Back on April 1, I posted a note about the new Meat Hygiene Directive which is tied in with an equine traceability program and which will have an effect not only on horse owners in Canada who need to ship or sell a horse for slaughter purposes, but all equine owners – however peripherally.
While many in the industry see this move as inevitable, others are outstandingly opposed to any program which places the burden and expense of formal equine identification, as well as movement accounts onto horse owners.
There were a number of thought-provoking responses to this post, and I used them as a basis for an interview with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the federal department responsible for this initiative.
Here\’s how that conversation, with Guy Gravelle, Media Relations Officer, went.
How does this new Equine Information Document Program differ from past regulations?
Equine owners have, for the most part, been very good at keeping general records of their animals. The changes being put in place formalize this process and bring equine documentation even closer to similar systems already in place for other food producing animals, such as poultry and swine by enhancing the transfer and traceability information required for equine animals destined for slaughter.
Why was this initiative created and who initiated it?
The CFIA initiated this program in part to meet its priority to enhance traceability, which is key to opening international markets for producers. For example, this program responds to the European Union’s equine slaughter requirements.
This formalized system will help producers and exporters clearly demonstrate that their meat products are safe. The ultimate outcome of this program is enhanced food safety.
Will this program be voluntary or mandatory?
The CFIA equine traceability program is strictly voluntary. It is not mandatory for horse owners to keep track of the medications used, especially if they do not plan to raise equines for meat processing. However if they want to have the option of selling them in the future for processing, equine owners are strongly encouraged to follow this
program and use the equine information document that can be found in the Meat Hygiene Directive no. 2009-49
(http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/meavia/man/direct/2009/direct49e.shtml). This equine program came into affect on January 31, 2010.
A similar program in the United States has been cancelled – the United States Department of Agriculture\’s NAIS (National Animal Identification System) – will this affect the Canadian program in any way?
Why is such a thorough description of the horse required (written details/photo)?
The CFIA’s ultimate goal is to bring equine requirements even closer to similar systems already in place for other food producing animals, such as poultry and swine – part of that objective includes making sure traceability information is available for equine animals destined for slaughter.
Who will be assigned the task of building and maintaining the database system described?
The CFIA is in consultation with the equine industry to determine the most appropriate way to develop and maintain the database.
The EID documents will be evaluated at the slaughter establishment by the operator. The CFIA will oversee the operator’s evaluation. The horse will be examined/inspected by the operator and the CFIA after arrival, as well as during processing for evidence of abnormalities. When evidence of potential medication usage is found, and as a part of routine testing, samples may be sent to detect potential drug residue violations.
In terms of the legislation, effective July 31, 2010, it will be mandatory for all Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspected facilities in Canada engaged in the slaughter of equine for edible purposes to have complete records for all animals (domestic and imported) presented for slaughter.
Again, EIDs are not required for equine that will not be slaughtered for food. When the time comes to sell their animals, equine owners may want to increase sale opportunities to include a potential slaughter option. If a slaughter option is to be considered, equine owners may benefit by providing EID documents at the time of sale. The program is mandatory for equine slaughtered for food in Canada.
The CFIA further stated it is consulting with the equine industry to determine the most appropriate way to develop and maintain its equine traceability program. More on that later, but the majority of that consultation appears to be flowing through Equine Canada.