A horse is a horse of course, except when it isn’t

The horse meat scandal in Europe keeps getting bigger but, according to Elizabeth Weise of USA Today, U.S. officials say it’s unlikely there’s any horse meat hidden in U.S. meat products.

Or, like products from Iceland’s high-end natural food company Gaedakokkar, horse.laughthere’s no meat at all in its meat pies.

Genetic tests have found ground horse meat in beef in Ireland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic. On Friday Taco Bell outlets in Britain found traces of the meat in what was supposed to be 100% beef. The company has removed all beef products from its menu in the United Kingdom.

There is no link between Taco Bell suppliers in Europe and the United States, the company said.

Canada is the largest exporter of horsemeat to Europe, according to the Humane Society of Canada.

Two companies are currently trying to open horse slaughter plants in the United States, on in Missouri and one in New Mexico. USDA is reviewing their applications.

It’s “doubtful” any dangerous pathogens were in the horse meat Europeans have inadvertently eaten, said Doug Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.

“It has been found in meals and products that are highly processed—the bad bugs would be cooked away.” It’s the public’s trust that’s been broken “and since almost all food safety at retail is faith-based, the faith has been violated.”

 

Audits inspections never enough; arrests in horse fraud

As UK police made arrests at the two food plants raided jointly with the Food Standards Agency on Tues., the uber-witty Economist says “big retailers and producers have brands to protect, so they are vigilant.”

Hilarious.

An audit by Tesco of its suppliers “is one of the most feared and respected things in the industry,” says Michael Walker, a food-safety consultant. “How come it didn’t pick this up?”

Because audits and inspections are never enough.

Fail: Horse meat in lasagna may be donkey

As questions become increasingly shocking in the EU horsegate scandal – do retailers have any idea what they are selling, was it the mob, how does donkey taste – Rob Mancini writes about being Italian and lasagna.

There are two prerequisites required for an Italian: being able to adequately cook and to kick ass in soccer. So when I come across a story where horse horse.laughmeat is used in lasagna, this irks me. FSAI reports

Findus’ own checks revealed that some of its frozen lasagnes contain more than 60% horse meat.  The products have been withdrawn from sale from Tesco stores in Ireland, but may also be on sale in independent retail shops. Tests are currently underway to determine if the horse meat contains the veterinary medicine, phenylbutazone, commonly known as “bute”.

Nature Of Danger:

Phenylbutazone is not permitted in the food chain as it can pose a risk to health. In rare cases it can cause a serious blood disorder.  However, if horse meat that is contaminated with bute is consumed, the risk of damage to human health is considered to be low.

A proper lasagna must have a delicate balance of veal and pork gently caressed in a slew of ricotta cheese peppered with a touch of fresh nutmeg. I know what I’m eating tonight. Awesome recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/lasagne-bolognese-al-forno-recipe/index.htm

‘Not in our culture to eat horse meat’; horse, pig DNA found in Irish supermarket burgers

Traces of horse meat have been found in burgers on sale in some of the country’s busiest supermarkets, food safety chiefs have revealed.

Scientific tests on beef products sold in Tesco, Dunnes StoresLidlAldi and Iceland uncovered low levels of the animal’s DNA.

Professor Alan Reilly, chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), said there was no health risk but also no reasonable horse.meat.09explanation for horse meat to be found.

“The products we have identified as containing horse DNA and/or pig DNA do not pose any food safety risk and consumers should not be worried,” he said.

According to the research by the FSAI, one sample of burger goods, Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers, showed about 29% horse meat relative to beef content.

“Whilst there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same meat plants, there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horse meat in their production process,” Prof Reilly said.

“In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horse meat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger.”

Racetrack drugs put Europe off U.S. horse meat

For decades, American horses, many of them retired or damaged racehorses, have been shipped to Canada and Mexico, where it is legal to slaughter horses, and then processed and sold for consumption in Europe and beyond.

But according to the N.Y. Times, European food safety officials have notified Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses of a growing concern: The meat of American racehorses may be too toxic to eat safely because the horses have been injected repeatedly with drugs.

Despite the fact that racehorses make up only a fraction of the trade in horse meat, the European officials have indicated that they may nonetheless require lifetime medication records for slaughter-bound horses from Canada and Mexico, and perhaps require them to be held on feedlots or some other holding area for six months before they are slaughtered.

In October, Stephan Giguere, the general manager of a major slaughterhouse in Quebec, said he turned away truckloads of horses coming from the United States because his clients were worried about potential drug issues. Mr. Giguere said he told his buyers to stay away from horses coming from American racetracks.

“We don’t want them,” he said. “It’s too risky.”

Some 138,000 horses were sent to Canada or Mexico in 2010 alone to be turned into meat for Europe and other parts of the world, according to a Government Accountability Office report. Organizations concerned about the welfare of retired racehorses have estimated that anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the population sent for slaughter may have performed on racetracks in the United States.

“Racehorses are walking pharmacies,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinarian on the faculty of Tufts University and a co-author of a 2010 article that sought to raise concerns about the health risks posed by American racehorses. He said it was reckless to want any of the drugs routinely administered to horses “in your food chain.”

Horses being shipped to Mexico and Canada are by law required to have been free of certain drugs for six months before being slaughtered, and those involved in their shipping must have affidavits proving that. But European Commission officials say the affidavits are easily falsified. As a result, American racehorses often show up in Canada within weeks — sometimes days — of their leaving the racetrack and their steady diets of drugs.

In October, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers found serious problems while auditing the operations of equine slaughter facilities in Mexico, where 80 percent of the horses arrive from the United States. The commission’s report said Mexican officials were not allowed to question the “authenticity or reliability of the sworn statements” about the ostensibly drug-free horses, and thus had no way of verifying whether the horses were tainted by drugs.

“The systems in place for identification, the food-chain information and in particular the affidavits concerning the nontreatment for six months with certain medical substances, both for the horses imported from the U.S. as well as for the Mexican horses, are insufficient to guarantee that standards equivalent to those provided for by E.U. legislation are applied,” the report said.

Horse meat remains a delicacy in Paris and in other countries for an older generation of Europeans. Henri-Previen Chaussier, a butcher who sells exclusively horse meat in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris, said demand from individual customers was still strong, but he had only one restaurant on his client list, the Taxi Jaune in the First Arrondissement.

 

Ontario racehorses being sold for meat as slots shuttered

The theory of unintended consequences underscores Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 novel, Cat’s Cradle.

According to QMI, it’s possible thousands of Ontario broodmares have been slaughtered for meat since the Liberal government announced the cancellation of a slot-machine program that generated millions in revenue for the horse-racing industry, an equine veterinarian says.

Mark Biederman, who works just outside Windsor said while he’s not sure how many broodmares have been sold for meat, he estimates it could be hundreds, if not thousands.

He said many of his clients have sold theirs.

Broodmares are retired female racehorses used to breed the next generation. But with the horse-racing industry in dire straits — facing hundreds of millions in losses — the old girls aren’t worth much anymore.

“The broodmares are the first casualty of the industry,” Biederman said. “There isn’t any market for them other than going for meat.”

Ontario’s horse-racing industry reels in $354 million a year from the soon-to-be-dead Slots at Racetracks Program, which divvies up profits from slot machines at tracks between the industry, the track owners and the government.

The province announced in the spring its plan to axe the program and divert the money to health care and education instead. Slot machines have already been removed from some racetracks in Ontario, and they’ll all be gone by March 31, 2013.

The move was met with opposition from people in the industry, and has forced some major tracks — such as the Windsor Raceway — to shut down.

It also means many horse owners can no longer afford to keep the animals.

Biederman says business is down 50% at his veterinarian clinic. He’s had to lay off staff and reduce hours. When the program officially ends in March 2013, he said he’ll probably pack up and leave the province.

“If the slot program is ultimately cancelled, I think that’ll be the death of the industry. I don’t think there will be any way to stay in Ontario. I think you’re gonna have a mass exodus of horses.”

Or as Vonnegut wrote,

“I’m not a drug salesman. I’m a writer.”

“What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?”

Canadian prods horse with hockey stick; rapid Taiwanese animation decries return of horse slaughter in US

Associated Press reported yesterday that horses could soon be slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption after Congress quietly lifted a 5-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections, and activists say slaughterhouses could be up and running in as little as a month.

Today, Taiwanese animation house NMA released one of their signature videos to address the situation.

Grub Street New York says things to watch for in the video are “the horse that gets zapped into a pile of money (we’re pretty sure that’s not how the slaughter actually happens) and the bloody Seabiscuit saddle at the French dinner table.”

I appreciated the Canadian slaughterhouse worker in a hockey jersey prodding a horse with a hockey stick.

Some background on the horse slaughter debate from AP; Australia also has two horse slaughterhouses.

Slaughter opponents pushed a measure cutting off funding for horse meat inspections through Congress in 2006 after other efforts to pass outright bans on horse slaughter failed in previous years. Congress lifted the ban in a spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law Nov. 18 to keep the government afloat until mid-December.

It did not, however, allocate any new money to pay for horse meat inspections, which opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3 million to $5 million a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to see more cuts this year as Congress and the White House aim to trim federal spending.

The USDA issued a statement Tuesday saying there are no slaughterhouses in the U.S. that butcher horses for human consumption now, but if one were to open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed.

Pro-slaughter activists say the ban had unintended consequences, including an increase in neglect and the abandonment of horses, and that they are scrambling to get a plant going – possibly in Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska or Missouri.

Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state lawmaker who’s the group’s vice president, said ranchers used to be able to sell horses that were too old or unfit for work to slaughterhouses but now they have to ship them to butchers in Canada and Mexico, where they fetch less than half the price.

The federal ban devastated "an entire sector of animal agriculture for purely sentimental and romantic notions," she said.

Although there are reports of Americans dining on horse meat a recently as the 1940s, the practice is virtually non-existent in this country, where the animals are treated as beloved pets and iconic symbols of the West.

A federal report issued in June found that local animal welfare organizations reported a spike in investigations for horse neglect and abandonment since 2007. In Colorado, for example, data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60 percent – from 975 in 2005 to almost 1,600 in 2009.

The report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office also determined that about 138,000 horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010, nearly the same number that were killed in the U.S. before the ban took effect in 2007. The U.S. has an estimated 9 million horses.

Horse tranquillizer ketamine found in aloe vera drink

Hanging out with veterinarians and vet students over the past 30 years, I’ve heard enough stories about the horse tranquillizer, ketamine, and human recreational use.

Not the best thing to get addicted too, as far as addictions go, but is apparently popular at raves.

Two women in Leicester, U.K. required hospital treatment after drinking an aloe vera-based health drink that was apparently spiked with ketamine.

Forensic tests are still being conducted and the final analysis will not be known for some time.

Leicestershire Health Protection Agency said there was only one outlet in Leicester which had bottles of the product and that stock had been seized.

Health Protection Agency spokesman Philip Monk said,

"We have bottles with that label [Gayatri] on which we know contain ketamine and the police will be working out how the ketamine got into them and indeed whether they came from the manufacturer – they may be completely fake products."