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Antibiotic residue in EU meat stabilises

By Melodie Michel , 23-Mar-2012

The percentage of animal by-products not complying with EU standards on antibiotic residues has been stable for the past three years, reaching 0.33% in 2010, the European Commission has revealed.

Based on analysis of 736,806 samples, including meat, fish, milk, honey and eggs, by member states, the study found that only 0.15% contained illegal growth hormones, while 0.23% had traces of antimicrobial substances. However, non-compliance to standards on contaminants, such as dioxins, lead or copper, was higher, with 1.5% of samples testing positive.

EU health and consumer policy spokesman Frederic Vincent told GlobalMeatNews: “Since residue monitoring for veterinary medicinal products is a targeted sampling, with the aim of detecting non-compliances, the very low figures of the last three years demonstrate that member state sampling keeps a high pressure to prevent illegal use of growth promoters.

“Continuous controls and enforcement by the member states will keep the figure low and possibly reduce it further in the future.”

He added that it was harder for member states to comply with EU standards on contaminants, as these are present in the environment during production, and can only be reduced over time. “As regards contaminants, the food chain is part of the environment and measures to significantly decrease environmental presence of contaminants only have an effect in the long run. The higher percentage of non-compliance for contaminants is also due to the targeted sampling: for contaminants of which the behaviour and distribution in the environment is clearly understood, targeting is easier and will lead to higher ratios of non-compliances,” he said.

In the previous three years, the non-compliance rate stayed between 0.32% and 0.34%, indicating an overall stabilisation in the results. When non-compliance is detected, follow-up actions include farm checks to look for evidence of the use of illegal substances.

The report also covered imports of food of animal origins from countries outside the EU, which showed 0.76% of non-compliance. In order to export to the EU, companies need to monitor plans and send the results to the Commission for approval.