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Department welcomes further significant reduction in residue levels in food

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) today released the results of tests carried out under the National Residue Control Plan for 2007, which is implemented under Service Contract to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and approved by the European Commission.

During 2007, in excess of 30,000 samples from Irish food of animal origin were tested, following sampling from 11 domestic species. Samples are taken from food producing animals and from animal produce at farm level as well as at primary processing and packing plants. While the majority of samples (80%) are taken on the basis of standard targeting criteria, cases arise where Departmental inspectors sample animals which they suspect of being a particular risk; in such cases the animals concerned are withheld from the food chain, pending the outcome of the test.

Samples are analysed at officially approved laboratories that are accredited to the International Standard ISO 17025 and incorporate up to date analytical technology. The national official laboratory network continuously engages in research and development of analytical methodology in line with scientific developments under the guidance of the EU reference laboratories. This is to ensure improvement in analytical capability with a view to meeting current and future requirements towards enhancement of consumer protection. Testing covers 18 distinct residue groups (each group is in turn comprised of a number of sub-groups) which fall into three broad categories; banned substances such as growth-promoting hormones, approved veterinary medicines and animal feed additives and environmental contaminants.

Taking an overall view of 2007, 0.08% of samples were residue positive (i.e. 24 positives from 30,409 samples). While this, in itself, is a very favourable outcome, it also represents a 50% decrease in the already very low level of positives (0.17%) detected in 2006 and indeed continues the trend of very low and decreasing levels of residues in Irish food of animal origin (0.20% in 2005 and 0.39% in 2004).

Of the 24 positive samples, 14 taken in the poultry sector contained residues of a feed additive approved for use in poultry production (Nicarbazin). FSAI and the Department are satisfied, on the basis of a risk assessment, conducted in the current absence of definitive EU residue thresholds, that these positives do not pose a specific risk for consumers of poultry meat. Nonetheless, the presence of these residues is not acceptable. The Department has fully investigated the reasons underlying their presence and expects the poultry and animal feed industries to take preventative actions to ensure that the issue is effectively addressed.

Of the remaining 10 positives, 9 contained residues of authorised veterinary medicines, while an individual sample of wild game was positive for an environmental contaminant (lead). In the case of authorised medicines, a scientifically-based tolerance level in the form of a Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) is set at EU level for each such substance, which becomes the reference point for determining positives. Animals treated with medicines are required to be withheld from the food chain for minimum periods in order to comply with MRL requirements. In the case of antibiotic medicines, where testing continues at levels well in excess of those required by EU obligations, the overall positive level across all species in 2007 was 0.04% (i.e. 7 non-compliant results out of 18,301 samples) and continues the downward trend of recent years. The bovine sector accounted for 6 of these and in all cases the animals involved had been detained on suspicion at slaughter plants and were excluded from the food chain on foot of the analytical results. In the pig sector, only 1 sample of the 11,125 tests carried out for antibiotics was non-compliant and in this case the animal had also been detained on suspicion pending analysis and subsequently excluded from the food chain. By contrast, none of the 12,581 samples taken in the red/white meat sector using standard selection criteria was positive for antibiotic residues, which is a very favourable outcome for the Irish meat sector.

In the milk sector, where 1,134 samples in total were taken, 2 samples (0.18%) contained residues at levels above the MRL for Anthelmintics, which are medicines approved for the treatment and control of parasites. Of the 2 positives, one related to cows milk, while the other related to goats milk and were due to failure to comply with requisite post-treatment withdrawal periods.

A further reassuring aspect of the 2007 results for consumers is that no residues of banned medicines or growth promoters covered by the hormone ban were found in any samples. This reflects the fruits of the robust approach taken by the Department in the past as well as a responsible approach taken by the farming sector. Notwithstanding this good outcome, the Department will continue to be vigilant in monitoring activities both at farm and slaughter house/processing plant level.

In the aquaculture sector, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) with support from the Marine Institute (MI) is responsible for residue controls on farmed finfish for the national residue-monitoring plan. The MI is Competent Authority for residue sampling and analysis and the SFPA is the Competent Authority for verification of compliance with animal remedy Regulations on fish farms. In 2007, in excess of 650 tests for 2,219 determinants were carried out on 161 samples of farmed finfish for a range of residues. Similar to 2006, no positive results were detected in the national monitoring programme for farmed finfish in 2007. This welcome outcome continues the downward trend of very low levels of residues in farmed finfish in recent years (0.48% in 2003, 0.23% in 2004, 0.09% in 2005 and 0%in 2006).

The Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the European Commission, as part of its ongoing programme of inspections in EU member states and in Third Countries, carried out an audit of Ireland's National Residue Plan during April 2008. A report on this will be published by the FVO later this year.

Sampling and analysis for residues is also carried out on produce of animal origin imported from Third Countries to complement the approval and control arrangements implemented at EU level by the European Commission. Of the 72 samples taken from consignments imported directly into Ireland from Third Countries, no non-compliant sample was identified in 2007.

A comprehensive Residue Monitoring Programme, which takes account of the 2007 results, is continuing in 2008.

18 June, 2008

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. Under relevant EU legislation (Council Directive 96/23/EC) each member state is required to implement residue surveillance plans and to submit their programmes annually to the European Commission for approval. Ireland's Residue Monitoring Programme for 2007 was fully approved by the European Commission. Third Countries wishing to export animal products to the EU are similarly required to satisfy the European Commission that their residue surveillance measures provide equivalent guarantees for EU consumers.

2. The national legal basis for the Residue Plan is provided for in the European Communities (Control of Animal Remedies and their Residues) Regulations 2007. Arising from a technical finding by the Supreme Court in March 2007, the legislation governing approval and distribution of medicines and residue surveillance was re-instated to ensure a sound legal basis for the control regime in the interest of continued protection of public health and animal health and welfare.

3. Implementation of the Plan involves taking samples from food producing species at both farm and primary processing plant levels. Samples are generally taken in accordance with criteria designed to target animals or products, which are more likely to contain illegal residues. However, the results also reflect the outcome of sampling conducted in specific cases where the presence of illegal residues was suspected by Department inspectors, for example, on the basis of the ante or post-mortem examinations of animals at slaughterhouses. Where a positive result is detected in the laboratory, a follow-up investigation is conducted at the farm of origin with a view to taking the necessary enforcement measures up to and including legal action, where appropriate.

4. In addition to official testing carried out by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, primary processors in the red and white meat sectors and also in the milk sector are required to carry out residue testing under legislation put in place in 1998. Processors are required to submit to the Department for approval annual residue monitoring plans. Under this regime, processors are required to apply a progressively increasing scale of testing to suppliers of residue positive animals or milk.

5. In 2007, 2 persons were convicted by the Courts of offences under Animal Remedies legislation. Fines totaling €7,450 were imposed. Since 1996, a total of 252 persons/companies have been convicted under this legislation, with 72 persons receiving custodial sentences (49 suspended) and total fines in excess of €950,000 imposed.

6. An overview of the results in tabular format is given in Table 1 attached, while Table 2 focuses on the positive results.

TABLE 1

RESULTS OF DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES & FOOD RESIDUE MONITORING PROGRAMME FOR 2007


Group A Prohibited Substances
Substance Bovine Pigs Sheep/Goats Poultry Milk Horses Aquaculture Eggs Farm Game Wild Game Honey
Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos.
A1 243 - 69 - 22 - 74 - - - 6 - - - - - 2 - - - - -
A2 268 - 52 - 22 - 38 - - - 6 - - - - - 2 - - - - -
A3 1758 - 255 - 134 - 46 - 58 - 12 - 54 - - - 2 - - - - -
A4 313 - 57 - 69 - 69 - - - 3 - - - - - 2 - - - - -
A5 1206 - 124 - 119 - 63 - - - 20 - - - - - 6 - - - - -
A6 883 - 273 - 176 - 285 - 240 - 21 - 54 - 116 - 6 - - - 20 -
Total No. Analyses 4671 - 830 - 542 - 575 - 298 - 68 - 108 - 116 - 20 - - - 20 -

Group B - Veterinary Drugs and Contaminants

B 1 - Antibacterial Substances
Substance Bovine Pigs Sheep/Goats Poultry Milk Horses Aquaculture Eggs Farm Game Wild Game Honey
Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos.
B1 5267 6 11125 1 1000 - 382 - 214 - 39 - 103 - 118 - 25 - - - 28 -

B 2 - Other Veterinary Drugs
Substance Bovine Pigs Sheep/Goats Poultry Milk Horses Aquaculture Eggs Farm Game Wild Game Honey
Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos.
B2a 605 - 169 - 287 - 100 - 234 2 20 - 103 - - - 12 - - - - -
B2b 122 - 43 - 78 - 227 14 - - 5 - - - 53 - 12 - - - - -
B2c 113 - 54 - 62 - 41 - - - 15 - 103 - - - 6 - - - 20 -
B2d 35 - 60 - 15 - - - - - 11 - - - - - - - - - - -
B2e 189 - 63 - 40 - 21 - 77 - 39 - - - - - 4 - - - - -
B2f 104 - 199 - 46 - - - 83 - 10 - 103 - - - - - - - - -
Total No. Analyses 1168 - 588 - 528 - 389 14 394 2 100 - 309 - 53 - 34 - - - 20 -


B 3 - Other Substances and Environmental Contaminants
Substance Bovine Pigs Sheep/Goats Poultry Milk Horses Aquaculture Eggs Farm Game Wild Game Honey
Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos.
B3a 55 - 37 - 47 - 23 - 57 - 3 - 21 - 11 - 12 - - - 9 -
B3b 57 - 37 - 38 - - - 57 - 4 - - - - - - - - - 19 -
B3c 138 - 41 - 60 - 59 - 56 - 10 - 21 - - - 44 - 94 1 10 -
B3d 36 - 16 - 15 - 25 - 58 - 4 - 7 - - - - - - - 10 -
B3e - - - - - - - - - - - - 86 - - - - - - - - -
Total No. Analyses 286 - 131 - 160 - 107 - 228 - 21 - 135 - 11 - 56 - 94 1 48 -

OVERALL RESULT - TOTAL GROUP A + GROUP B
Substance Bovine Pigs Sheep/Goats Poultry Milk Horses Aquaculture Eggs Farm Game Wild Game Honey
Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos. Num. Pos.
Overall Total Analyses 11392 6 12674 1 2230 - 1453 14 1134 2 228 - 655 - 298 - 135 - 94 1 116 -

Notes
See over for key to each substance sub-group
Results are from routine targeted and on suspicion testing
Results reflect testing at primary processing plants and, where appropriate, on farm.
It is not mandatory to test for all substances in every species/product
In the case of aquaculture, 161 fish were tested in total.


Group A - (Prohibited Substances) Substances having anabolic effect and unauthorised substances

A1 - Stilbenes, stilbene derivatives, and their salts and esters
A2 - Antithyroid agents
A3 - Steroids
A4 - Resorcylic acid lactones including zeranol
A5 - Beta-agonists
A6 - Compounds included in Annex IV to Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2377/90 of 26 June 1990 (i.e. for which no maximum residue level could be set).

Group B - Veterinary drugs and contaminants

B1 - Antibacterial substances, including sulphonomides, quinolones

B2 - Other veterinary drugs

B2a Anthelmintics
B2b Anticoccidials
B2c Carbamates and pyrethroids
B2d Sedatives
B2e Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
B2f Other pharmacologically active substances

B3 - Other substances and environmental contaminants

B3a Organochlorine compounds
B3b Organophosphorus compounds
B3c Chemical elements
B3d Mycotoxins
B3e Others

Date Released: 18 June 2008