount of bute or its metabolite then the child may develop aplastic anemia.”

If an EU audit of a country such as Ireland discovered evidence of bute use on animals not excluded from the food chain, the product would immediately lose it EU-wide license, the researchers warned.

“One child’s bone marrow illness could be traced to a meat product that could be traced to an owner and a vet who prescribed bute,” they added.

By 2013, all third country importers will have to comply with EU traceability standards under the regulation.

And although US horses are not reared and regulated for food use, the Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA) based in that country warned that the US has no mechanism for removing animals from the food chain that have received banned substances.

The Humane Society for the United States estimates that around 100,000 horses are exported from the US for slaughter every year, with the bulk of meat produced sent to satisfy “high-end consumers” in countries such as Belgium and Japan.

And the EWA said that the US had no way to trace horses back to owners or veterinarians that allowed the animals in question to enter the food chain.

Shipped for slaughter

Both Canada and Mexico were instituting tracking programmes based on radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging technology to comply with the EU regulation, but the EWA noted that the US had scrapped its own National Animal Identification System (NAIS) in 2010.

EWA spokeswoman John Holland told FoodProductionDaily.com: “Horses have always been shipped to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. The closing of plants [that killed horses at plants in Texas and Illinois for export abroad until 2007] didn’t save US horses from slaughter as the industry began shipping all horses across the borders.”

The EWA is calling for US congress to pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act 2011 to provide further regulatory protection for US horses and consumers worldwide.

This seeks to amend current legislation, and prohibit the shipping, transportation, moving, devliery, receipt, possession, purchase, selling or donation of horses or other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption.

Vicki Tobin, also from the EWA, said that the act should be passed: “Congress must start taking food safety seriously and realise the risk to the US for knowingly allowing unsafe food into foreign markets.

“These animals should never enter the food chain.”

In a 2010 paper for the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, Marini et al. tracked 18 race horses to slaughter that had been dosed with bute, which the researchers described as, “arguably the most potent and effective pain-relieving agent available in equine medicine”.

Their study found that the phenylbutazone was taken up in injured tissues, and was later released back into the animals’ blood streams as tissues healed, while there was no acceptable drug washout period.

17 comments (Comments are now closed)

3 days from stable to table your eu meatman proudly claimed

USA shipped to slaughter all race horses full of drugs. Thousands of pet horses full of drugs were stolen and shipped to slaughter. Even the BLM in charge of wild horses states many horses are just ranch strays or abandoned horses.

The American horsemeat people should be stopped sending companion animals they know are not fit for humans to eat.

How many people have died because of a few greedy americans?

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Posted by Laura Meritt
05 October 2011 | 17h56

HSUS No Authority on Horse Meat

Fred, you need to read further into the scientific papers and articles relating to metabolism and elimination of bute in horses. While it is true Pb can generally only be detected in serum/plasma and urine for a period of 72 hours, it is not true that Pb is eliminated from the horse's system within that time frame. It can take up to 2 months (60 days) to completely eliminate it from the system...and that system includes muscle/meat tissue, which is what humans consume.

Given the fact that many racehorses are summarily dumped after poor race performance, what do you think the chances are that none of these horses headed for slaughter, do not have bute in their systems?

And I think you are terribly naive if you believe show horses are not pumped full of drugs. I have firsthand knowledge of equine drug testing of those pretty show horses and I can tell you for a fact, outside FEI competitors who are subject to ZERO tolerance, these animals are drugged routinely at or above therapeutic levels with bute and a whole host of other nasty drugs considered unsafe for human consumption. The leading horse breed and various discipline organizations, along with the domestic and international governing bodies ALL have drugs and medications guidelines...why do you think that is? Because the organizations KNOW the horses are going to be drugged. To think otherwise is sheer folly.

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Posted by JRS
01 October 2011 | 21h34

ALL North American horsemeat unsafe

EU and other consumers of North American originated horsemeat need to know that none of the horsemeat originating from the US, Canada, and Mexico is safe for human consumption. Simply put, so long as US horses are entering the food chain via slaughter plants in Mexico and Canada, it is IMPOSSIBLE to determine if the meat was derived from a US horse that had at any point in its life been treated with banned substances - particularly bute.

Here is a link to EU food safety regs with regard to horsemeat. Pay particular attention to section 5.3.1. 1 - paragraph 3.

http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/chemicalsafety/residues/third_countries_en.htm

I am very surprised that food safety watchdog groups and consumers in the EU have allowed the EU food safety commission to violate its own laws in such an obvious and tremendously dangerous manner.

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Posted by Gail Vacca
30 September 2011 | 13h50

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