In the UK, farmers and veterinarians have an excellent track record of ensuring our food is free from harmful residues of veterinary medicine and measures are in place to ensure things stay that way.
A surveillance schemes is overseen by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), a Defra agency.
This is known as the Statutory Surveillance Scheme. This is funded by the livestock industry and tests food from UK animals. All EU countries have a legal requirement to test their produce for residues of veterinary medicines and a smaller number of pesticides and heavy metals.
This statutory surveillance programme fulfils the UK’s obligations under Directive 96/23/EC. The samples included red meat, poultry, eggs, milk, farmed fish, wild and farmed game, and honey.
The Veterinary Medicines Directoate Reports during 2019 demonstrate once again that the use of authorised veterinary medicinal products in accordance with directions in the UK does not result in residues of human health concern and that a very high level of compliance with the safe use of such medicines continues to be achieved.
Follow-up action is taken by the Animal & Plant Health Agency, The Fisheries Research Services (Scotland) and the Centre for Environment Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), on every sample which on confirmatory analysis shows the presence of unauthorised substances or concentrations of authorised substances above the MRL (Maximum Residue Limits). A thorough on-farm investigation is undertaken by a Veterinary Officer (VO) or a Fish Health Officer (FHO) of the relevant agency who may be accompanied by an Investigation Officer (IO) of DEFRA’s legal department. This investigation will involve an inspection of farm records and stock and the collection of further samples from suspect animals. If clear evidence of abuse is found, the farmer will be prosecuted.
In cases where concentrations of authorised substances are found above the MRL
, the Animal & Plant Health agency will give the farmer, in consultation with his veterinary surgeon, the fullest possible advice on how to ensure that residues do not enter the food chain. Where a follow-up visit indicates serious shortcomings or deliberate misuse of an animal medicine, the farmer will be prosecuted.
Summary results of the residues surveillance programmes are published quarterly in the VMD’s MAVIS newsletter, and detailed results are reported to the European Commission.