HL Deb 27 July 1998 vol 592 cc157-8WA
Lord Hughes of Woodside

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Veterinary Medicines Directorate will be publishing the Annual Report on Surveillance for Veterinary Residues in 1997. [HL2891]

Lord Donoughue

The Government are committed to giving consumers the maximum possible information on the presence of residues in food, with appropriate advice on the significance of any results. The Annual Report on Surveillance for Veterinary Residues in 1997 was published by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) on 20 July and it paints a very positive picture of the current situation in the UK.

The VMD operates a statutory national sampling and surveillance scheme and a complementary non-statutory programme. In 1997 some 42,000 samples were collected and subjected to around 57,000 analyses in Great Britain. The VMD reports the results of its surveillance quarterly in the Medicines Act Veterinary Information Service (MAVIS) and in much greater detail in this annual report. The results continue to show that the presence of residues of veterinary medicines from all sources in food is very low.

The main points to emerge from the report are:

  • 99.5 per cent. of statutory samples tested in 1997 were free of detectable residues compared to 99.2 per cent. in 1996.
  • More significantly, the "positive" samples fell from 0.24 per cent. in 1996 to 0.13 per cent. in 1997.
  • This report, for the first time, gives details of the follow up investigations which are undertaken on all positive samples. Two successful prosecutions were taken and the report outlines initiatives which are being introduced to improve the chances of successful prosecutions in the future.

The report, which is available free of charge from the VMD, explains how the VMD obtains samples, how and where it analyses them and what it does with the results. It places the surveillance programmes into the current and future EC context and, to help the lay reader, includes a glossary of technical terms. The results are all placed into a toxicological context which the Government believe will reassure consumers that, because of the considerable margins of safety which are applied when maximum residue limits for veterinary medicines are established, the very low levels of residues currently found under the schemes are unlikely to pose a health risk.