Yuriy Balji, Martin Knicky & Galia Zamaratskaia
Summary. In some countries, use of horsemeat as a food is inhibited by ethical and cultural concerns. However, horsemeat has potential health benefits, such as low fat and high unsaturated fatty acid content compared with other meats, as well as attractive sensory properties. Although there are many contradictory data on the dietary value in relation to human health, the effects of horsemeat have not been studied to a large extent. In this paper, we summarise existing knowledge on horsemeat quality and effects on human health. Our conclusion is that horsemeat may be consumed as a healthy alternative to other types of meat, provided that risks associated with microbial contamination during storage and possible presence of contaminants in horsemeat are taken into consideration. Future studies should evaluate the health-promoting properties and safety of horsemeat and associated byproducts.
Keywords: Health effects, horsemeat, nutritional composition, safety.
Horses have long played an important role for human society, through being used for transport, draught power, sport and recreation, as well as for meat and milk production. The first evidence of horse domestication is from the Botai culture, which existed about 3500 BCE in the territory of modern Kazakhstan (Outram et al., 2009; de Barros Damgaard et al., 2018). In the past, horsemeat was an important part of the diet of nomadic societies such as Tatars, Mongolians, Kyrgyzs and Kazakhs. Nowadays, horsemeat is still widely consumed in Central Asia and in some European countries (Belaunzaran et al., 2015). World-wide, horsemeat consumption mainly depends on cultural and traditional factors. Within the European Union (EU), the greatest consumers of horsemeat are Iceland, Belgium and Italy (Fig. 1; Martuzzi et al., 2002), while in the UK this type of meat is almost entirely absent from the market (Cawthorn & Hoffman, 2016). In general, horsemeat has great potential as an alternative animal protein source and is now attracting the attention of consumers in various countries. For example, in Finland and Korea, consumer attitudes to horsemeat have become more positive in recent decades (Lee et al., 2007; Leip€ amaa-Leskinen et al., 2018).
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 2017), the top 10 horsemeat producing countries in the world produced in total 588,692 tonnes of horsemeat in 2017 (Fig. 2).
The largest producer of horsemeat in the world is China, which produced 181 688 tonnes of horsemeat in 2017. Although information on the worldwide production and marketing is available (FAO, 2017), data on horsemeat consumption are sparse and not always updated. We attempted to summarise data on horsemeat consumption per capita from selected countries (Fig. 1).
The major components of meat quality are the attractiveness of the meat to consumers (colour, tenderness and flavour), its nutritional composition and food safety considerations. However, ethical aspects of
meat, such as animal welfare and animal health, are also becoming important for consumers. Horsemeat has high nutritional value, since is characterised by high protein content, high levels of n-3 fatty acids and low fat content and is an important source of many vitamins and minerals (as reviewed by Lorenzo et al., 2014). To date, only a few studies have focused on horsemeat quality. In the present study, we attempted to summarise existing knowledge on horsemeat safety traditions and religion, and by accessibility and affordability. The horsemeat scandal in 2013, when food inspectors found horsemeat in some processed beef products sold by a number of supermarket chains in the EU, negatively affected the image of horsemeat and led to a boycott of horsemeat-based products by some consumer groups (Premanandh, 2013). Horsemeat consumption in the EU therefore decreased from 2013 up to date, whereas in Asian countries such as Kazakhstan the consumption is relatively stable (Fig. 1).
Indeed, meat has a special place in human diet and contributes to valuable nutrients that are beneficial to health. The preferences for meat types vary across the world. In some European countries and in Central Asia, horsemeat accounts for a significant portion of total consumption. Generally, horsemeat consumption does not pose any threat to consumer health if the animal is healthy and if it is slaughtered and processed according to food standards legislation (Stanciu, 2015).
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Библиографическая ссылка: Yuriy Balji, Martin Knicky, Galia Zamaratskaia. Perspectives and safety of horsemeat consumption. International Journal of Food Science & Technology (IJFST). Special Issue: Recent Advances in Meat Products Quality & Safety Improvement and Assurance. Volume55, Issue3. March 2020. Pages 942-952.