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Food: Animal Health

Volume 715: debated on Monday 7 December 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there are any adverse effects on humans eating animals which have routinely used antibiotics. [HL361]

Prior to being given a marketing authorisation, all veterinary medicines, including those containing antibiotics, have to be carefully assessed to ensure that they are safe for the consumer when used in food-producing animals.

The supply of antibiotic veterinary medicinal products in the UK is controlled by veterinary prescription. Like all veterinary medicines used to treat animals raised for food, maximum residue levels (MRL) are determined internationally and farmers are required to withhold animal products from the market for a period of time determined by scientific data to ensure that any residue is below the MRL. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) carries out wide-ranging surveillance of food-producing animals for residues of veterinary medicinal products including antibiotics and other substances in accordance with EU legislation to check that the MRL is not exceeded. Results of all tests are published on the VMD website. Non-compliant samples are rarely found. The Food Standards Agency is consulted when high concentrations of residues are found but has not expressed concern about the risks to human health.

Furthermore, the Suspected Adverse Reaction Surveillance Scheme (SARSS) is a national pharmacovigilance scheme run by the VMD. The scheme aims to record and monitor reports of suspected adverse reactions to veterinary medicines in both animals (any species) and humans. The VMD publishes UK SARSS reports annually in the Veterinary Record. There are no suspected adverse reactions reported as a result of antibiotics occurring in food from farmed animals.