NRP and controls for the detection of prohibited substances

EU and national legislation lays down control measures for the presence of undesirable and prohibited substances in food. In particular, each Member State must annually perform the National Plan for the detection of Residues (NRP), a structured program which aims at overseeing and monitoring the presence of residues of substances for livestock use, both illicit and authorised, and environmental contaminants in live animals and the feed from which they originate.

The NRP consists in a series of samples prepared at national level adapted to the regional situation and carried out by the National Health Service, both on farms (primary production) and in the establishment of initial processing (slaughterhouses or the milk collection centres). The analyses to reveal the presence of illegal substances are carried out by the laboratories of the Institutes of Experimental Animal Disease Prevention. The substances to be searched fall into two categories:

  • Category A: includes substances with anabolic effect and unauthorised substances for the treatment of farm animals. To this category belong therefore substances that are used in a fraudulent manner, for example, anabolic effects that induce an increase in weight of the animal treated.
  • Category B: includes the veterinary medicinal products, for which the EU defines a maximum residue limit that can not be exceeded in consumer products; and environmental contaminants such as heavy metals.

In the event that the administration of prohibited substances is detected, or the content of residues of authorised substances or environmental contaminants were higher than the established limits, the application of sanctions would be implemented to protect the consumer such as the recall of dangerous products, the application of administrative and criminal sanctions, the conducting if epidemiological investigations to determine responsibilities and uncover any further treatment. For some substances, such as growth promoters, the NRP also adds other specific controls.

The use of low concentrations means that the residues of these substances present in animal tissues are difficult to reveal by laboratory analysis. In this case, we resort to specific histological examination, i.e. inherent tissue analysis, carried out directly on the carcass after slaughter operations: the use of growth promoters, in addition to increased accretion of the animal, in fact also determines the alteration of some organs (sex glands, gonads, thymus etc.) whose analysis can highlight situations that deviate from the norm and, accordingly, permits the use of illicit substances to be suspected.

In 2014, the implementation of the NRP has led to the analysis of 40,806 samples, of which 16,276 for the detection of residues of substances in Category A (equal to 39.9% of total analysis) and 24,530 for the detection of residues of substances in category B (equal to 60.1%). The samples that have provided irregular results for the presence of residues were a total of 44, equal to 0.11% of the total of the samples analysed.

Of these, 15 were found not to conform due to the presence of residues belonging to category A (34.1%) and 29 due to the detection of residues of substances in Category B (65.9%).


The Sustainable Meat Project

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.