Federal meat safety officials are stepping up efforts to prevent meat with illegal levels of drugs or other chemicals from entering the food supply.
The new plan – unveiled Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) – is two-pronged. First, the agency will release a new compliance guide for slaughter establishments outlining measures that can reduce or prevent residues in livestock.
FSIS will also increase its residue testing at establishments with a record of residue violations, the agency announced.
Not only will this step protect meat containing residues from entering the food supply, but it will give past violators an incentive to use methods that do not produce illegal residue amounts.
“We are providing a pathway for those producers to correct deficient practices,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elizabeth Hagen in a statement Monday.
If cows have been administered antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medicines or other drugs, different withdrawal times, depending on the drugs, must elapse before the animal may be slaughtered and marketed for meat. Culled cows that contain drug residues are not supposed to be sold to slaughterhouses nor is meat from animals with drug residues to be shipped into commerce.
The new guidance is intended especially for establishments that slaughter dairy cows or bob veal calves, since these operations commit the majority of residue violations.
Bob veal calves – calves killed at two weeks of age our younger – are often raised on dairy farms, and have a history of testing positive for drug residues.
FSIS also announced that it is revamping its Residue Repeat Violator List – maintained by the National Residue Program – to make it “streamlined and more user-friendly.”
The Agency welcomes comments on how to make the list more useful and on whether it should include additional information about producers whose animals contained illegal residues.
The compliance guide will be available April 25, 2012 on the FSIS website.