The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Friday announced it has issued a grant of inspection to a Roswell, N.M., equine slaughter plant operated by Valley Meat Co.
The agency expects two other applicants to be ready to receive grants of inspection for equine slaughter in the coming days.
Congress previously prohibited equine slaughter by repealing provisions that funded horse meat inspections. Without inspection, horse meat is ineligible for marketing or export.
However, Congress did not extend another funding repeal provision in the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act, therefore making horse meat again eligible for inspection, pending FSIS approval.
FSIS said in inspecting the plant, it will ensure compliance with all relevant statutes and regulations and will test equine carcasses for illegal drug residues.
"Because of the particular concerns about the possibility of drug residues in equine carcasses, FSIS will conduct intensified residue testing at establishments that receive a grant of inspection to slaughter equines," the agency noted in a Friday newsletter.
To implement the inspections, FSIS employees will tag equines that appear unhealthy or have visible needle puncture marks as "U.S. Suspect." Further, the inspectors will perform random sampling at an above normal rate until it has "significant experience with equine slaughter," the announcement said.
The agency also addressed concerns of horsemeat labeled incorrectly appearing in commerce.
"Because of FSIS’ stringent inspection process, testing capabilities, and labeling requirements, American consumers should not be concerned that horse meat will be labeled and sold as the meat of another species, as happened earlier this year in other countries," FSIS said.
Horses are not slaughtered and/or processed in the same facility as other species in the U.S. The meat is not eligible for sale in the U.S., but can be exported to other countries for consumption.
More information on FSIS’ inspection of equine slaughter can be found at www.fsis.usda.gov/horses/horses.html.