Food Law News - UK - 2002

FSA News Item, 15 March 2002

CONTAMINANTS - Agency acts on products from SE Asia showing further illegal drug residues

The Food Standards Agency has received the results of tests on a number of products of animal origin from China and South East Asia. The Agency began these tests as a result of concerns about a lack of control on the use of veterinary drugs in China. The latest results show further residues of illegal and unacceptable drug residues.

Illegal residues of the veterinary medicine chloramphenicol were found in samples of Royal Jelly, normally sold in capsule form, at similar levels to those recently found in honey. Independent scientific experts agreed that there was only an extremely low risk to public health through the consumption of products with residues at these low levels.

Given the low risk, the Agency is not advising against the consumption of Royal Jelly, but is calling for a withdrawal of Chinese and other Royal Jelly products, unless they meet legal requirements.

Further test results have also been received on two samples of Chinese rabbit meat. One is clear of all veterinary medicines and the other tested positive for residues of a pesticide. The levels were extremely low and while undesirable are not illegal and pose a negligible public health risk.

Given the low risk, the Agency is not advising against the consumption of Chinese rabbit products, nor calling for any product withdrawals.

Test results have also been received on warm water prawns and shrimps from SE Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh). The test results revealed that 16 out of the 77 samples tested positive for illegal and unacceptable residues of nitrofuran drugs. These drugs are no longer permitted in the European Union for use in food producing animals. This is because of concerns including a possible increased risk of cancer in humans through long-term consumption.

Given the possible risk, the Agency is advising against the consumption of these particular batches of shrimps and prawns. It is also calling for them to be withdrawn and recalled from sale. The companies involved have been advised of the results and are cooperating with the Agency. This advice does not concern cold water prawns and shrimps commonly used in the UK.

Details of the affected shrimp and prawn products, most of which have been on sale in major high street supermarkets, are listed below. The Agency is not advising against the general consumption of prawns and shrimps from South East Asia. However the Agency has alerted the EU Commission to these findings. The Commission has agreed to consider this issue on an EU wide basis to prevent further contaminated food entering the Community. The FSA will be asking the independent Veterinary Residues Committee to include analyses for nitrofurans in the future testing programme for warm water shrimps and prawns.

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