Residues of Veterinary Medicinal Products

Residues of Veterinary Medicinal Products

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 to. In all cases, the levels of residues in food should not harm the consumer.


  • 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

I. Scientific advice

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is responsible for assessing Maximum Residue Limits for veterinary medicinal products marketed in the EU.

II. Monitoring

Member States must monitor food of animal origin for the presence of residues. The legislation governing the design and implementation of residue monitoring plans is as follows:

  • Directive 96/23/EC - Establishing residue monitoring plans, sampling frequency and range of substances to be tested for

  • Decision 97/747/EC - Additional sampling frequencies for milk, eggs, honey, rabbits and game meat

  • Decision 98/179/EC - Rules for taking official samples and accreditation requirements for official laboratories

  • Decision 2002/657/EC - Rules for the validation of analytical methods used in the residue monitoring plan (see Analysis)

Implementation of National Residue Monitoring Plans

EU annual reports on the results from the monitoring of veterinary medicinal product residues and other substances in live animals and animal products:

III. Laboratory Analysis

Specific EU legislation outlines the laboratory analysis and correct interpretation of results.

Decision 2002/657/EC establishes:

  • Criteria and procedures to validate analytical methods, ensuring the quality and comparability of the results of official laboratories

  • Common criteria for the interpretation of test results

  • Minimum required performance limits (MRPL) for analytical methods to detect substances without a maximum limit. This is relevant for substances that are not authorised or that are specifically prohibited in the EU

Guidelines for implementation of Decision 2002/657/EC:

IV. Non-EU Imports

EU rules affect trading partners worldwide. Non-EU countries wanting to export to the EU must ensure the same level of food/feed safety as that of the EU. For more detailed information, please refer to the Manual on residue requirements for non-EU countries exporting to the EU. This Manual is also available in ES, PT and FR language when you click on the speech bubble beside the link.