Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Horse Meat Food Safety Concerns

Horse Meat Food Safety Concerns

Yes. Horses are slaughtered in the United States for human consumption. The meat of American pet, recreation, and sport horses is sold as a $12-$15 per pound entrée at restaurants in Italy, France, Belgium, and Japan. This aspect of the American horse industry has had two effects: people turning their heads away from the realities of horse slaughter and others standing up for the horses. The political and social climate of this arena has been increasingly heated in the past few years as bills are being brought before Congress regarding the fate and treatment of these horses.

Regardless of personal stance on this issue, it is a fact that horsemeat from the United States is a food safety issue for anyone consuming it.

The horses slaughtered come from various backgrounds:

* Racehorses that were not fast enough to be profitable on the track or have become injured.
* Children’s outgrown ponies and retired recreation horses that did not sell above the meat price at local auctions.
* The wild mustangs protected by the BLM and adopted out to the public are sometimes later sighted at auctions being sold to meat buyers.
* PMU foals. The companies which produce the PMU drug annually breed thousands of mares in order to collect estrogen for use in drugs. The unfortunate by-product of this production: thousands of unwanted foals, who, if homes are not found for them, end up in a slaughter house.
* Stolen horses. The meat market for horses has also led to increasing horse theft, and the stolen horses meet their anonymous end before they can be tracked down.

(When CA banned horse slaughter in 1998, horse theft went down 34%)

What all these horses have in common is very important:

* NOT ONE of them was bred or raised to be human food.
* Most recreational horses are routinely given medications such as penicillin, bute (phenylbutazone), ace promazine (promazine hydrochloride), banamine (flunixin meglumine), wormers (anthelmintic), Nolvansan (a topical suave), Kopertox (hoof care), and SWAT (fly repellent).
* All FDA approved equine medications bear warning labels reading: NOT FOR USE ON HORSES INTENDED FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION.
* The racehorses and sport horses pose a further threat to the safety of their meat. These high-performance athletes are regularly dosed with up to dozens of drugs, including the illegal, but recognized, use of many anabolic steroids.
* Some drugs, such as therapeutic aminogycoside antibiotics, can remain in the muscle tissue for up to 18 months
* There are no published or recommended withdrawal times from these drugs in horses
* These problems have never been a concern for the FDA, who approved all of these drugs, or the horse owners, since nowhere in America are horses raised for food.

Despite these facts, from 1990 to 1999 1,953,000 horses were slaughtered in the United States

While Europe is turning its back on beef due to the threat of BSE (Mad Cow Disease), they are turning to horse meat as a safer alternative. This attitude could be risky:

* BSE is transmitted to the food animals via contaminated animal products in their feed
* An animal product feed-ban was implemented on cattle feed in 1997
* Horse feed and supplements still contain animal products, including bone meal,

activated animal sterol, extracted glandular meal, dried meat, and liver concentrate

The conditions in which horses are transported pose a further threat to the integrity of their meat:

* They are shipped on van and trailers not designed for horses in order to maximize the number of horses that can be shipped.
* The low ceilings of these double-decker trailers, often designed for cattle, cause the horses to have no head room.
* In such close quarters the horses struggle for standing room and often fall, get trampled, or fight
* Numerous eyewitnesses report drastically injured horses being unloaded from trailers with electric cattle prods
o The chance of catching a “downer animal” with a serious illness would be impossible under these circumstances

Other problems exist within the horse meat industry within the United States

+ The slaughter companies can pay for their own inspectors

Trichenosis: Since 1975 France 2296 cases in 8 outbreaks, Italy 1030, in six outbreaks

Hydatidoses: A parasite in Great Britain - strain Echinococcus granulosis equinus

The preparation of horse meat is also a food safety concern among the populations that consume horses. Traditions of cooking horse meat vary by country, but many involve eating it raw or very minimally cooked, adding the to risk of illness.

* Japan – A popular dish of raw horse meat is called sakura ( cherry blossom) because of its pink color. It can also be served raw as sashimi in thin slices dipped in soy sauce, often with ginger and onions added
* Belgium- Horse meat is highly prized, and is used in steak tartare. Besides being served raw, it can be broiled for a short period, with a crusty exterior and a raw, moist interior.
* Italy - It is used in a stew called Pastissada, or served as horse or colt steaks.

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