Myth: Horses have been classified as food animals by the EC due to the fact that horsemeat is eaten throughout much of the rest of Europe. However many of the anaesthetics, painkillers, ointments and vaccines that are used on horses could be outlawed as they are likely to be unsafe for human consumption, with the result that surgical operations will become impossible and many horse racing stables put out of business.
Sources: Press Association (27 January 1994) Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph (28 January 1994) ITN News at Ten (25 February 1994)
Response: This ought not be the case. The relevant EC law (*) is intended to establish the “maximum residue limits” for veterinary medicinal products such as those described above in foodstuffs of animal origin – such as meat, milk, fish and honey – and make sure that these limits are consistent throughout the Single Market. The principle of the regulation is to protect consumers from the high dosages of certain types of drugs used by vets on animals. It also came about in recognition of the fact that extensive use of these drugs and other medicines increases the production of food and minimises overall production costs.
The Regulation demands that all current drugs have to be declared safe by a Standing Committee of Community Experts by the end of 1996; with maximum residue limits to be set at a level below which any residues present would not represent any hazard to public health. In most European countries high value horses such as race and stud horses and brood mares are exempted from fulfilling the criteria set out for the maximum residue limit, with the appropriate national authorities needing to prove that guarantees can be given that these horses will not be eaten.
Nevertheless the European Commission is aware that this Directive has raised some difficulties and is presently considering ways of addressing these without compromising the protection of consumers in any way. This re-examination is being done in collaboration with scientific experts from the Member States.
(*) – Regulation 2377/90