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Horse meat fears fuel call for horse database

Passports must be better regulated and a central database of Britain’s horses is essential, the horse world has reiterated. This follows the high-profile issues surrounding horse meat in the press.
Now the horse industry has commissioned research into what form a central equine information system should take and who should run it.
Around 8,000 horses are slaughtered annually for human consumption in the UK.
Last week it emerged that burgers from one major supermarket contained up to 29% horse meat. There are also concerns that horses treated with the drug phenylbutazone (bute) could end up in the food chain, through unscrupulous people presenting false passports at point of slaughter.
Horses treated with bute cannot go for meat.
Lee Hackett of the British Horse Society, one of Britain’s 75 passport issuing bodies, said: “When we receive an application for a new passport we can only check the details against our own database.
“It is quite possible that people are applying for numerous passports from different agencies.”
This is a big concern because, under food safety regulations, it must be made clear on a horse’s passport if it has been treated with certain drugs, including bute, so the animal is not slaughtered for meat.
But if duplicate passports can be obtained, these horses could still go to slaughter.
Information about all the UK’s passported horses was held on the National Equine Database (NED). But Defra stopped funding the scheme (news, 23 August 2012).
British Horse Industry Confederation chairman Jan Rogers told H&H: “We need a system that is effective from the Government and industry’s point of view, but also that horse people want to use.
“We need to determine if there is demand for such a system to exist and fund itself.”
The findings are due in March or April.
Defra is also reviewing the horse passport system.
A spokesman said: “We are looking at equine passports
to make sure the system is
as efficient and effective
as possible.”

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