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Veterinary drug residues in animals and food: compliance with safety levels still high

Veterinarian working in the barn

Data on the presence of residues of veterinary medicines and contaminants in animals and animal-derived food show high rates of compliance with recommended safety levels in the European Union, according to EFSA’s latest report. The report summarises monitoring data collected in 2018.

The percentage of samples that exceeded maximum levels was 0.3%. This figure is within the range of 0.25%-0.37% reported over the previous 10 years.

Compared to 2017, non-compliance increased slightly for antithyroid agents and steroids. Small decreases were noted for antibacterials, other veterinary drugs (such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and other substances and environmental contaminants (such as chemical elements and mycotoxins).

A total of 657,818 samples were checked by 28 EU Member States.

The data are available on Knowledge Junction, EFSA’s curated, open repository, which was set up to improve transparency, reproducibility and reusability of evidence in food and feed safety risk assessments.


Food-producing animals may be treated with veterinary medicines to prevent or cure disease. These substances may leave residues in food derived from treated animals.

Food may also contain residues of pesticides and contaminants to which animals have been exposed. For this reason, EU countries must implement residue monitoring plans to detect the illegal use or misuse of authorised veterinary medicines in food producing animals and investigate the reasons for residue violations.

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