Amid the unfolding horse-meat scandal, a New Mexico slaughterhouse (Pecos Valley Meat Co.) has moved closer to becoming the first in the United States since 2007 to be allowed to process horses for human consumption. Owner, Rick De Los Santos, has been seeking U.S.D.A. approval for his processing plant in Roswell, N.M., since December 2011.
“Grants will not be issued until an establishment is able to produce a safe product in accordance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act,” said an Agriculture Departmen spokeswoman, Catherine Cochran.
In 2009 and 2010, the U.S.D.A. itself suspended inspection of Pecos Valley Meats, effectively suspending its operations, after finding problems with its sanitation and food safety program including “inadequate” testing for E. coli and “irregularities” in the segregation and disposal of “specified risk materials.”
On Monday, an advocacy group for horses sent a letter to the U.S.D.A., asking it not to grant permission for Mr. De Los Santos to operate the facility because he had failed to disclose two felonies on his original application form, as well as on a second, subsequent form.
“Is this really a guy we want to be operating a regulated business, one in which the U.S.D.A. will rely on his representations?” said Bruce A. Wagman, a lawyer representing Front Range Equine Rescue, the advocacy group.
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