WASHINGTON (AP) — The horse meat scandal that is hitting Europe has yet to spread to the United States, allowing American consumers to rest easier when buying ground beef or sitting down for a plate of meatballs at Ikea.
The United States has rigorous meat inspections and horse meat isn't readily available. So, while it's certainly possible that small amounts of hidden horse meat has made its way into the United States, it's unlikely to become a larger problem.
Some questions and answers about the problem:
Q: What's happening in Europe?
A: Horse meat has recently been found mixed into beef dishes sold across Europe, including in frozen supermarket meals. It also has been found in meals served at restaurants, schools and hospitals. Furniture giant Ikea this week withdrew its famous meatballs from stores in 21 European countries and in Hong Kong, Thailand and the Dominican Republic after Czech food inspectors found traces of horse meat in them. Stores in the United States and Canada weren't affected because they use a U.S. supplier.
Q: Is horse meat safe to eat?
A: What is at issue is fraudulent labeling, not a health risk. Horse meat is usually safe to eat, but it's generally not consumed in the United States, mostly for cultural and ethical reasons. However, it's considered a delicacy in some countries.
Q: Are horses even slaughtered in the U.S.?
A: Not right now. Three horse slaughter plants were shuttered five years ago after court action. Those plants produced meat that was mostly sold overseas.
Q: But horses are slaughtered in Mexico and Canada. Companies could import that meat and use it as a cheap substitute for beef, right?
A: Probably not. No horse meat is imported to the United States, so it would be hard for U.S. companies to obtain it in large quantities.