USDA to Step Up Residue Testing in Meat


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By Rita Jane Gabbett on 7/3/2012

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that later this summer it plans to start using a new testing method for meat, poultry and eggs that will allow it to test for dozens of chemical and drug residues from a single sample.  The agency will also increase the number of samples it tests.

“The new testing methods being announced today will help protect consumers from illegal drug residues in meat products,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen said in a statement on Monday. “By allowing us to test for more chemical compounds from each sample, these changes will enable USDA to identify and evaluate illegal drug residues more effectively and efficiently.”

One of the multi-residue methods being implemented for veterinary drugs will allow the agency to screen for chemical compounds that include several types of legal and illegal drugs such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and growth promoters.  In the past, FSIS would have collected 300 samples from 300 cows and looked for just one chemical at a time. Under the new system, one sample may be tested for as many as 55 pesticide chemicals, nine kinds of antibiotics, various metals, and eventually more than 50 other chemicals.  In all, FSIS will assess more compounds per sample using several multi-residue methods.

FSIS is also revamping its scheduled sampling program to increase the annual number of samples per slaughter class from 300 to 800. If an establishment has samples containing illegal residue levels, FSIS will notify the Food and Drug Administration, which may review practices of producers supplying the establishment with livestock or poultry, and FSIS may subject the establishment to increased testing and review.

Through its National Residue Program (NRP), FSIS tests for the presence of chemical compounds, including approved (legal) and unapproved (illegal) veterinary drugs, pesticides, hormones, and environmental contaminants that may appear in meat, poultry and egg products.  The agency said the new test methods would conserve resources and provide useful and reliable results while enabling the agency to analyze each sample for more chemical compounds than previously possible.

FSIS is inviting comments on today’s announcement, which is tentatively slated to be published in the Federal Register on July 6.

The new testing regiment is expected to take effect 30 days after the Federal Register notice is published.

Industry reaction

“What we want to see is that there are no more residues. That’s the goal, so we support this,” Jeremy Russell, spokesman for the newly formed North American Meat Association told Meatingplace. 

Russell acknowleged the move could also be good for the industry from a public relations standpoint, given recent pressure to show that current animal agriculture practices are producing meat products that are safe and without harmful chemical residues. 

“To date, the data show a really high degree of compliance, so we hope more data will confirm that,” Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Meat Institute told Meatingplace. “Lately there has been a lot of concern about (the safe use of) antibiotics and hopefully this will provide some reassurance.”



Posted by Haylie Shipp


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