Press releases

Inadequate horse passport system must be improved to stop fraud

HorseAs the fallout from the horse meat scandal continues, the Trading Standards Institute
says that unless the horse identification system is not taken more seriously by the industry and veterinarians, risks to the food chain will continue.

While all horses are legally required to have a passport and to be microchipped, there are clear gaps in the system such as:
•    The new keeper of a horse has 30 days to update the passport with their new details via the Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO).  This must happen regardless of how long the new keeper owns the horse, and the 'dealer exemption' as it is known in the trader is illegal.  But the problem is compounded by the excessive length of time it can take for a PIO to update the passport.
•    It is an offence for a vet to microchip a horse without first checking whether the horse has been previously identified.  But the lack of guidance on the process for checks is resulting in animals being double chipped and given new identities.

The Trading Standards Institute's animal health and welfare lead officer Stephanie Young said: "Just like the BSE scandal did in its time, the horse meat contamination fraud has brought back into sharp focus how important a robust identification system for animals is.
"We have however seen a rise in consumer complaints over the misdescription of horses and irregularities in, or absence of, horse passports.  
"A reliable passport and microchipping regime is essential, not only from a food safety point of view, ensuring that animals that are not fit to be eaten do not end up in the human food chain, but for a number of other reasons too, including the health and welfare of the animals themselves.  With regards to race horses, inaccurate passports and indeed new identities can interfere with betting patterns too.
"The horse identification system is currently inadequate.  The issues we are finding are that the enforcement of the legislation is proving difficult due to the number of PIOs, the numbers of domestic pets and the lack of a national database.  Also, up until now at least, the link between horses and the food chain has not been given due relevance, resulting in a relaxed attitude to keeping passports updated for example with information on drug treatments the animal may have received.
"This must be a wakeup call for all animal identification to be taken more seriously."

28 February 2013

Notes for Editors:
For further information or to arrange an interview please contact Irja Howie at TSI press office on 08456089430 / 07780675815 or

Previous TSI statements on the horse meat scandal:

Trading Standards Institute (TSI)

TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally.  We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities.
TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses.