Horse meat is widely eaten in Europe and has a small following in the UK. A number of abattoirs in the UK slaughter equines for human consumption. To ensure that only meat that is safe for people to eat enters the human food chain, vets from the Food Standards Agency look up the equine’s food chain status when it comes in for slaughter by checking the Central Equine Database.
The equine’s food chain status is set either as ‘Included’ (which means it can be consumed by people) or ‘Excluded’ (which means it can’t) and this is recorded in the equine’s identification document (its ‘passport’) and on the Central Equine Database. Meat labelled as ‘Excluded’ will typically end up as pet food.
There is a third status which is ‘Unknown’, which means that the food chain status was not recorded properly when the passport was issued. Typically, an ‘Unknown’ status will be treated as ‘Excluded’ for safety reasons but this is not always the case.
When passports are issued, generally the food chain status is set to ‘Included’ unless expressly requested by the owner.
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