Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

March 1, 2013

Q&A: Chances of a horse meat scandal in the US?

(Continued)

Q: What is the U.S. government doing to make sure Americans don't face the problem?

A: U.S. food safety law requires meat inspectors to be present for a slaughterhouse to operate and those inspectors are present for many steps of the process. They can shut down the plants if they think something illegal is going on. The federal oversight also requires meat to be easily traceable to the plant where the animals were slaughtered.

Q: What about imports?

A: Only certain countries and companies can export meat to the United States, and the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service inspects products at the border and will test them if something appears to be amiss. According to the department, other checks include annual evaluations of the countries that export meat to the U.S. to make sure their food safety standards are those in the United States and on-site audits at least once every three years in every country that exports meat, poultry or egg products to the United States.

Q: What about packaged goods and processed foods from Europe or other regions that may include meat as an ingredient? Could those include horse meat?

A: That is one possible loophole. The Agriculture Department won't say if it has additional checks on packaged or processed imports — European foods sold at specialty stores, for example. It is probably impossible for the government to test all those things at the border.

Q: Are large retailers conducting tests to make sure that horse meat hasn't made its way into their products?

A: Unclear. Most U.S. retailers don't have a lot of interest in wading into the European horse meat scandal. The Associated Press contacted Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kroger, Costco, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and other food industry representatives this week to ask what they are doing to ensure their products don't have horse meat. None of the companies responded. Steven Guterman, chief executive officer of InstantLabs, a company that makes DNA tests that could detect horse meat, says his company has received orders for the tests from Europe but not from the United States since the scandal broke.

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