Fewer veterinary medicines in European livestock farms

Animal-source foods are increasingly healthy and safe. This is the conclusion of thousands of controls on the production of European livestock farms, from meat to eggs.

Only 1.7 per thousand out of over 600,000 samples examined showed traces of unwanted substances. Sometimes, it’s just environmental contaminants. Almost nothing. These are the results of a huge monitoring work by EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, that has collected tests for 12 years carried out by all the European Union countries, plus the United Kingdom, Norway and Iceland.

The results recently published in the latest annual report for 2021 highlight the steady and progressive reduction in the number of irregular samples (defined as “non-compliant”). Despite the sample increase, “non-compliances” were lower than in previous years. The presence of environmental contaminants, chemicals, and colourants is also decreasing. Banned substances are practically absent (0.03%).

Absolute Compliance With The Requirements

Scrolling through the report pages, we learn that all countries have met the requirements for the methods and frequency of sampling, a sign of increased sensitivity to this issue. Going into detail, we again note the complete absence of hormones, such as stilbenes. Moreover, antithyroid residues have been reduced compared to the previous year.

These two groups of drugs can have anabolic effects to promote growth. Checks on targeted samples (where irregular situations are most likely found) also showed a decrease in irregularities (0.24% versus 0.27-0.35% in the previous four years). Interestingly, the Netherlands is among the countries where a higher number of cattle treated with anabolic substances were found. At the same time, no case has been registered in Italy.

It could not miss strong attention to the presence of antibiotics for the increasing spread of resistant bacteria. Only 0.14% of the total samples examined showed levels above normal. However, it should be noted that most of these irregularities relate to honey (0.96%). There is virtually no antibiotic residue in European poultry meat, where irregularities were found in only 0.05% of the samples examined.

Italy Top Of The Class

If there are good results at the European level, the situation in Italy is even better. In the case of cattle, our country records the lowest percentages of residues of antimicrobials, veterinary medicines and environmental contaminants, in contrast to France and Germany, where the detection of non-compliant samples is more frequent. The situation is similar for swine, where very few irregularities in Italian samples are in contrast to the most numerous in Germany, France and Spain. No cases of Italian poultry products have been reported.

Regarding antimicrobials, we should mention what is being done in Italy to combat the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A health problem is becoming increasingly worrying and causing unacceptable deaths. A five-year plan following the One Health strategy has been drawn up to address this problem involving human and animal health.

Promoted by the Ministry of Health, the plan recognizes the significant reduction in the use of antibiotics registered in the veterinary field. The confirmation comes from the RNP results (Residual National Plan), where only 5 (0.017%) out of 30 thousand samples examined showed traces above the law.

Once again, European and Italian animal husbandry responsibly respond to the calls of the health authorities in the fight against antibiotic resistance, reducing the use of antimicrobials every year. At the same time, animal products offer excellent safety and health guarantees. Thanks to the capillary control work that begins in the stables and continues throughout the entire production chain without interruptions.

Professional journalist, graduated in veterinary medicine, director of journals dedicated to animal husbandry and editor in chief of journals in the agricultural sector, he has held coordination positions in publishing companies. Author of books on animal breeding, he is involved in the divulgation of technical, political and economic subjects of interest to the livestock sector.