An animal welfare group is alleging that unsafe horsemeat is ending up on European dinner plates due to lax controls by North American and EU authorities. The Humane Society is trying to raise awareness among EU lawmakers and officials about the complex supply chain in which horses from the United States are transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, with their meat then being exported to the EU. This poses a threat to consumer health, the Humane Society's Cheryl Jacobson told Europolitics, because some 90% of horses in the US are treated with phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug whose use the EU bans for all animals intended for human consumption. In addition, as the US does not require records to be kept of the medical treatments horses receive, the only way to know they have not been given banned substances is to test 100% of consignments but this does not happen, Jacobson said.

The issue is already on the European Commission's radar. Audits conducted by the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office in 2011 and 2012 in Canada and Mexico concluded that the monitoring and controls systems did not meet EU food safety norms. Even though the Commission requires 100% of consignments from Mexico to be tested, Jacobson noted that these consignments are only tested for growth-promoting substances, not for phenylbutazone. Meanwhile, authorities in Canada test for phenylbutazone but they only test about 20% of consignments, she added. An official from Canada's Food Inspection Agency told Europolitics that it had a "zero tolerance" policy for phenylbutazone. The official added that since 2010 Canada requires operators in the horse slaughter industry to provide a record of all vaccinations and medications given to each horse in the previous six months - both for domestic and imported horses.

In recent weeks, the Humane Society has been stepping up its campaign. Representatives from the organisation have met with officials from 20 of the 27 EU member states, Jacobson said. While the member states with the most amount of trade in horsemeat, notably Belgium, France and Italy, were sympathetic to their concerns, she said that they were reluctant to raise the issue at the Council of Ministers as they felt the onus was on EU Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner, Tonio Borg, to take action. Because the EU horsemeat market is much smaller than other sectors like beef, poultry and pork, this issue has gotten less attention, Jacobson said. According...

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