Food Law News - UK - 2002

FSA Press Release, 11 April 2002

CONTAMINANTS - Agency reveals details of survey to test for nitrofuran drugs in chicken

The Food Standards Agency has received the results of tests carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in Northern Ireland. The results complete a survey undertaken by DARD to test chicken for residues of nitrofuran drugs, first reported by the FSA on the 22 March 2002.

Forty-five samples were taken; 32 of Thai origin, eight of Brazilian origin and five of Chilean origin. Forty of the samples tested negative for nitrofurans residues. However five of the samples, three Thai and two Brazilian, did test positive for very low levels of nitrofurans. The testing programme follows European Commission discussions and decisions over recent weeks in relation to products of animal origin from China and SE Asia and relates to concerns over the controls on the use of veterinary medicines.

All 45 samples were taken from batches of imported chicken found at cold stores in Northern Ireland and not chicken already on sale in retail establishments. A significant proportion of the chicken from the five positive batches entered the food chain before the samples were taken. This chicken was mainly for use in catering establishments and is likely to have already been consumed. The Agency has contacted the cold stores involved and they have co-operated to remove and destroy the remainder of these batches from the food chain. The cold stores involved are not responsible for the problem.

Nitrofuran residues indicate the use of veterinary medicines that are no longer permitted in the European Union for use in food producing animals. This is due to concerns about the possibility of an increased risk of cancer. Consumers worried that they have eaten chicken from these batches should be reassured that the increased risk is negligible, because concerns relate to the long-term exposure to these drugs.

The Agency is not advising against the general consumption of Brazilian or Thai chicken. These results are being reported to the European Commission. Details of the results are available on the FSA website

In addition to the survey results, the FSA has been informed by DARD of one sample of Buxted chicken which they have taken that has tested positive for nitrofuran residues. The levels found were very low and consumers concerned that they may have eaten chicken from this batch should be reassured that the increased risk through consumption is also negligible as concerns relate to long-term exposure to these drugs. However the Agency is advising consumers against eating this particular batch of Buxted chicken.

The sample, taken from a Tesco store in Belfast, is of unknown country of origin and chicken from this batch has been on sale throughout the UK . Tesco have already removed the product from sale and the manufacturer is co-operating with a full product recall.

The Agency is currently undertaking a selective sampling programme testing Thai poultry and SE Asian prawns for nitrofurans. Results of this sampling programme, together with any appropriate advice to consumers, will be published as soon as they are available.

To go to main Food Law Index page,
click here.