by DAVE PINK
The disclosure requirements for horses destined to be slaughtered for human consumption are working effectively to keep restricted drugs and vaccines out of the food supply, says Dr. Richard Arsenault, director of the meat programs division for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Any horse that is to be slaughtered for food must have an Equine Information Document (EID), which tracks its history, including any drugs that might have been administered to the horse. Horses that don’t have that document won’t be slaughtered for human consumption, says Arsenault, a veterinarian.
“It’s extremely well respected in terms of compliance,” he says.
Since July 31, 2010, equine presented for slaughter have been required to have an EID, which includes a six-month documented history showing compliant drug and vaccine use. Drugs and vaccines that have been used in the last six months must be safe for use in food producing animals and the period of time since the last use must be sufficient to clear unwanted residues. The EID was made available to the public in January 2010 to allow owners enough time to comply with the July 31, 2010 implementation date.
As well, the CFIA also has a monitoring program that takes tissue samples of slaughtered animals.
Arsenault’s comments come in response to a rumour that a one-time racehorse that had been treated with the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone — better known as bute — had been sold for slaughter. But without that EID documentation no horse will be processed for human consumption, he says.
There are just four slaughter facilities for horses throughout Canada, all of them in western Canada or Quebec. It is a very small industry, says Arsenault, adding that the regulations for drug treatments in traditional meat sources such as cattle and swine have been more clearly researched and defined. Because of that there is less tolerance for horses that may have been treated with any drug.
“We’re taking steps to make sure the system is working well, and our information tells us that it is working well right now,” says Arsenault. “There’s a potential hazard, but controls are in place.” BF