The USDA plans to launch a new approach to its testing of chemical residues in meat, poultry, and egg products later this summer.
"The new testing methods will help protect consumers from illegal drug residues in meat products," USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. "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."
Through its National Residue Program, FSIS tests for the presence of chemical compounds, including approved (legal) and unapproved (illegal) veterinary drugs, pesticides, hormones, and environmental contaminants that may appear in meat, poultry, and egg products.
The new, modern, high-efficiency methods that FSIS is announcing will conserve resources and provide useful and reliable results while enabling the Agency to analyze each sample for more chemical compounds than previously possible.
One of the multi-residue methods being implemented for veterinary drugs will allow the Agency to screen for several types of legal and illegal drugs such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and growth promoters. In the past, FSIS would have collected 300 samples from 300 cows and looked for just one chemical at a time. 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.
FSIS is also revamping its scheduled sampling program to increase the annual number of samples per slaughter class from 300 to 800. If an establishment has samples containing illegal residue levels, FSIS will notify the Food and Drug Administration, which may review practices of producers supplying the establishment with livestock or poultry, and FSIS may subject the establishment to increased testing and review.
FSIS is inviting interested persons to submit comments on today's announcement, which is tentatively slated to be published in the Federal Register on July 6, 2012 at www.regulations.gov. The new testing regimen is expected to take effect 30 days after the Federal Register notice is published.