Horsemeat: A Delicacy to Die For?

Orangeville, Ontario:  On July 9, 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to an Ohio feedlot operator who sells horses for slaughter.  The man was duly reprimanded for selling a drug-tainted thoroughbred horse to a Canadian slaughterhouse.  Evidently, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had conducted tests on the carcass of the horse in August 2011, and had found phenylbutazone in the muscle and kidney tissues of this animal, as well as clenbuterol in the tissues of the eye:
FDA Letter.

The CFIA acted responsibly by subsequently reporting this finding to the USDA, and no doubt the discovery would have further bolstered the Canadian agency’s ongoing claims of running an effective system and ensuring the safety of the food supply.  However, what is not readily brought to the public eye is the fact that the CFIA’s rate of phenylbutazone testing on horse carcasses is an abysmal 0.152% (143 samples taken on 93,812 horses in 2009).

“With such random, scanty testing protocols in place, one can only imagine how many drug-positive horses slip through the cracks,” states Sinikka Crosland, Executive Director of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition.

Phenylbutazone is a drug that is deadly to humans when ingested.  It is a carcinogen and is linked to aplastic anemia, with children being most vulnerable.  Clenbuterol is known to cause gross tremors of the extremities, tachycardia, nausea, headaches and dizziness.  Neither drug is permitted to be administered to horses destined for human consumption. In the U.S., the FDA does not regulate horses as food animals, but does prohibit use of phenybutzaone, commonly known as bute, and clenbuterol, in all animals produced for food.

American horses are not raised, fed and medicated within the FDA
guidelines established for food animals, making them unfit and unsafe for human consumption. Equines
are given all manner of drugs, steroids, de-wormers and ointments throughout their lives. Equines are not
tracked and typically may have several owners. There is no way to know when they are sold for slaughter
what these animals have ingested over their lives.

The danger of American horsemeat to consumers was confirmed in a study, “Association of
Phenylbutazone (Bute) Usage with Horses Bought for Slaughter” that was published in Food and
Chemical Toxicology and authored by Dr. Ann Marini, Department of Neurology, Uniformed University
of the Health Sciences; Nicolas Dodman, DVM, Tufts University, and Dr. Nicolas Blondeau, The Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology.

At the very least, the CFIA should mandate drug testing on every horse carcass that leaves Canadian slaughterhouses bound for dinner plates abroad and to the province of Quebec.

However, banning the slaughter of horses, our companion animals and working partners, would be the logical solution to preventing deadly drugs from entering the food chain.  As well, it would stop the systemic abuse of horses as they move from auctions to feedlots to slaughter, as has been reported by the CHDC in various investigative reports since 2008.

For more information: Feedlot report.

Horse slaughter footage (use drop-down menu on INVESTIGATIONS tab)

Following the July 7 FDA warning, on July 27, 2012 a report revealed bute in three samples of frozen horse meat and clenbuterol in a fourth sample.