(2) what the most recent date on which beef imported into the UK was tested for residues of oestradiol; and how many samples were collected.
In 2004, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) organised the testing of 301 samples of imported beef for trenbolone and zeranol (one sample was found to be of UK origin and one was unassayable on arrival at the laboratory).
Of the 299 assayable imported samples, 82 were from other EU member states and 217 were from other countries. No detectable residues of either trenbolone or zeranol were found in 2004, which was also the case in 2003. Trenbolone and zeranol were therefore removed from the imports surveillance programme for 2005 on the recommendation of the independent veterinary residues committee, which oversees the surveillance work of the VMD and advises the food standards agency on relevant surveys. They may be included again in the future.
Substance Samples Positive Samples Positive Trenbolone 300 — 299 — Zeranol 300 — 299 —
Testing was not carried out for the other listed substances in 2004 and 2005 and imported beef has not been tested for residues of oestradiol. All of the results of the VMD’s surveillance for residues of veterinary medicines and other substances are published in its quarterly magazine, (MAVIS) available from its website at: www.vmd.gov.uk
Oestradiol is a naturally occurring hormone. It will be present in beef at varying concentrations, dependant on the physiological state of the animal when it was slaughtered, and also its sex and age. Muscle, which is the matrix available for testing is not ideal. The EU’s community reference laboratory recommends serum, which is not available in imported beef.
Scientific advice from two of the UK’s national reference laboratories for veterinary residues analysis is that any difference in concentrations between untreated animals and those treated with exogenous oestradiol is very small. So, distinguishing between them would be unlikely. Therefore no testing has been carried out on imported beef in the last 10 years. Responsibility for testing produce from non-EU member states rests with the country of entry into the EU. Once produce has entered the EU, it should have free circulation within all member states, as part of the single market.
EU legislation imposes a series of health and supervisory requirements on non-EU countries before they export food to the EU. These are designed to ensure that imported animals and animal products meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, member states. The use of the listed substances as growth promoting hormones is banned in the EU, and therefore they should not be present in beef imported into the EU.
The European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office check on compliance with such legislation in EU and non-EU countries exporting to the EU.