The identification of naproxen, a substance banned in EU foodstuffs, in horsemeat imports shipped from Brazil to Belgium has sparked fresh food safety concerns, raised by the Humane Society International (HSI).
The body has been strongly critical of the EU’s imports of horsemeat from Brazil after evidence emerged of animal welfare abuse in South America. This latest discovery has led HSI to, in its own words, “sound the alert bell” about the food safety issues linked to Brazilian horsemeat.
Following the identification of naproxen, HSI has called on the European Commission to toughen controls. The body wants to see mandatory testing for the presence of outlawed substances implemented for all Brazilian exports of horsemeat to the EU. It stopped short of calling for a total ban on imports.
“For years, we have consistently warned about the threat that the export of horsemeat from non-EU countries poses to EU consumerism,” said Joanna Swabe, EU executive director of HSI.
“The detection of naproxen in Brazilian horsemeat demonstrates yet again that the Brazilian authorities are unable to ensure compliance with EU import requirements and that urgent action is needed to protect both animals and consumers.”
HSI believes that mandatory testing of horsemeat will prevent unauthorised substances in meat making its way to EU consumers. A similar system was applied to Mexico in 2006 and HSI said this helped address the concerns of the European Commission's former Food and Veterinary office.
However, HSI’s latest call for tougher controls failed to mention that Brussels has recently announced plans to tighten controls on non-EU horsemeat imports.
In September 2016, the European Commission announced new measures that would require horsemeat that comes from outside the Eurozone to have a minimum six-month residency in the country of slaughter. These new rules come into play on 31 March 2017.
The new traceability rules are likely to cause problems for Canada, as the majority of horses it slaughters come from the US.
Rule changes came about after an audit, published earlier in 2016, identified serious shortcomings in Brazil’s horsemeat supply chain. The EU’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) audit raised “serious concerns” over welfare abuse, after a horse died en route to an abattoir.
The report also noted that Brazil’s 2014 and 2015 residue monitoring plan could not demonstrate a level of equivalence to EU food safety standards – a prerequisite for meat trade with Europe.
The European Commission notified that horsemeat tainted with naproxen had been discovered on 19 December 2016. The meat, however, seems to have been sampled on 28 October 2016.