USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a grant of inspection to a horse slaughter establishment -- Valley Meats Company -- in Roswell, New Mexico. FSIS says it expects two other applicants to be ready to receive grants of inspection for equine slaughter in the coming days.
The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) requires Federal inspection of amenable species when slaughtered for human food and prepared for commerce. Horses, mules, and other equines are among the livestock species that are amenable under the FMIA. Beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2006, Congress prohibited the use of Federal funds to pay the salaries and expenses of personnel to perform ante-mortem inspection of equines intended to be slaughtered for human consumption. Without ante-mortem inspection, no horse meat is eligible for the FSIS mark of inspection, and without the mark, no horse meat can move in commerce. Thus, the effect of this prohibition was to end the slaughter of equines in the United States. The prohibition continued from 2007 to 2011. However, Congress has not continued this prohibition and did not include it for the use of appropriated funds in the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act. Therefore, if an establishment meets and complies with all of the FSIS requirements for equine slaughter and processing, FSIS must grant Federal inspection to the establishment.
Among other measures to protect public health, FSIS will test equine carcasses for illegal drug residues. "Because of the particular concerns about the possibility of drug residues in equine carcasses, FSIS will conduct intensified residue testing at establishments that receive a grant of inspection to slaughter equines," it states in a newsletter explaining the development.
"Under this framework, inspection program personnel will tag equines that appear unhealthy or have visible needle puncture marks as "U.S. Suspect" and perform inspector-generated testing. In addition, FSIS inspection program personnel will randomly select and sample a number of carcasses from every lot of equines that pass ante-mortem inspection. The rate at which we will randomly select carcasses for sampling will be above our normal rate until we have significant experience with equine slaughter," states the agency.
Additionally, the agency states, "Because of FSIS’ stringent inspection process, testing capabilities, and labeling requirements, American consumers should not be concerned that horse meat will be labeled and sold as the meat of another species, as happened earlier this year in other countries. Horses are not allowed to be slaughtered and horse meat is not allowed to be processed in the same facility as other species in the United States."