Scottish MEP Alyn Smith has called for robust action by the European Commission following the discovery that the regulatory regime covering horsemeat entering Europe from non-EU countries is poorly enforced and sometimes "riddled with fraud".
The case for stronger EU action to guarantee imports meet EU food safety and animal welfare standards was made last week during a hearing at the European Parliament.
Presentations by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), Humane Society International and the animal welfare foundation Tier Schtz Bundzurich argued that horsemeat imports from Mexico and Canada have been bought at auction from the USA, where horses are routinely injected with drugs banned in the EU for use in food animals. In some cases, animals are trampled to death on long journeys.
“EU law uses a strict system of traceability to ensure there are no diseases or veterinary drug residues in the meat, and this system is being violated.
“Horses sold at auction from the United States are routinely injected with phenylbutazone and butorphanol and have no lifetime veterinary record – and in many cases, their Equine Information Document is unreliable.
“These sobering reports demand a serious response from our institutions. There’s no point in having a strong system of import controls if they are not enforced properly, and this is especially important when we’re talking about the safety of our food products.
“The case for a moratorium on horsemeat imports from countries with flawed implementation of our food safety requirements, particularly Canada and Mexico, is overwhelming. So I’m pleased that the Food and Veterinary Office are considering a ban on imports from Mexico.
“We have a right to expect that food products imported into the EU are produced to equivalent standards to ours. The fact that many countries which export to the EU cannot even enforce their own standards, let alone ours, suggests that we should be a lot tougher in this area.
“This is a legitimate consumer expectation and I expect the Directorate-General for Trade to take this up in world trade talks.”