N.M. Attorney General Deems Horsemeat 'Tainted'

New Mexico's Attorney General has determined that horsemeat is unfit for human consumption just as a plant there awaits USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service permission to begin processing horses.

Horse processing has not taken place in the United States since 2007 when a combination of legislation and court rulings forced the closure of the remaining slaughter plants. U.S. horse processing again became possible in November 2011 when Congress passed a federal funding bill that did not contain language specifically denying the USDA funds for horse processing plant inspections. In December 2011, Rick De Los Santos owner of Valley Meat Co., LLC, submitted an application requesting the placement of USDA personnel to carry out horsemeat inspections at his Roswell, N.M., plant. That application remains pending.

Philip Sisneros, spokesman for New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said that on June 10, King announced that horsemeat fits the legal definition of an adulterated food product under New Mexico's Food Act because it contain chemicals that could be harmful to humans. As a result, horsemeat may not be manufactured, sold, or delivered anywhere in New Mexico regardless of where the meat might be ultimately sold or consumed, Sisneros said.

“Our legal analysis concludes that state law does not allow for production of meat that is chemically tainted under federal regulations,” King said in a written statement. “New Mexico law is very clear that it would be prohibited and illegal.”

Sisneros said that King's horsemeat analysis responds to a review request by New Mexico State Sen. Richard Martinez.

Atty. Blair Dunn, who represents Valley Meats' owners, believes King's findings were irrelevant on ground that it assumes every horse that might be processed could have been treated with painkillers, antibiotics, or vaccines during their lives. Dunn also said that those substances would be discovered in routine USDA inspections and would ultimately removed from the food chain.

“(King's) opinion has no legal significance and amounts to political grandstanding,” Dunn said.

Dunn believes King's horsemeat-related opinion does not affect Valley Meat in any way: “We continue to push to get the grant of inspection and seek relief for the injuries over the past year."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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