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Veterinary residue testing in meat controversy

The potential human health risks highlight the importance of complete food safety testing before a food product reaches the public. Nicola Kane reports.


n order to meet legislative requirements, industry authorities and research

laboratories need rapid and sensitive screening methods for the detection of drug residues.

With meat and meat by products the presence of growth promoting drugs such as beta agonists and other veterinary drugs are at the forefront of this testing.

Fig. 1. Evidence Investigator arrays test for a range of growth promoting compounds.

Improper use of beta agonists can cause a serious risk to human health due to the residues they leave in the meat and other foodstuffs of animal origin. It is for this reason that in Europe all beta agonists are banned for use in livestock and for improving athletic performance according to EU council directive 96/22/EC. Ractopamine is a controversial drug and has been highly publicised in the news recently. Te use of ractopamine is permitted in food production in some countries like the US and Canada, but the European Union, China, Taiwan and over 100 other countries have banned its use.

Ractopamine is used to increase weight gain or leanness in beef and pork animals for the food supply, it is used extensively in the US where it is considered safe, which has led to recent trade disputes between the US and countries banning the use of Ractopamine.

Only meat imports tested by a certified government inspector for residues of the drug would

be accepted into the market. Te maximum residues limit of ractopamine is 50 ppb and 10 ppb in the USA and Japan.

Randox Food Diagnostics offer two highly sensitive testing platforms to detect Ractopamine residues in a range of matrices; the Evidence Investigator and the Ractopamine ELISA.

Te Evidence Investigator arrays test for a range of growth promoting compounds including Ractopamine, Beta Agonists, Boldenone, Corticosteroids, Nandrolone, Stanozolol, Stilbenes, Trenbolone and Zeranol.

Te Growth Promoter Multiple Matrix Screen array offers excellent limits of detection; urine 0.2ppb, tissue 0.3ppb and feed 2ppb. Tis unique platform enables detection of 38 growth promoter compounds and detects major metabolites and glucuronide forms. Te feed preparation method can also be used across multiple arrays.

Te mislabelling of beef products that were found to contain a high per centage of horse meat has also featured heavily in the media. Te veterinary residue Phenylbutazone

Fig. 2. The Randox Food Diagnostics Phenylbutazone ELISA offers excellent detection of the main metabolite Oxyphenbutazone.

also known as ‘bute’ is administered to horses to treat lameness and fever. Bute has been linked with the development of blood disorders, including aplastic anaemia, leukopenia, agranulocytosis and thrombocytopenia.

As a result, MRLs have not been set for Phenylbutazone residues, meaning that any detection is considered a violation for foods entering the food chain.

Phenylbutazone commercial screening kits are limited however a Phenylbutazone ELISA kit is available from Randox Food Diagnostics to detect Phenylbutazone in serum samples with a tissue sample preparation available upon request. Te Randox Food Diagnostics Phenylbutazone ELISA offers excellent detection of the main metabolite Oxyphenbutazone.

For more information ✔ at

Nicola Kane, Senior Scientific Advisor, Randox Food Diagnostics, Crumlin, Co Antrim, UK.

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