Colorado non-profit Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have petitioned the FDA to rule that U.S. horses are not fit for human consumption. This follows the passage of legislation that re-funded the inspection of slaughter houses that process horses. It comes at a time when USDA officials openly question whether horse slaughter will resume in the US.
The groups allege in a petition filed with FDA March 26 that domestic horses are “unqualified” for human consumption because they are not raised for food and are routinely administered various drugs and medications. Among such prohibited substances is the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, also known as bute, which has no safe withholding period. Under current regulations the presence of certain antibotics and other drugs are considered an adulterant and banned in meat.
The petition describes these drugs as posing a threat to human health and food safety, since there is currently no method for monitoring and assessing the drug risks associated with consuming horse meat. The detailed petition claims more than 110 substances banned in food animals are administered to horses.
In a statement the groups said, “Unlike cattle, pigs, poultry, and other livestock, which are raised on the farm, horses are swept up by a predatory industry from a variety of sources — former racehorses, carriage horses, family ponies, and others which are routinely given drugs and medications not fit for human consumption.”
Dr. Elizabeth Hagen, under secretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), wrote on the White House blog Dec. 13 that various federal, state and local requirements and prohibitions against horse slaughter for human consumption are still in place and will likely create some barriers to the reopening of horse slaughter plants. “While Congress has lifted the ban, USDA does not expect horse slaughter to resume in the near term,” Hagen wrote. ”
FRER and HSUS also are asking FDA to make alternate rules, while at the same time noting there is no “realistic way to be able to fully assess the risks of eating horse meat.” Those alternate rules would require records be kept for all of a horse’s owners, and listing all drugs and treatments administered to the horse since birth. Both groups also ask FDA to require verification that a horse to be used for human consumption was never exposed to any substances prohibited for use in food animals. They want FDA to adopt additional rules to mandate the testing horses heading to slaughter to ensure compliance with the proposed rules.
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