CFIA confirms new EU horse meat rules

New regulations that might hamper Canada’s horse slaughter industry will take effect early next year.

Horses imported to Canada from the United States or other countries will have to remain in Canada for six months if the horse meat is destined for Europe.

“(CFIA) received a letter from the European Commission on Sept. 28, 2016, advising Canada that the European Union is implementing six months residency requirements,” the CFIA said in an Oct. 4 email.

“Effective Feb. 28, 2017, the CFIA will only provide certificates for the export of horse meat to the European Union that meet the EU’s new six month residency requirement.”

The Europeans say the rule is necessary because most North American horses are not raised for food. Many receive veterinary drugs that may be hazardous for human consumption. The six month period would be a buffer period between import and slaughter, presumably to lower the risk of horsemeat contamination.

“(We) have been working closely with industry since we learned of this proposal from the EU last October,” the CFIA said in late September. “The government understands the serious impact the EU measure of a 180-day holding period will have on exports. In 2015, Canada exported $36.8 million of horse meat to the EU.”

Most of the horse meat is exported to France, Belgium and Switzerland.

The requirement will likely in-crease costs and red tape for slaughter plants because the im-ported animals will have to remain in feedlots for more than 180 days. It’s estimated that 65 to 70 percent of the horses slaughtered in Canada come from the U.S.

The major horse meat processors in Canada are Bouvry Exports in Fort Macleod, Alta., and the Viande Richelieu plant in Quebec. Canadian Premium Meats in Lacombe, Alta., also slaughters horses for the European market.

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