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432-00578 (Animals)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English


We, the undersigned Citizens of Canada draw to the attention of the House the following:

THAT horses are ordinarily kept and treated as sport and companion animals;

THAT horses are not raised primarily as food-producing animals;

THAT horses are commonly administered drugs that are strictly prohibited from being used at any time in all other food-producing animals destined for the human food supply; and

WHEREAS Canadian horsemeat products that are currently being sold for human consumption in domestic and international markets are likely to contain prohibited substances;

THEREFORE, YOUR PETITIONERS call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to amend the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act, thus prohibiting the importation or exportation of horses for slaughter for human consumption, as well as horsemeat products for human consumption.

Response by the Minister of Health

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Jennifer O'Connell

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is tasked with safeguarding the Canadian food supply, which enhances the health of Canadians and international consumers. This responsibility is shared with all those in the food production sector.

The Government of Canada recognizes the possibility that horses presented for slaughter may have been administered drugs that are prohibited from use in horses destined for food. As a result, the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) stipulates that documentation providing a previous six-month drug history is required for all horses processed in Canada for human consumption. This requirement applies to both domestic and imported horses. This six-month period meets internationally accepted standards. Documentation for all horses, regardless of origin, is verified at the slaughter plant, by plant operators, and is systematically reviewed by the CFIA.

The documentation system is one tool among several that are used to provide safe equine meat in Canada. Slaughter facilities must still comply with Canadian laws, and the CFIA inspects those facilities, in pre- and post-slaughter inspections. Also, the CFIA does targeted residue sampling of meat based on inspection findings.

Additionally, the CFIA conducts a drug residue program, designed in accordance with international principles, to monitor the presence of veterinary drug residues in foods. In addition to this testing, which is done here in Canada, importing countries typically run their own food safety testing programs to verify the safety of the foods they import. If drug residues are found in excess of the maximum residue limits, affected product will be subjected to a food safety evaluation and recalled if it is deemed hazardous.

In the case of drugs where the maximum residue limit is zero, such as phenylbutazone, if any trace of the drug is detected during testing, a risk assessment would be conducted by either the CFIA or Health Canada and corrective action would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The low rate of detections of unacceptable residues in Canadian horsemeat, and the absence of reported cases of human illness resulting from the consumption of Canadian horsemeat, indicates that Canadian horsemeat is safe for human consumption.

At this time, any Canadian exporter who has successfully negotiated a commercial contract with a country and who can comply with that country’s import conditions can export horses to that country. The current export certificates do not specify slaughter as an end purpose of export of horses to any country.

Please note that the Meat Inspection Act and the Meat Inspection Regulations have been repealed, having been replaced by the Safe Food for Canadians Act and the SFCR.

Presented to the House of Commons
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (Beaches—East York)
February 26, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00578)
Government response tabled
April 12, 2021
Photo - Nathaniel Erskine-Smith
Beaches—East York
Liberal Caucus

Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.

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