Monday, August 2, 2010

New Horse Meat Regulations in the European Union

One of the major export markets for Australian horse meat is the European Union. People living in Italy, France, Belgium, etc, have eaten horse meat for a very long time, and as such have a pretty good understanding of the health risks to people eating horse meat that has not been monitored to rule out prohibited substances.

The European Union have now brought in standards that require countries exporting horse meat to the EU to comply with the following:

"Taking into consideration that in most cases horses are not specifically reared as food producing animals and usually end up in the food chain at the end of their productive lives, special attention needs to be given to the requirements of Council Directives 96/23/EC and 96/22/EC which should guarantee that the horses slaughtered are safe for human consumption. Notwithstanding third countries' existing obligations to implement a residue monitoring plan and submit this on an annual basis to the Commission services for approval, third countries are expected to implement the following measures for those equidae, meat from which is intended to be exported to the EU:

  • Equine animals intended for food production should be identified and a system of identity verification should be established.
  • In third countries where anabolic steroids are marketed for fattening purposes, there should either be a prohibition on the administration of anabolic steroids for growth promotion purposes to all equidae or there should be a separate system for equidae which may be slaughtered for export of equine meat to the EU. This would require that equidae intended for meat production for the EU would be identified and segregated from those equidae treated with anabolic steroids.
  • Treatment records. The purpose of recording treatments of animals with veterinary medicinal products is to ensure that animals are not slaughtered within the withdrawal period of the medicine in question, thus providing guarantees that the EU Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for the particular pharmacologically active substance is respected. In the EU stock farmers are required to keep medicines records. On that basis it is expected that treatments with veterinary medicinal products should be recorded on a document linked to and accompanying the identified animal when moving from one premise to another or to the slaughterhouse (food chain information).
  • At the time of moving the animal to the slaughterhouse, the competent authority of the third country should be able to guarantee that the required withdrawal periods for veterinary medicinal products administered to the animal and recorded in the food chain information have been respected.
  • The third-country exporting equine meat should set up a risk based programme for controls on the use of veterinary medicinal products and substances prohibited for use in the EU. The control programme should include regular inspections on holdings, collection centres and at slaughterhouses."
"Any horse in the EU treated with phenylbutazone must be excluded from the food chain and be signed out of the food chain in the equine passport."

Put simply, all horses that are to be slaughtered for human consumption must be identified (microchipped) and their individual veterinary histories must follow them from owner to owner, and then finally to the abattoir. No anabolic steroids, no Phenylbutazone, indeed none of these commonly used products and medications. Measures to comply with this new system are to have been in place by the 31st July, 2010.

Currently, there is no system of registering horses in Australia, and definitely no system of tracking their veterinary histories. Here is a link to the European Union's horse passport system, in all its technical glory. Australia is a very long way from having that sort of system. So far in fact, that some of the products that exclude a horse from slaughter can be purchased by anyone over the counter, with no veterinarian required.

So what will happen now?

Will the two Belgian owned export abattoirs, one in South Australia and one in Queensland, simply sell more meat to markets outside of the EU? Japan for example? In which case, how long will it take for Japan to become dissatisfied with meat that the EU has deemed to be unsafe?

Will racehorse breeders who rely on getting rid of their horses in this way start keeping detailed records on each horse voluntarily, as part of a "split system"?

Will there be a demand for more brumbies to be slaughtered, instead of domesticated horses?

This is not impossible, as you will see here in the section of the above document from the EU that relates to brumbies:

"For equidae caught in the wild, the provisions as laid down for wild land mammals apply. These provisions foresee the submission of an annual residue monitoring plan which is restricted to the analysis of environmental contaminants (e.g. heavy metals). Countries so approved will be listed in the Annex to Commission Decision 2004/432/EC under the column entitled "Equine"."
It seems that in the most recent Annex to Commision Decision 2004/432/EC, Australia is listed as an approved country. See here for the document in question, 2010/327/EU, dated 10th June 2010. So brumby meat will not be affected by the new regulations.

These are interesting times indeed for the issue of horse slaughter for human consumption.

No comments:

Post a Comment