Food-producing animals may be treated with veterinary medicines to prevent or cure disease. These substances may leave residues in the food from treated animals. Food may also contain residues of pesticides and contaminants to which animals have been exposed. In all cases, the levels of residues in food should not harm the consumer.
The Commission has:
- Laid down rules for the authorisation and use of veterinary medicinal products - Directive 2001/82/EC;
- Established procedures for the setting of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for veterinary medicines in food - Regulation (EC) No 470/2009 and a list of MRLs for permitted substances Regulation (EU) No 37/2010;
- Established reference points for action (RPAs) for residues of certain veterinary medicines not permitted to be used in the EU but which may present in imported food – Commission Decision 2005/34/EC;
- Established maximum levels for contaminants in food - Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006;
- Established maximum residue levels for pesticides in food - Regulation (EC) No 396/2005;
- Banned the use of certain substances in food producing animals - Directive 96/22/EC;
- Established a framework for residue monitoring in animals and animal products - Directive 96/23/EC.
- EU countries must implement residue monitoring plans to detect the illegal use or misuse of authorised veterinary medicines in food producing animals and investigate the reasons for residue violations.
- Non-EU countries exporting to the EU must implement a residue monitoring plan which guarantees an equivalent level of food safety.
Directive 96/23 - rules on monitoring of veterinary medicines, pesticides and contaminants in food of animal origin
MRLs. - The European Medicines Agency is responsible for assessing MRLs for veterinary medicinal products marketed in the EU. Detailed reports of these assessments are available here.