To ensure that food products coming from animals do not contain harmful residues of drugs, pesticides, and environmental contaminants, nations across the globe are collaborating with the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank. This nationally funded, computer-based support system provides information to producers and veterinarians about drug residues, including withdrawal times.
FARAD falls under the purview of the Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. FARAD personnel at the University of California-Davis and the University of Florida comb through numerous sources of residue avoidance data and extract useful information. Residue experts review the data, and personnel at NCSU analyze them to explore novel ways to prevent residue problems.
FARAD was established in 1982. Because FARAD was receiving calls from other countries, particularly Canada, the concept of a global FARAD was presented at a meeting of veterinary pharmacologists in 1998. Countries were encouraged to approach FARAD for help in establishing their own national access centers.
"Each member establishes permanent national access centers and, with a yearly subscription to gFARAD, Web-based access to the FARAD database from the original U.S. centers is granted," says Dr. Ronette Gehring, research assistant professor of pharmacology at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "In return, gFARAD members collect, standardize, and enter into the global database all relevant drug and chemical information and tolerances from their countries. This global partnership provides a single compendium of drug information and tolerance data, to which only members have access."
While 11 countries have embraced global FARAD in concept, only one has fully come on board. "Canada has been very successful ... have their own Web site and are answering calls. They are the only country at this stage that is up and running," Dr. Gehring says.
Countries establishing programs follow the original FARAD model, but each country sets up its own program, making adjustments to suit its specific needs. Each country is also responsible for securing its own funding.
"Canada started a FARAD program in 2001," Dr. Gehring says. "They've taken the FARAD model, adapted it, and taken it a step further. For instance, their government structures are more centralized, and they have a different regulatory environment, so they've made it fit their system."
The United Kingdom, France, and Spain have also paid the minimal fee to join the program and are in preliminary discussions with FARAD. This past November, a delegation from China visited NCSU to learn how to set up a FARAD system. "China is only the second country to come over for training," Dr. Gehring says.
The United States has benefited from collaborating with other countries in a variety of ways, including in the area of extralabel drugs used in minor species. In the United States, few drugs are approved for minor species—the small market has made it difficult for companies to justify the monetary investment required to collect data needed to gain drug approval. Drugs are, therefore, sometimes used in an extralabel manner. Species that are considered minor in the United States, however, may be considered major in other countries, so those countries may have more approved drugs for these animals. Two examples are fish in China and sheep in Australia.
Without collaboration, FARAD doesn't have a mechanism of collecting information on drugs that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
"Global FARAD gives us access to this information, thus improving our ability to provide rational withdrawal intervals to U.S. veterinarians, who are forced to use drugs in an extralabel manner in these species," Dr. Gehring says.
She is hopeful that more countries will come on board.
Veterinarians can reach FARAD for assistance with withdrawal interval determinations by calling (888) US-FARAD. For more information, visit www.farad.org.