Antibiotics & Veterinary Drug Residues

Veterinary Drugs In Animal Products Destined For Human Consumption

Why Are Veterinary Drugs Used?

The prime reason that animals are kept and farmed is for the benefit of humankind. Veterinary science is harnessed, similarly to medical science for humans, to the betterment of animal health and animal well being, but also for the protection of the consumer, e.g. protection against the transfer of parasites from animals to humans. In the process use is made of veterinary medicines or drugs, especially for the following reasons:

  • for diagnosing, treatment, alleviation of pain, modification or prevention of disease and/or other unhealthy physical conditions;
  • for the improvement of growth or production;
  • for improved yields, quality and safety of the products derived from animals;
  • for correcting or modifying behavior.
What Kind Of Veterinary Drugs Are Used?

Veterinary drugs used are:

  • antibiotics
  • pesticides
  • anthelmintics (de-worming products)
  • vaccines
  • insecticides
  • other drug groups
Consumer health concerns regarding the availability and use of veterinary medicines in animals is warranted and important. However, any potential human health hazard due to the use of drugs in animals must be scientifically examined by means of a thorough risk/benefit analysis for each drug. In other words, what will the effect on human health be if these drugs are not used.

How Are Veterinary Drugs Controlled?

Consumers want to be assured of the safety of veterinary medicines and that there are control measures in place.

Veterinary drugs are scientifically researched and formulated to be effective, beneficial to the animal and safe, both for the animal and the consumer, when prescribed dosage levels and withdrawal periods (when applicable) are adhered to.

In the Republic of South Africa the responsibility for safeguarding the health of consumers and animals lies with the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture respectively.

The registration and supply of veterinary medicines are strictly controlled. Several international committees regularly consult and review matters relating to veterinary medicines control globally and regionally. Just one such committee is the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods where Codex Standards are set for veterinary drug residues, good practices and the use of veterinary drugs. The Codex Alimentarius Commission is globally recognized as the international food standards authority and South Africa is not only a member of Codex, but also subscribes to its principles and implements Codex Standards.

What Safeguards Are There In South Africa?

The Directorate of Veterinary Services within the National Department of Agriculture is responsible for meat hygiene standards, meat import and export control as well as for the monitoring programme for residues in foods of animal origin.

A National Agricultural Residue Monitoring Programme (NARMP) was instituted in 1999 by the Directorate of Veterinary Services to monitor the residue status of animals submitted to slaughter within South Africa and to provide domestic and export consumer confidence in the meat and meat products that are produced. Ostrich meat is included in the monitoring programme.

The NARMP for foods of animal origin is designed to:

  • assess the effectiveness of South African controls and practices which ensure that the chemical residue status of foods of animal origin is safe, sound and wholesome and complies with the regulatory tolerances;
  • identify the illegal or non-compliant use of agricultural chemicals and veterinary products in animal production;
  • implement procedures to identify the cause and trace any illegal or non-compliant residues in food of animal origin;
  • implement a surveillance scheme through intensive testing of at risk animals to prevent any future violations of maximum residue levels;
  • to increase the consumer’s level of awareness of what constitutes a safe, sound and wholesome food product.
  • From the above it is clear that there are various programmes in place to ensure the safety of products of animal origin in South Africa.

Reviewed for F.A.C.S. by PSt (2019)