Some 99.89% of food-producing animal samples tested under the National Residue Control Plan (NRCP) in 2021 proved free from banned substances, approved veterinary medicines, approved animal feed additives and environmental contaminants.
Just 18 out of 15,922 cattle, sheep, goat, pig, horse, poultry, farmed game, wild game and aquaculture samples taken were non-compliant. The majority of the non-compliance related to residues of authorised medicines, not banned substances.
The NRCP involves testing animal carcases for the contaminants described. Milk, eggs and honey samples are also tested.
The monitoring programme aims to protect consumers and animals by ensuring a high degree of compliance with EU regulations.
The fact that 99.89% of samples tested negative for illegal residues and that this high level of compliance has been consistent since 2013 is an indicator of the responsible approach adopted by the vast majority of farmers, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said: “These results, which are highly reassuring in terms of consumer safety, show that 99.9% of all samples are in compliance with residue limits under our National Residue Control Plan, are a key element in ensuring that Ireland’s reputation as a producer of high-quality safe food is maintained both in Ireland and throughout the world.
“This allows us to export Irish agri-food products into markets all over the world, which, as I witnessed myself in recent trade missions to the far east, place a high value on knowing that Irish food products are a healthy and safe choice for their consumers.”
Under the NRCP, most samples are taken in accordance with legislative and risk-based criteria designed to target animals or products that are more likely to contain illegal residues (‘targeted sampling’).
For the 18 samples which identified as non-compliant in 2021, risk assessments were carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).
The body found that there was no unacceptable food safety risk to consumers and none required a recall of products from the market.
Follow-up on-farm investigations by the Department took place for those positives where further risk analysis was deemed necessary.
Results from the extensive testing under the NRCP in 2021 and follow-up investigations found no evidence of the illegal use of banned growth-promoting hormones or other banned substances in food-producing animals in Ireland.