Veterinary drug residues in animals and human food fell in 2020, according to figures published recently by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Data for 2020 covers 620,758 samples reported by 27 EU member states, as well as Iceland and Norway. The percentage of samples that exceeded legal maximum levels was 0.19 percent compared to 0.3 percent in 2019. It is the lowest figure for the past 11 years when non-compliance ranged from 0.25 to 0.37 percent.
Samples included bovines, pigs, sheep and goats, equine animals, poultry and aquaculture, as well as milk, eggs, honey, rabbit meat and game.
Most tests were targeted samples but some were suspect samples or collected at import. In 2020, there were 888 or 0.27 percent of non-compliant results out of 331,789 targeted samples. The number of abnormal results was 1,076; meaning some samples contained multiple illegal results.
Presence of unauthorized substances, residues of veterinary medicinal products or chemical contaminants in food may pose a risk to public health.
The number of samples tested was lower in 2020 because of the United Kingdom not reporting data to EFSA as it has left the European Union and issues because of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers reported.
Deeper analysis of figures
In 2020, the frequency of non‐compliant results was down for antithyroid agents, steroids and resorcylic acid lactones. For prohibited substances like chloramphenicol and nitrofurans, non‐compliance in 2020 was higher than 2019 but lower compared to 2017 and 2018.
For chemical elements including metals, compared to 2017 and 2019, the rate of non‐compliance in 2020 was lower but higher than 2018. Decreases were noted for anthelmintics, organochlorine compounds, organophosphorus compounds, dyes and other substances.
For anticoccidials, non‐steroidal anti‐inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), other pharmacologically active substances and mycotoxins the frequency of non‐compliance was higher but it was lower for other substances and environmental contaminants.
Non-compliant samples were reported for acetamiprid in honey and fipronil in pigs. These substances are used as plant protection products.
For mycotoxins, non-compliant samples came from pigs, horses and milk because of zearalenone, aflatoxin M1 and ochratoxin A.
Some of malachite green and leuco-malachite green were found. Use of these dyes is forbidden in EU food production but residues can originate from background concentration in fish feed.
For chemical elements, copper, cadmium, total mercury and lead were most frequently identified.
Of the 3,301 honey samples analyzed, 47 were non-compliant as reported by 10 countries. From 18,869 milk samples, 41 non-compliances were recorded by 15 countries. Of 11,251 egg samples, 31 were non-compliant as reported by 10 countries.
Of the 1,283 samples from farmed game, 24 were non-compliant, as reported by four countries. From 2,257 samples analyzed for wild game, 152 were non-compliant from 12 countries.
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