The ICSA has dismissed the suggestion that farmers do not understand, or ignore withdrawal periods, when using antibiotics to treat livestock.

The statement comes in response to comments made by professor in Food Safety at Queens University Belfast Chris Elliot, who was interviewed on RTÉ’s Prime Time on Tuesday night. “Under the CAP schemes, around 7,000 farm inspections are carried out annually, many of which focus on animal medicines,” ICSA animal health and welfare chair Hugh Farrell has said.

“Farmers are highly conscious of all the issues surrounding the management and correct use of antibiotics on farm.

“In addition, the animal remedy register and medicines cabinet is a central part of the inspection process for the Bord Bia Quality Assurance scheme in which all participants are audited at least once every 18 months.”

No residue

The ICSA said their assessment is supported by the fact that out of almost 17,000 samples taken from farms and food processing facilities, there was an issue with just 53, which is one third of a percent.

“Any comprehensive residue testing regime which shows a compliance rate of 99.7% proves conclusively that the system is working well, and the tiny number of infractions could potentially be accounted for by basic human error,” Farrell continued.

“The report gives clarity that there is little, or no antibiotic residue found. This reinforces the fact that our farmers are working professionally and diligently and to the highest standards. I

“It is also important to note that most animals who are treated with antibiotics are not factory fit, in that they are mostly cows post calving, or calves experiencing respiratory difficulties. This further reduces any potential for antibiotic residues to enter the food chain.”

The ICSA concedes that the regulator in the North “may have some issues to resolve”, but maintains that this should in no way imply any issue with regulation in the Republic.