New residue tests expand screening, reduce sampling

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Agriculture authorities expect to find illegal drug and chemical residues in meat and eggs more easily through expanded, more efficient testing procedures.

Officials with the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced in July that the agency was replacing technology currently used to identify illegal chemical residues, such as antimicrobial residues and residues of anti-inflammatory drugs.

The Department of Agriculture is replacing procedures for testing for illegal residues in meat and eggs. Department officials previously have said most such residues are found in meat from dairy cows and veal calves. (Photo by Greg Cima)

“In the past, FSIS would have collected 300 samples from 300 cows and looked for just one chemical at a time,” the announcement states. “Under the new system, one sample may be tested for as many as 55 pesticide chemicals, 9 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.”

A notice published July 6 in the Federal Register stated that the changes would take place within 30 days.

The notice stated that the FSIS’ National Residue Program has components for scheduled sampling, inspector-generated sampling, and import sampling. Since 2006, scheduled sampling has involved collecting samples from 230 or 300 animals for each combination of a production class and chemical compound class screened.

For example, the FSIS would collect samples from 1,200 heifers to screen for antimicrobials, chlorinated hydrocarbons, β-adrenoceptor agonists, and sulfonamides.

Starting in early August, the FSIS planned to replace those program components with three tiers of sampling, the first two of which would resemble current scheduled sampling and the inspector-generated sampling activities. The third would involve targeted testing at a herd or flock level. Imported materials would be sampled on the basis of the first two tiers.

Rather than collecting samples from 20,000 animals each year for the scheduled sampling program, the FSIS would collect samples from 6,400 animals and test those samples with 12 multiresidue methods, the notice states.

The FSIS also expects faster results from sampling conducted when slaughter facility inspectors suspect carcasses could contain illegal residues.

“The analytical methods that have been used for many years in the NRP to measure veterinary drug residues in meat, poultry, and egg products are laborious, expensive, and time consuming and, as a result, sometimes prevent the timely testing of food products before they are released into the marketplace,” the notice states. “More modern, performance-based analytical methods can reduce cost, increase the number of analytes that can be measured, and improve precision and accuracy while also shortening turn-around time.”