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Department of Agriculture and Food releases the Results of 2005 National Residue Monitoring Plan

- Improvement on already low levels -

The Department of Agriculture and Food today released the results of tests carried out under the National Residue Monitoring Plan for 2005.

During 2005, in excess of 45,000 samples were tested following sampling on both a targeted and suspect basis from 11 domestic food-producing species and from products imported from Third Countries, including where the European Commission had taken a 'Safeguard Decision' in respect of specified products from a Third Country. Tests were carried out at officially approved laboratories covering 18 distinct residue groups (each residue group is in turn comprised of a number of sub-groups). The residue groups fall into three broad categories: banned substances such as growth-promoting hormones and beta-agonists, approved veterinary medicines (these usually arise where animals enter the food chain before expiry of the prescribed withdrawal period for the medicine concerned) and finally, environmental contaminants.

As regards domestic production, the overall level of positive samples in 2005 was 0.20% i.e. 94 positives out of 45,827 samples. This is an improvement on the already low levels found in recent years (0.39% in 2004, 0.36% in 2003). None of the 631 samples (represents a doubling of samples taken in comparison to 2004) taken from imported product were positive for residues.

During 2005, no residues of growth promoters covered by the EU hormone ban were found, notwithstanding a continued high level of monitoring both at farm and factory levels. Monitoring in this important area covered the main food producing species (bovines, pigs, sheep and poultry) and also, farmed deer, aquaculture, and horses. The consistent absence over a number of years of banned hormonal growth promoters in Irish beef and other meat, as indicated by these results, is reassuring for consumers and reflects the results of rigorous enforcement by the Department in past years and the responsible approach being adopted by farmers. The Department will, however, continue to be very vigilant in this respect.

In relation to other banned substances, six bovine animals from two farms showed indications of the presence of a metabolite of furazolidone (an antibiotic substance from the nitrofuran group which has been banned in the EU on public health grounds since 1995). The Department carried out follow-up investigations on the farms in question including further testing which did not yield positives. Nonetheless, the Department continues to monitor the situation, in particular, through increased sampling for nitrofurans.

During 2005, testing for residues of antibiotic medicines continued at levels well in excess of those required by EU obligations. The overall positive level in 2005 of 0.2 percent (i.e. 69 positives out of 33,321 samples) is below that of 2004 (i.e. 165 positives out of 39,245 samples) which itself was part of a downward trend in recent years. In the pig sector, where 24,924 screening tests were carried out for antibiotics, the level of positives at 0.1% in 2005 reflects a continuing downward trend (0.3% in 2004, 0.4% in 2003, 0.5% in 2002 and 0.7% in 2001). In the bovine sector, of 2,485 bovines tested using standard selection criteria, 0.3% showed positive for antibiotic residues, which is below the level of 2004 (i.e. 0.8%).

In the poultry sector, none of the 2,116 samples taken showed positive for antibiotics. Antibiotic testing in this sector incorporates the outcome of an ongoing programme conducted in the context of a strategy to address the antibiotic resistance problem. Under this programme, samples are tested both for the presence of antimicrobials and for antibiotic resistant bacteria.

With effect from 1 May 2006, the Department has implemented changes in the arrangements for testing for antibiotics. With advances in analytical technology, the Department concluded that it was now appropriate and practical to switch over to a system of full confirmatory testing for antibiotics. This change will enable the identity and level of any antibiotic present to be determined with a greater degree of accuracy.

Of 3,116 samples taken in total in the poultry sector, 16 tested positive for residues of anticoccidials. This represents an overall positive level of 0.5% and reflects a downward trend compared to the positive level of 0.7% detected in 2004. The Department has thoroughly investigated the reasons underlying the presence of residues of these feed additives and has consulted the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) in relation to any food safety issues arising. Following risk assessment, the FSAI is satisfied that a risk to consumers of poultry meat does not arise from these incidences. Nonetheless, both FSAI and DAF are anxious that the feed and poultry industries deal effectively with this issue and have provided appropriate assistance in this regard.

In the aquaculture sector, the National Residues Monitoring Plan is managed by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (DCMNR) and monitoring is implemented by the Marine Institute (MI). In excess of 700 tests were carried out on 181 samples of farmed finfish for a range of determinants. Two samples from two salmon farms, taken as part of target sampling in 2005, are reported as positive for the authorised sea-lice treatment Emamectin B1a. Further details on this matter can be obtained from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources or the Marine Institute.

Testing is carried out at the Backweston Campus in Co Kildare. This complex contains the majority of the laboratories engaged in residue testing and includes new facilities which incorporate the very latest analytical technologies, thus underpinning ongoing improvements in analytical capability and enhancing consumer protection. In addition, the Marine Institute has moved to new facilities in Galway.

A comprehensive Residue Monitoring Programme, which takes account of the 2005 results, is continuing in 2006.

27 June, 2006


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 2005 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 Animal Remedies Act, 1993 and secondary legislation made thereunder, in particular, the Control of Animal Remedies and their Residues Regulations, 1998.
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 2005, a total of four persons/companies were convicted by the Courts of offences under Animal Remedies legislation, and one person receiving the Probation Act. In addition, fines totalling €9,150 were imposed. Since 1996, a total of 242 persons have been convicted under this legislation, with 76 persons receiving custodial sentences and fines totalling in excess of €927,726 imposed.
5. In addition to official testing carried out by the Departments of Agriculture and Food and Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, 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.

An overview of the results in tabular format is given in Table 1 (doc 95Kb)  attached, while Table 2 (doc 95Kb)  focuses on the positive results.

Date Released: 27 June 2006