Monday, February 11, 2013

Horsemeat: EU Public Health Risk?

Given that the European Union horsemeat scandal is already a 16-nation affair are there any real health risks in consuming horsemeat?

By: Ringo Bones

When the “horsemeat scandal” first broke out in the UK during the last week of January 2013 when meat inspectors found out that a London franchise of Burger King was using horsemeat instead of beef, many UK citizens are in an uproar because Brits are very sentimental and reverent about the heroism of horses as draft animals. Not just for their heroism in the trenches of Word War I but throughout the rest of British history for their largely undocumented role in nation building, not to mention there might already be a British horse awarded with the Dickens Medal for bravery during wartime. But are there any real health risks in eating horsemeat? After all, the French had been eating horsemeat as gourmet food for centuries and they seem reasonably healthy.

For want of a horse, a kingdom was lost – doth quote the great English bard Shakespeare and now it seems the recent 16-nation European Union wide horsemeat scandal has been handled by the powers-that-be as the clear and present danger du jour when it comes to threat to public health. A few days ago, the UK’s environment minister Owen Patterson stated that the main health risk of consuming horsemeat is the yet unknown effects of pharmaceuticals used in culled race and draft horses that had been turned into meat on the human physiology. Certain anti-inflammatory veterinary drugs confined to use in farm animals not destined for human consumption have yet hitherto unknown physiological effects on humans. Not to mention the narcotic effects of so called “horse tranquilizers” on those people who eat horsemeat from culled race and draft horses.

After a popular brand of supposedly all-beef boxed grocery lasagne called Findus was found to be using horsemeat instead of beef, the UK food investigation committee later traced the source of the horsemeat to a government run abattoir in Romania. Now the Romanian government is under investigation by EU food watchdogs on why their government abattoirs were allowed to label horsemeat as beef. 
Along with dogs, horses are one of the few animals that are revered here in the West and eating them is largely seen as taboo. Though in this day and age, there are already certain health risks that come with the consumption of “unseemly meats” due to the very fact that these use certain veterinary pharmaceuticals that are banned for use in farm animals destined for meat on the table like chickens, pigs and cows, draft and race horses and sheep herding dogs are NOT intended for human consumption so they are prescribed veterinary drugs that are not normally used in “culinary animals”; Thus making the regular consumption of their meat carry certain long-term and largely unknown health risks. 

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