The study, conducted by researchers at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, analysed 433 raw and cooked samples of meat, including ground beef and steak strips from 339 vendors.
Altogether 43 samples – 9.93% – tested positive for horse DNA, with the highest percentage found in ground beef.
The majority of vendors surveyed did not wish to sell horsemeat and were unaware of the presence of horsemeat in the meat products they were selling, researchers said.
The findings also revealed high levels of Clenbuterol, a veterinary drug commonly prescribed for horses, in some raw meat samples. According to Humane Society International (HSI), which commissioned the study, the substance is not approved for use in animals raised for human consumption.
Vendors in the dark on horsemeat
“The results of this study show that it is important for consumers to realise that meat mislabelling may occur and can be hazardous for their health, especially because the majority of vendors in the study were unaware that they were selling horsemeat as beef,” said Anton Aguilar, HSI/Mexico director. “We hope this study helps shed some light into the industry.”
Mexico is the second-largest horsemeat producer in the world after China.
According to the Mexican Ministry of Trade, in 2015 Mexico exported almost 3,000 tonnes of horsemeat worth almost $9 million, mainly to Vietnam and Russia.