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Was horsemeat in food chain three years before last year’s crisis?

30 January 2014

Labour MP Mary Creagh claims she has evidence that tonnes of horsemeat may have entered the food chain three years before last year’s food crisis.

Creagh, who was shadow environment secretary at the time of the scandal, told BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme: “The number of horses slaughtered in Britain has halved over the past year - so what that tells you is probably 50% of the horses that were being slaughtered in 2010, 2011 and 2012 were destined for some sort of criminal meat trade."

Official Government figures show that in 2009, there were 5100 horses slaughtered. In 2010 there were 8854, in 2011 there were 9011 and in 2012 there were 9405. The figure, for the 11 months of 2013 following the crisis, fell by more than half to 4505.

Creagh noted that there are now much stricter checks in abattoirs and the paperwork is checked more carefully. “Veterinary inspectors are alive to the potential for horses to have more than one microchip in their neck and it is no longer in the interest of would-be criminals to take the risk of getting caught," she said, adding that the number of slaughterhouses approved to kill horses in the UK had also fallen, from seven in January 2013 to a current total of four.

"The anecdotal evidence from animal welfare charities is that there was a huge increase in the number of abandoned horses, there was a huge increase in horse passport fraud and there was a huge increase in horse slaughter,” Creagh continued. "They were horses that may have been treated with bute, had fresh chips put in their heads and new passports written for them - so they were being cleaned... and then taken to slaughter.

"Not all of those horses I think were exported, some of them may have stayed in the UK. I am in no doubt that they were entering the food chain and being passed off as beef."

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