Friday, December 17, 2010

Small Town Politician Spouts Junk Science, Gets Corrected by Scientists

Horseback Magazine

December 17, 2010
Rep. Sue Wallis Claims Chemically Tainted Horsemeat Will Be Okay to Eat
By Steven Long
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – A second term Wyoming state representative would build a horse “processing plant” that would kill up to 20 horses per day in her state despite federal prohibitions against slaughtering chemically tainted horses for food.
And last year, the European Union issued a communication to third party meat exporters such as Canada  that outlined the problems with chemically tainted U.S. horsemeat.  Moreover, last year three prestigious American scientists authored a white paper for the medical journal Food and Chemical Toxicology titled “Association of Phenylbutazone Usage with Horses Bought for Slaughter: A Public Health Risk.” The authors were Nicholas Dodman,  Nicolas Blondeau, and  Ann M. Marini.
Yet Rep. Sue Wallis says, chemical contamination of domestic horsemeat is no big deal.
Horseback asked Wallis, “How can your slaughter facility be economically feasible under the prohibition against slaughtering horses that have been given the chemicals horses are commonly administered such as bute, banamine, Ace, and wormers? Almost all American horses are routinely given these drugs, many of which are carcinogenic. What are your plans for dealing with the recent authority given to the Food and Drug Administration over food including horse meat?”
“All drugs have withdrawal periods, and there are scientifically established time periods which any meat animals must be held after medications before they can be processed,” Wallis told Horseback.  “In terms of bute, specifically, every race horse in the country has to have their blood tested for prohibited drugs. Common knowledge on the track is that bute will clear the system in two or three days and that you can be pretty much guaranteed that there will be absolutely no vestige of the drug in seven days.”
Unfortunately, that’s not good enough under federal food regulations, says an imminent scientist who declined to be identified.
“This is generally what trainers believe but people who make such comments don’t know what they are talking about,” said one of the authors of the Bute study. The horses studied in the paper were former race horses who had been sent sold off from their track careers to slaughter
 “Race horses don’t get routinely tested for prohibited drugs.  I assume she (Wallis) means if they go to slaughter. Winning race horses get tested for bute to ensure that their levels are within the range allowed by tracks.”
Wallis is a Wyoming rancher from the tiny town of Recluse, population 149.  She has no medical, toxicology, or pharmacology training.
“Drugs of concern have a longer period of withdrawal,” Wallis continued in her response to Horseback’s questions. “Live horses can be tested prior to processing to ensure that there is no vestige of drugs, and carcasses can be tested after processing to ensure the same thing. All of the existing European Union processing plants, and any plants established in the US under state meat inspection programs which by law have to meet or exceed USDA standards are operated under regular audit regimes that require carcass testing. The results are public record and you can find in those public records no residual drug problems in any class of livestock, including horses.”
But experts disagree.
“Wallis’ statements regarding the pharmacokinetics of phenylbutazone and the associated pathophysiology of the drug (in man) are without scientific basis,” says Dr. Nena Winand of the Cornell University vet school. “ Phenylbutazone is completely banned for use in food producing animals in the US and EU, and there is no established, acceptable withdrawal time is any class of food animals (including horses in the EU).  Regardless of Rep. Wallis’ interpretation of the regulatory guidelines and jurisdiction of various regulatory agencies, these regulations have existed for many years, are in-force now and they are the standards of practice veterinarians are expected to observe (and there are regulatory consequences for failure to observe them).”
Banned substances like bute are tested by FSIS, the regulatory arm of the USDA, and the results are published in the “red book” which is available over the internet. Further, the results of the testing are problematic in that tests almost never find drug residue in the hundreds of carcasses they claim are tested.  In fact the FSIS has admitted in a Freedom of Information Act disclosure they were testing fat samples for bute, according to Equine Welfare Alliance President John Holland.  Almost all of the bute stays in the bloodstream and never gets out into fat cells producing a negative result.  
“I can only admire Sue Wallis’ thorough explanation of the issue of drug residues in horse meat,” Holland said. ” Such concise and authoritative explanations are normally the exclusive domain of people who are familiar with the subject at hand, either through formal education or professional experience. That Sue, lacking either such source of knowledge, can provide such an articulate explanation is quite astounding.”
Wallis was either unaware of the findings, or disregards them.
Bute is banned in the US, Canada, UK, and EU in food producing animals, including horses. There is no safe concentration for meat established by the FDA. Complications can include bone marrow depression, aplastic anemia, leucopenia, pancytopenia, lemolytic anemia, throubocytopenia.
Critics claim the USDA inspectors who worked in the nation’s three horse slaughterhouses did little to inspect meat which was mostly going abroad and to zoos in this country. In fact, eyewitnesses who worked in an Illinois slaughterhouse said prior to its closing they never witnessed a federal inspector inspect a carcass and the meat was routinely sent on to market.
Yet Wallis claims such inspections aren’t necessary anyway. “This is because common sense procedures are used by the meat industry to make absolutely sure that animals are held for appropriate withdrawal periods before processing if they have been administered veterinary drugs. “
“This is nonsense,” said the scientist. “It is true that animals alive or dead can be tested for drugs but this has nothing to do with the lifetime ban of drugs like bute, Ivermectin, Naxcel, acepromazine and others that are NOT allowed at all.”
Finally, Wallis appeared to be oblivious to passage of a sweeping new food inspection law that will give the FDA vast powers over the nation’s food supply. The Senate passed the bill on November 30, and the House passed a much stronger version earlier. The new law diminishes the power of the USDA in food inspections.
Yet Wallis said, “The FDA has absolutely no jurisdiction over meat. Never have and probably never will. All meat is regulated by USDA/APHIS. The food bill recently passed has absolutely no effect,” Wallis said.
 Not true again says the scientist. “ If she bothered to read APHIS, she would see the list of banned substances for horses sent to slaughter for human consumption.  The FDA does have jurisdiction over drugs in animals and humans.  The FDA has vets in their office and they make the determination as to which drugs are banned in animals sent to slaughter for human consumption.  Bute is banned in all food-producing animals, including horses.”
Food borne illnesses kill up to 5,000 people annually according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Incredibly, 76 million people become ill after ingesting tainted food each year. Some of those illnesses are the result of chemically tainted food.
Wallis and her organization United Horsemen will host the Summit of the Horse,  Jan. 3-6, 2011 in Las Vegas at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa.

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