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USDA: Horse Slaughter Plants May Reopen Following Ban Lift

Update Date: Mar 04, 2013 09:14 PM EST

Despite concerns that it may be soon start seeping into supermarkets and onto dinner plates, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week took steps that could lead to the eventual approval of the first horse slaughterhouse in the U.S. since 2007.

Congress last year lifted the ban established in 2006 which prohibited horse slaughter in the U.S., said Michelle Saghafi, a USDA spokesperson in a statement. The decision comes on the heels of the recent cases where horse meat was found in Ireland in ground beef and burgers, at IKEA in their meatballs and now also at Taco Bell.

While no plants are currently authorized to slaughter horses, "several companies" have asked that the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service re-establish inspections, the agency said.

"These companies must still complete necessary technical requirements and FSIS must still complete its inspector training, but at that point, the Department will legally have no choice but to go forward with inspections, which is why we urge Congress to reinstate the ban," the agency said.

The first horse-slaughtering plant may be approved in the next two months, according to A. Blair Dunn, a lawyer for Valley Meat Co., the New York Times reported. Valley Meat sued USDA and its Food Safety and Inspection Service late last year to force the government to provide horsemeat inspection services.

Horses are not raised for slaughter in the U.S., so horse meat is made predominantly from former race horses and work horses, which are routinely treated with drugs that are harmful to humans. Such drugs include the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone, which is a known carcinogen that has been found in horsemeat, despite an FDA ban on its administration to any horse sent to slaughter for human consumption.

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