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01 March 2013, at 12:00am

DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency are investigating claims that they were warned nearly two years ago about horse meat entering the food chain in the UK and failings with horse passports.

John Young, a former manager at the Meat Hygiene Service, now part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), told the Sunday Times he helped draft a letter to DEFRA in April that year but it had been ignored.

The letter warned the government that its passport scheme, designed to stop meat with medicines’ residues, including phenylbutazone, getting into the food chain, was a “debacle”.

“DEFRA gave nearly 80 organisations the authority to produce passports and some of them are little better than children could produce... It’s a complete mess,” he said.

DEFRA responded in mid February that the horse passports issue was unrelated to horse meat being fraudulently passed off as beef.

The chief executive of World Horse Welfare, Roly Owers, said the charity had also warned the government in 

2011 about the inadequacies of the horse passport system. He said the whole European trade in horses was mired in inadequate laws and needless suffering, with the elephant in the room being the spread of infectious equine disease.

One reader told Veterinary Practice that at least some of the problems with meat could be traced back to the merger of the Meat Hygiene Service with the FSA on 1st April 2010.

It was reported (as this issue went to press) that ministers were planning to abandon plans to opt out of new EU regulations requiring producers and retailers to state exactly what is in their mincemeat.

In other “animal welfare” issues:

  •  there has been little support for the BVA’s proposal that all anthelmintics should be classified POM-V. The VMD responded to the BVA that only last December it had indicated its willingness to work with AHDA and AMTRA in developing training modules on anthelmintic resistance for vets and SQPs
  • there has been a four-fold increase in the numbers of dogs found to have invalid pet passports, a recent meeting organised by Dogs Trust was told