Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

Providng access to food law since May 1996

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Last updated: 21 June, 2021

Veterinary Drug Residues

Providing access to the EU and UK legislation

On this page:

  • Summary - Brief details of the chronology of developments linked to this topic
  • EU Legislation - Listing of Regulations covering the topic
  • UK Legislation - Listing of Regulations covering the topic


Legislation laying down a Community procedure for the establishment of maximum residue limits of veterinary medicinal products in foodstuffs of animal origin was first adopted by the EU with Regulation 2377/90. When first adopted, the Regulation contained four annexes which were initially empty:

However with the first amendment, in 1992 (Regulation 675/92) additions were made to Annexes I and III. The first addition to Annex II was in 1993 (Regulation 895/93). Finally, the first addition to Annex IV was with Regulation 2901/93. Amendments continued with the final amendment being in 2009. At that time, an updated and consolidated Regulation was adopted - Regulation 470/2009. This provides a framework for the controls with the listing of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) being contained in a separate control - Regulation 37/2010. This now contains just two tables - one giving MRLs for 'approved substances' and a second listing 'prohibited substances' for which no MRL can be established. In addition, some further implementing regulations were adopted in 2017 and 2018 (see listing below).

Before the adoption and application of the above controls, due to significant concerns about the potential health risk to consumers, specific controls had been adopted in 1981 by Directive 81/602 which prohibited the used as veterinary medicines of 'substances having a thyrostatic action or substances having an oestrogenic, androgenic or gestagenic action'. It also prohibited the processing or marketing of meat derived from any animal which had been administered these substances. The substances can be used as growth promoters and have been used for this purpose outside the EU. Additional supporting measures were introduced by Directive 88/146 (including prohibition of imports) and Directive 88/299. These 3 Directives were subsequently replaced by Directive 96/22 and extended the controls to beta-agonists having an anabolic effect. These EU restrictions led to an extended dispute with, in particular, the United States, involving an assessment by the World Trade Organisation's Dispute Settlement Body. The EU maintains that the use of the substances poses a risk to health and that risk assessment has verified that the controls are justified. Other countries however believe that their use is safe and permit their use for fattening purposes. For more details of this issue, see the Commission document: Hormones in Bovine Meat.

Supporting these rules, the EU established control requirements. These were initially in Directive 85/358 (linked to Directive 81/602) but extended to additional categories by Directive 86/469. The controls were subsequently updated and incorporated into Directive 96/23. However, with the adoption of a comprehensive official controls regulation (Regulation 2017/625), control requirements have been incorporated into that Regulation but with additional details set out in the supporting implementing measure, Regulation 2019/2090.

For the Commission's page on this topic, see: Residues of Veterinary Medicinal Products.

EU Legislation

Framework Regulation:

Implementing Measures:

Listing of Maximum Residues:

Important Note: This Regulation has been amended over 80 times. The amendments are not listed here. At the time that this was last checked (February 2021), the latest pdf version was from December 2020. It is a document with 80 pages. It can be accessed from Regulation 37/2010 Consolidated Text (December 2020).

Specific Controls for Certain Substances - Hormones in Meat:

Official Controls:

UK Legislation

Brexit: Prior to the IP Completion Day (31 December 2020), the legal requirements given in the EU Regulations listed above still applied to the UK. Since IP Completion Day, the EU Regulations above have been incorporated into UK legislation but with amendments to correct deficiencies. Information on this is given below. For more details of the process of incorporating EU legislation into UK law, see the separate page: UK Food Law: EU Legislation as Amended for the UK. Provisions for the enforcement of the controls (originally the EU Regulations but now as amended) have been provided in the UK Regulations listed below. For Northern Ireland, EU rules still apply.

Guidance: Provided by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate:

EU Legislation with links to amended for application in Great Britain:

Enforcement and Implementation of EU Directives:

Requirements for implementation and enforcement are provided for the four parts of the United Kingdom:

This page was first provided on 17 February 2021

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