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Statutory Surveillance Programme

What is it?

Council Directive 96/23/EC commits Member States to analyse samples from food producing animals and their products for residues of veterinary medicines and environmental contaminants. The programme covers: red meat, poultry, farmed salmon and trout, eggs, wild and farmed game, honey and milk.

Who decides what to test the samples for?

Annexes I and II of Council Directive 96/23/EC set out the groups of veterinary residues that we must look for. The VMD drafts a plan in the summer for the following year which is discussed in September by:

  • Veterinary Residues Committee (VRC) representatives
  • Major sample collection agencies
  • National reference laboratories
  • Food Standards Agency

The plan is presented to the independent VRC for their for their approval in October each year. Our national plan is then submitted to the Commission by the end of March and adopted by the EU's Standing Veterinary Committee.

Who collects the red meat and poultry meat samples?

How are samples analysed?

Samples are analysed using a two-tier approach:

screening: samples are screened for the presence of residues. Any sample found "positive" at this stage is subjected to confirmatory analysis,

confirmation: very sensitive and selective methods identify the residue and measure its concentration.

Who analyses the samples?

In Great Britain, the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) analyses the samples. In Northern Ireland samples are analysed by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) laboratory.

All laboratories providing analytical services to the VMD operate to internationally accepted standards, use validated methods and forregularly participate in proficiency testing.

What action is taken on "positive" samples?

Under normal circumstances, each of the small number of cases where a veterinary medicine residue above the limit is found in a sample there is follow-up action. An Animal Health Agency veterinary officer carries out a thorough on-farm investigation at the farm of origin to discover the source of the residue. The farmer and their own veterinary surgeon are then given advice to help avoid a recurrence.

Where high concentrations of authorised substances or unauthorised substances are detected, an investigation will be undertaken by an Investigation Officer from Government Legal Service (DLS). The VMD may take further action if there is sufficient evidence of misuse of an authorised product, or use of an unauthorised substance.

Where are results reported?

The VRC publish the positive results in their Annual Report on Surveillance for Veterinary Residues in Food. Full results are published on the VMD and VRC websites. We publish all the results quarterly in Marketing Authorisations Veterinary Information Service (MAVIS). We send results to the individual premises from where the samples were collected. We report detailed results annually to the European Commission.

Who pays?

EU law requires us to levy a charge on the industries covered by the surveillance programmes (Regulation 882/2004 - The official food and feed controls). The current fees can be found on the OPSI website.

Last Updated: 21 January 2011

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