The National Food Agency (NFA) said that, of 5,340 meat samples tested for residues of illegal substances, only two were found to contain a banned substance. Both had low levels of the antimicrobial drug chloramphenicol, which cannot be used in food-producing animals in Sweden.
The NFA said that both cases had been submitted to the local authorities for further investigation, but nothing had been found to suggest unauthorised use of the drug had taken place.
The body said it had begun several projects in collaboration with Sweden’s Agriculture Department and National Veterinary Institute this year to determine whether residues of chloramphenicol can form naturally, and if this might give rise to detectable levels in pork.
Samples of animal feed were also tested for cadmium, lead, mercury, chlorinated organic pollutants and mould toxins, and the NFA said that none of the samples tested positive for levels above the exposure limit, which accounts for natural residues as the result of environmental factors. Additionally, none of the animal feed samples had detectable levels of pesticides.
“There is no need to be concerned that Swedish meat contains illegal substances. It shows our control is working,” said Ingrid Nordlander, state inspector at the NFA.
Chloramphenicol was banned for use in livestock production in the EU in the 1990s after studies revealed that eating meat with residues of the drug could trigger the fatal condition aplastic anaemia. There are also concerns over the potential carcinogenicity and genotoxicity of the drug, as well as the potential to cause antimicrobial resistance.
However, there have been incidences where the drug has been found in livestock in Europe since the ban. In Germany, for example, thousands of pigs were slaughtered last year after chloramphenicol residues were found in pig urine samples.
It emerged that the drug had ended up in pig feed after a dairy product manufacturer disposed of laboratory waste containing chloramphenicol improperly, and it ended up as the ‘white-water’ liquid that is a by-product of dairy production and is added to pig feed because it includes milk proteins.