FSIS tightens residue policies, procedures

Published on September 15, 2001
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New regulations took effect Sept. 5 whereby the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service began posting on its Web site a list of livestock and poultry producers who repeatedly violate chemical residue limits. Also under the new policy, meatpackers must throw out animal carcasses found to have violative residues in target tissues, such as the liver and kidney, rather than salvaging the carcass by removing the tainted portions if muscle meat tested negative.

Although rare, violative residues are most frequently reported in beef and dairy cows (see JAVMA, Oct. 1, 2000, page 966).

The FSIS announced its intent to modify its residue policy Aug. 6 in the Federal Register. The action is partly a response to requests from some groups that the agency change how it responds to residue violations by livestock producers. Posting the violators' names, the FSIS believes, will help ensure that meat and poultry products are not adulterated with violative residues.

"Residue control is important in ensuring a safe supply of meat and poultry products," said Thomas J. Billy, FSIS administrator. "FSIS is continuously working to improve residue control measures. By working together with industry and other government agencies, we will be able to provide a more wholesome food supply."

The FSIS works with the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to control chemical residues. The FDA sets residue tolerance levels for veterinary drugs, and the EPA sets levels for pesticides. FSIS inspectors collect meat and poultry samples to enforce residue tolerances.

When a residue violation is found, the FSIS reports it to the FDA. The FDA investigates the violation and maintains a list of producers, dealers, and markets with more than one violation in a 12-month period.

The FSIS is working with the FDA to create a list of repeat violators for the FSIS Web site (www.fsis.usda.gov). The list is designed to help slaughter establishments make informed purchasing decisions. The list will provide the names and addresses of sellers of livestock or poultry that the FDA has determined to have repeat violations in a 12-month period. Names will remain on the list for one year from the time of being listed. If a seller is responsible for a violation while on the list, the seller's name will remain on the list for one year from the subsequent violation.

Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, if the residue level in a target tissue exceeds the tolerance, the FDA considers the entire carcass adulterated and subject to condemnation. Previously, the FSIS condemned only the target tissue or organ containing the high residue level. If no residue was found in muscle tissue, the FSIS released the muscle for consumption.

Now, the FSIS tests only target tissues for which residue limits have been established by the FDA or EPA. If a target tissue test exceeds residue levels, the entire carcass will be condemned unless residue limits and a testing method specific to muscle tissue have been established.