A study conducted in five Mexican states has resulted in the revelation that ten percent of those entities’ beef is mixed with horse meat.
Suddenly, Europe, which weathered a similar scandal in 2013, has company in the equine meat controversy department.
The Humane Society International-sponsored study, led by the veterinary faculty of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), focused on the states of Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Ciudad de Mexico,Hidalgo0 and the municipality of San Vicente Chicoloapan in Estado de Mexico and utilized 433 individual samples of both raw and cooked meat taken from 157 vendors. Only Chicoloapan’s meat was found to be un-adulterated by horse flesh.
Ground meat was the biggest culprit, accounting for 42 percent of the total.
While horse meat itself poses no inherent risk, meat from horses raised for sport – animals which are often sent to the abattoir after they’ve outlived their usefulness –often contains performance enhancing drugs, such as clenbuterol and phenylbutazone, which are harmful to humans. Sixty-five percent of the tested meat contained traces of clenbuterol. Side effects from ingesting the drug include hyperthyroidism, above-normal heart rate, contracting of blood vessels and high blood pressure.
The reason for the meats’ adulteration is obvious: a kilo of horse meat in most of the states scrutinized costs 70 pesos, set against 140 for a kilo of beef.
Horse meat is consumed all over the world. France and Italy are notable examples of countries where horses are often raised for human consumption. The danger lies in the fact that much of the horse meat which is being mixed with beef comes from horses who served non-alimentary purposes (racing, transportation, etcetera), which exempts their compliance with safety regulations governing various parts of the country’s food supply chain.
Mexico, second in horse meat production after China, has seen that industry grow significantly following the United States’ 2007 ban on its sale.