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Residue Surveillance Information Note

Each year the Department implements a Residue Control Plan, which is one of a range of measures implemented by the Department designed to safeguard consumers from exposure to illegal residues and meet the requirements laid down by the European Commission. The national legal basis for the Residue Plan is provided for in the European Communities (Control of Animal Remedies and their Residues) Regulations, 2007. 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. 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.

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.

During 2007, for example, approximately 29,000 samples were taken nationally from eleven food-producing species (including aquaculture). Tests were carried out at officially approved laboratories covering 18 distinct residue groupings (each residue grouping is in turn comprised of a number of sub-groups). The residue groupings fall into 3 broad categories: banned substances, such as growth-promoting hormones and beta-agonists; illegal residues of approved veterinary medicines (these usually arise where animals enter the food chain before expiry of the prescribed withdrawal period for the medicine concerned); and environmental contaminants.

Reflecting the effects of effective monitoring and enforcement measures over many years and also the efforts of the industry, the level of positives detected in recent years has been low. For example in 2006 taking all groups and species into account, the incidence of positive results in 2006, at 0.17%, was in line with the reduced levels detected in recent years (0.2% in 2005, 0.39% in 2004 and 0.36% in 2003). The Department publishes the detailed results of residue monitoring on an on-going basis annually.

Self-Monitoring by Primary Processors of Animal Products

Since 2000, official testing has been complemented by a legislatively-based regime under which meat processors are individually obliged to implement approved residue monitoring measures in respect of animals supplied to them. This regime, which involves the submission to the Department by each processor of an annual residue monitoring plan (which requires the approval of the Department), makes it mandatory in cases where animals test `positive` for each processor to apply significantly increased levels of testing (up to a level of 100%) to subsequent consignments of animals from the suppliers in question. This initiative significantly increases the protection from illegal residues afforded to consumers of Irish food products. It also enables each processor and, indeed supplier, to deal effectively and in a timely manner with any problems which might from time to time emerge and equips Irish processors with another valuable and credible means of assuring consumers in an increasingly competitive marketplace of the quality and safety of their products.

Further information on residue surveillance and associated matters can be obtained from Veterinary Medicines Division, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,  Floor 1 Block B, Administration Building, Backweston, Youngs Cross, Celbridge, Co. Kildare  (01) 5058662 /5058659