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DAFF Releases Results of 2008 National Residue Plan

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) today released the results of testing carried out under the National Residue Control Plan for 2008. The Plan, which is implemented under a service contract with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), was approved by the European Commission.

During 2008, in excess of 31,000 samples of Irish food of animal origin were tested, covering all 11 food-producing species. The range of testing is very comprehensive, covering 18 distinct residue groups (each group is in turn comprised of a number of sub-groups). These groups fall into four broad categories; banned substances such as growth-promoting hormones, approved veterinary medicines and animal feed additives and environmental contaminants. Samples are sourced both from animals directly and from certain animal produce at farm level as well as at primary processing and packing plants. While the majority of samples (78%) are taken on the basis of standard targeting criteria, some samples are taken as a result of suspicion by official inspectors of the presence of illegal residues arising, for example, from ante or post mortem investigations; 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 holding accreditation 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. The fruits of this work are evidenced by the fact that laboratories are capable of detecting residues at extremely low levels which, in many cases, are far below the levels at which the residues concerned pose a threat to human health.  

The major feature of the 2008 results is the already well-publicised detection in November 2008 of the presence of dioxins in a routine sample of porcine fat tested under the Plan. This discovery, which demonstrates the ongoing effectiveness of DAFF's residue surveillance as a public health protection measure, led to an immediate tracing and follow-up investigation, involving restriction of affected farms and withdrawal of pigmeat from the market place. The broader issues relating to this incident have been considered in the recently published "Report on the contamination of Irish pork products" by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and are also subject to examination by an inter-agency review group, chaired by Dr Patrick Wall of UCD, which will report to the Ministers for Health and Children and Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. 

The outcome of the major sampling operation, which formed part of the dioxin follow-up investigation, is the significant factor contributing to an increase in the overall level of positives under the Residue Plan in 2008 (i.e. from 0.08% in 2007 - itself an all time low in recent years - to 0.5% in 2008): Some 90 or 55% of the 165 positive results overall (out of a total of 31,512 samples tested), resulted from the dioxin incident and associated follow-up sampling of animals (the follow-up operation also included testing of other material, such as animal feed and effluent).

The 2008 results include a single case relating to the detection of a banned medicinal substance, viz. furazolidone (an antibiotic substance from the nitrofuran group which has been banned in the EU on public health grounds since 1995). In this case, a routine sample taken at farm level from a beef animal was positive for a metabolite of furazolidone. The Department instigated an immediate investigation, involving restricting movement from the herd and further representative sampling. Nine further animals from the same farm confirmed positive for this substance and were removed from the food chain, along with the initial non-compliant animal. The outcome of this investigation suggests that this was an isolated incident. It is the Department's general policy to initiate prosecutions in respect of all illegal use of banned substances, as well as increased monitoring of the herd in question.

In 2008, DAFF also fully investigated 2 other cases where laboratory findings indicated a potential use of banned substances. These investigations concluded that no illegal administration had taken place and that these, in effect, were background levels. One case related to 2 animals which showed a presence at a very low level of 'SEM' (Semicarbazide), which can be an indicator of the potential presence of the banned antibiotic substance; nitrofurazone. In the other case, 12 animals showed a presence at a very low level of Thiouricil, which can be an indicator of the potential presence of thyrostatic substances covered by the EU Hormone Ban. These findings, which reflect the growing sensitivity and sophistication of testing methodologies, are consistent with similar findings elsewhere in the EU and the current scientific evidence indicates that at low levels, they can be naturally occurring levels or they can be caused by factors such as the animals' diet. The scientific evidence is also to the effect that, in any event, presence of the substances at these low levels does not pose a risk to public health. 

In the poultry sector, 13 liver and 5 egg samples were found to contain residues of Nicarbazin, a feed additive approved for use to maintain healthy poultry flocks. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Department are satisfied on the basis of risk assessment that a specific risk to consumers of poultry meat and eggs resulting from these positives does not arise. The European Food Safety Authority has also concluded that residues of Nicarbizan and other related substances at the levels detected do not pose a risk to public health and the European Commission, which recognises the practical problems associated with avoiding carryover into food, is continuing to examine solutions. 

Of the remaining non-compliant results, 32 samples were found to contain residues of substances authorised for use in veterinary medicines. 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 2008 was 0.12% (i.e. 24 non-compliant results out of 19,577 samples). The bovine sector accounted for 13 of these, while 2 were identified in the ovine sector. In all cases, the animals involved had been detained on suspicion by the Department's veterinary inspectors in slaughter plants and were excluded from the food chain.  In the pig sector, 8 of the 11,926 tests carried out for antibiotics were positive and in the milk sector, 1 sample out of 269 tested was positive for penicillins. In addition, 8 samples contained residues of anthelmintics, which are medicines approved for the control and treatment of parasites. Full on-farm investigations are undertaken in all cases and appropriate follow-up action is taken, which can include a penalty applied to the farmer's Single Farm Payment.

In the wild game sector, a sample confirmed positive for an environmental contaminant, lead.  Investigations indicated that this was due to contamination with lead shot, rather than environmental contamination. 

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. In 2008, in excess of 650 tests for 2,073 determinants were carried out on 162 samples of farmed finfish for a range of residues. As in the previous three years, no non-compliant results were reported in the national monitoring programme for farmed finfish in 2008. This welcome outcome continues the downward trend of very low levels of residues in farmed finfish in recent years (0.23% in 2004, 0.09% in 2005 and 0% in 2006, 2007 and 2008).

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 as part of a broader examination of food safety controls being conducted over the year. The report of this audit has not yet been received.

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 92 samples taken from consignments imported directly into Ireland from Third Countries, no non-compliant sample was identified in 2008.

A comprehensive Residue Monitoring Programme, which takes account of the 2008 results, is continuing in 2009.

Note 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 2008 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 2009 (which updated earlier legislation principally to give effect to changes to the EU Hormone Ban). 
  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. 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.  A further breakdown of the results can be accessed at: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/foodsafetyconsumerissues/veterinarymedicinesresidues/ 

TABLE 1

Details of Non-compliant Results

Species Total No. Of Samples* Total No. of Non-compliant results* Substance
Farmed Fish 652 None N/A
Bovine 11837 82 13 Antibiotics (8 Oxytetracycline, 1 Marbofloxacin, 1 Tilmycosin, 2 Amoxycillin & 1 Sulfadimidin), 8 Thyrostats (Thiouricil), 11 Nitrofurans ( 1 Nitrofurazone as SEM, 10 Furazolidone as AOZ ) 1 Anthelmintic (Ivermectin) and 49 Organochlorines (PCBs)
Eggs 297 5 Anticoccidials ( Nicarbazin)
Equine 240 None N/A
Farmed Game (Deer) 111 None N/A
Honey 120 None N/A
Milk 1332 6 5 Anthelmintics (1 Ivermectin, 1 Closantel, 3 Triclabendazole Sulphone), 1 Antibiotic (Benzylpenicillin)
Ovine 2134 5 2 Antibiotics (Oxytetracycline), 1 Benzimadazole (Oxfendazole), 1 Thyrostat (Thiouricil), 1 Nitrofuran (Nitrofurazone as SEM)
Porcine 13324 50 8 Antibiotic - (4 Sulfadiazine, 1 Enrofloxacin & Ciprofloxacin, 2 Penicillin G & 1 Oxytetracline), 3 Thyrostats (Thiouricil), 39 Organochlorines (PCBs)
Poultry 1363 16- 13 Anticoccodials (Nicarbazin), 1 Benzimadazole (Ivermectin), 2 Organochlorines (PCBs)
Wild Game (Deer) 102 1 Chemical Elements - Lead
Grand totals 31512 165  

*Numbers relate to samples taken on a routine targeted basis and also on suspicion, including follow-up investigations.

TABLE 2

RESULTS OF DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES & FOOD RESIDUE MONITORING PROGRAMME FOR 2008

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 233 - 61 - 21 - 74 - - - 5 - - - - - 2 - - - - -
A2 249 8 42 3 28 1 36 - - - 5 - - - - - 2 - - - - -
A3 1588 - 209 - 138 - 43 - 94 - 10 - 52 - - - 1 - - - - -
A4 308 - 45 - 73 - 72 - - - 3 - - - - - 2 - - - - -
A5 1137 - 103 - 113 - 68 - - - 20 - - - - - 6 - - - - -
A6 949 11 251 - 189 1 272 - 271 - 21 - 52 - 108 - 6 - - - 20 -
Total No. Analyses 4464 19 711 3 562 2 565 - 365 - 64 - 104 - 108 - 19 - - - 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 5824 13 11926 8 896 2 355 - 269 1 43 - 103 - 121 - 10 - - - 30 -

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 599 1 142 - 257 1 88 1 278 5 28 - 103 - - - 13 - - - - -
B2b 120 - 29 - 75 - 201 13 - - 5 - - - 55 5 13 - - - - -
B2c 103 - 37 - 56 - 35 - - - 15 - 103 - - - 11 - - - 20 -
B2d 41 - 64 - 28 - - - - - 15 - - - - - - - - - - -
B2e 184 - 54 - 42 - 16 - 89 - 40 - - - - - 4 - - - - -
B2f 98 - 176 - 48 - - - 78 - 10 - 103 - - - - - - - - -
Total No. Analyses 1145 1 502 - 506 1 340 14 445 5 113 - 309 - 55 5 41 - - - 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 149 49 98 39 46 - 24 2 72 - 4 - 21 - 13 - 12 - - - 10 -
B3b 60 - 32 - 40 - - - 46 - 4 - - - - - - - - - 20 -
B3c 158 - 41 - 68 - 56 - 63 - 8 - 21 - - - 29 - 102 1 10 -
B3d 37 - 14 - 16 - 23 - 72 - 4 - 7 - - - - - - - 10 -
B3e - - - - - - - - - - - - 87 - - - - - - - - -
Total No. Analyses 404 49 185 39 170 - 103 2 253 - 20 - 136 - 13 - 41 - 102 1 50 -

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 11837 82 13324 50 2134 5 1363 16 1332 6 240 - 652 - 297 5 111 - 102 1 120 -

Notes

(a)      See over for key to each substance sub-group
(b)      Results are from routine targeted and on suspicion testing
(c)      Results reflect testing at primary processing plants and, where appropriate, on farm.
(d)      It is not mandatory to test for all substances in every species/product
(e)      In the case of aquaculture, 162 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: 20 July 2009