December 2013 Issue - page 4

Page 4
December 2013
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
by Suzanne Bush
There is a profitable, but
declining, market for horsemeat
in Europe, and much of the
horsemeat consumed there comes
from Canada and the United
States. US and Canadian horses
enter the food chain by way of
the Canadian abattoirs. It used to
be a simple transaction. Horses
sold at auctions in Pennsylvania
and elsewhere in the US were
transported to Canada and sold
to the meat processors. But all
that changed when the European
Union initiated a program to
ensure the integrity of the food
system.
In trying to bring order to the
sprawling food safety program
adopted by the EU, legislators
created thousands of regulations.
The regulations are intended to
ensure the overarching goal of
food safety “from farm to fork.”
Thus the most mundane aspects
of food—listing of ingredi-
ents—to the profoundly com-
plicated—complete veterinary
histories for all animals in the
food chain—are bound together
in what has proved to be an en-
forcement nightmare. It’s not that
anyone opposes food safety. But
recent events have revealed that
even the most well-intentioned
laws can be drowned by conflict-
ing priorities, greed, bureaucratic
stumbling, and outright subver-
sion.
Papers, Please
To comply with EU regu-
lations, Canadian authorities
require all horses imported for
slaughter to have a passport,
called an Equine Information
Document (EID). The EID, which
is supposed to be completed by
the owner of the horse, includes
a veterinary history. What could
possibly go wrong with that?
Plenty, it seems.
For one thing, the EU
regulations stipulate that certain
drugs are so toxic that any horse
treated with them is banned
forever from the food chain. One
of those drugs is Phenylbutazone,
commonly known as Bute—and
commonly given to horses to treat
an array of problems. In addition,
horses sold at Pennsylvania’s
auctions are not always brought
to the auction by their owners.
The veterinary histories of many
of these horses are not compre-
hensive. The person hauling
the horses to Canada—the kill
buyer—is the one who usually is
responsible for verifying the de-
tails of the EID. Recently a ran-
dom test of horsemeat exported to
Europe from Canada was found
to contain traces of Bute. This
discovery precipitated several
events, including a one-day shut-
down of the equine pipeline from
the US to Canada last year.
Canada’s Star Newspaper
investigated the way EIDs are
validated, and found that the doc-
uments are often rife with errors
Enforcement
of EU Rules
Banning Tainted
Horsemeat Stalls
(Continued on page 31)
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