Serious shortcomings revealed by audit of horse meat production in South America for EU market


Serious shortcomings revealed by audit of horse meat production in South America for EU market

6 November 2023
The European Commission carried out an audit of facilities in Argentina and Uruguay that produce horse meat for the EU market, in order to monitor the implementation and enforcement of EU legislation in the areas of food safety and animal health and welfare. The results reveal serious concerns regarding traceability and animal health.

Whilst the audits took place in November 2022, the results have just only just been released. 

In Uruguay, concerns were raised regarding the robustness of the identification and traceability system. There is no traceability on whether horses have been administered veterinary medical treatments that may compromise their health and that should prevent them entering the food chain. 

Unidentified horses from Brazil were also found to enter the food chain in Uruguay, which is in conflict with the fact that horse meat imports from Brazil were suspended in 2017 due to food safety concerns.

In Argentina, shortcomings in horse identification and traceability, as well as the reliability of supporting documentation, were raised. Guarantees concerning compliance with EU medical treatments requirements are currently based on owners’ sworn declarations, which the audit found to be insufficiently reliable or false.

The last audit took place in 2018, where similar shortcomings were found.

During such audits, EU Regulation 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing has been confirmed to be systematically breached. However the latest audit reported finding few animal welfare problems. Facilities are informed in advance of the dates that inspectors will visit.

Animal Welfare Foundation believes that pre-warning facilities of upcoming audits allows them to manipulate results and conceal poor conditions which compromise animal welfare.

We call for respect for EU equivalent animal welfare standards in exporting countries, not only for slaughter but also for transport and assembly centres. Access to the European market should be conditioned on compliance with traceability and food safety standards, including veterinary drug use, equivalent to those applied in the EU.

Since compliance with EU Regulations, particularly EU Regulation 1099/2009 cannot be guaranteed, horse meat imports should be immediately suspended from Uruguay and Argentina.