For years, regulatory agencies have focused on testing for bacterial contamination in the food supply. Now, the attention is turning to drug and chemical contamination.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced a new testing system that aims to protect the public from exposure to harmful levels of chemical residues in meat, poultry, and egg products. The system will allow the agency to test for dozens of drugs, pesticides, and other potentially harmful compounds simultaneously, instead of only one or a handful in each meat sample, reports Food Safety News.
“The new testing methods being announced […] will help protect consumers from illegal drug residues in meat products,” says Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “By allowing us to test for more chemical compounds from each sample, these changes will enable USDA to identify and evaluate illegal drug residues more effectively and efficiently.”
The testing is prescribed by the National Residue Program, which collects, analyzes, and then reports the results on the FSIS website. The program authorized agency workers to look for both legal and illegal compounds, which include a broad range of veterinary drugs, pesticides, hormones, and environmental contaminants that appear in meat, poultry, and egg products.
One of the methods being implemented for veterinary drugs will allow FSIS to screen for chemical compounds that include several types of legal and illegal drugs, such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and growth promoters, reports SurfKY.com. In the past, FSIS would have looked for just one chemical at a time in each of the sample it took. Under the new system, one sample may be tested for multiple drugs and chemicals: as many as 55 pesticide chemicals, nine kinds of antibiotics, various metals, and eventually more than 50 other chemicals.
The agency is taking comments on the changes, published at www.regulations.gov. The new testing methods are expected to take effect late this summer, perhaps in August.
Source: “USDA to Ramp Up Drug Residue Testing for Meat and Poultry,” Food Safety News, 7/2/12
Source: “USDA to Enhance Consumer Safeguards with Expanded Testing for Illegal Drug Residues in Meat,” SurfKY.com News, 7/2/12
Image by Brian Johnson and Dane Kantner, used under its Creative Commons license.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.