New Mexico Attorney General Issues Warning on Horse Meat

New Mexico’s attorney general, responding to concern over plans for the commercial slaughter of horses, said horse meat tainted with certain chemicals can’t be sold in the state.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said meat from U.S. horses would fit the legal definition of adulterated food under the New Mexico Food Act if the animals have been treated with chemical substances the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found unfit for human consumption, according to an e-mailed statement.

“Our legal analysis concludes that state law does not allow for production of meat that is chemically tainted under federal regulations,” King said. “New Mexico law is very clear that it would be prohibited and illegal.”

The attorney general provided the legal analysis in response to questions from New Mexico State Senator Richard Martinez, who has expressed concerns the state would be the first in the U.S. to allow the slaughter of horses since 2007, when domestic slaughter wound down after Congress stopped funding federal inspection of horse facilities.

King’s analysis cited food safety studies saying that phenylbutazone, the most-widely used anti-inflammatory drug given to race horses, is a public health risk in horse meat sent to slaughter for human consumption.

Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, New Mexico, has been planning to slaughter horses. The company is one of several that have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide inspectors so that they can begin operating. A federal law barring funding for the inspections lapsed in 2011.

A. Blair Dunn, a lawyer for Valley Meat, didn’t immediately respond yesterday to an e-mailed request for comment on the attorney general’s statement.

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