WASHINGTON – New steps to ensure the safety of the food supply and protect consumers were announced July 2 by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. USDA will launch a new approach to its testing to protect the public from exposure to harmful levels of chemical residues in meat, poultry, and egg products later this summer.

“The new testing methods being announced today will help protect consumers from illegal drug residues in meat products,” said Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety. “By allowing us to test for more chemical compounds from each sample, these changes will enable USDA to identify and evaluate illegal drug residues more effectively and efficiently.”

FSIS tests for chemical compounds, including approved and unapproved veterinary drugs, pesticides, hormones, and environmental contaminants that may appear in meat, poultry, and egg products through its National Residue Program (NRP). The new, modern, high-efficiency methods FSIS announced will conserve resources and provide useful and reliable results while enabling the agency to analyze each sample for more chemical compounds than previously possible, the agency claims.

One multi-residue method being implemented for veterinary drugs will allow the agency to screen for chemical compounds that include several types of legal and illegal drugs such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and growth promoters. Previously, FSIS would have collected 300 samples from 300 cows and looked for just one chemical at a time. Under the new system, one sample can be tested for as many as 55 pesticide chemicals, nine kinds of antibiotics, various metals and eventually more than 50 other chemicals. In total, the agency will assess more compounds per sample using several multi-residue methods.

FSIS also intends to revamp its scheduled sampling program to increase the annual number of samples per slaughter class to 800 from 300. If an establishment has samples containing illegal residue levels, the agency will notify the Food and Drug Administration, which may review practices of producers supplying the establishment with livestock or poultry. FSIS may ask such establishments to increase testing and review.

The NRP is an inter-departmental collaboration designed to protect the public from exposure to harmful levels of chemical residues in meat, poultry, and egg products produced or imported into the US. It is designed to provide a structured process for identifying and evaluating chemical compounds of concern in food animals; collecting, analyzing and reporting results; and identifying the need for regulatory follow-up when violative levels of chemical residues are found.

Comments may be made on this announcement, which is tentatively slated to be published on July 6 in the Federal Register, at http://www.regulations.gov. The new testing regiment is expected to take effect 30 days after the Federal Register notice is published.