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All-clear for Finnish foods

12-Aug-2003

The recently published results of the Finnish national residue control programme for 2002 indicate thatfoodstuffs of animal origin produced in Finland contain very low levels ofmedicinal agent residues and other contaminants.

During the seven-year period since the testing began,the residue findings have emerged from scattered cases only, the body reports. It also concluded that the safety of foodstuffs of animal origin in Finland isvery high.

Levels of pesticide residues, heavy metals and other environmentalcontaminants in meat, milk, fish, eggs and honey were also reported to be low in 2002.

A total of 12,200 tests were conducted. The samples were tested for over 80different growth promoters, veterinary medicinal agents or environmentalcontaminants. Samples were taken from live animals at production farms andfrom meat, milk, fish, eggs and honey.

The national residue control programme is conducted annually to ensure thesafety of foodstuffs of animal origin, in accordance with national andEuropean Union legislation. The National Food Agency, the NationalVeterinary and Food Research Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture andForestry together conducted the national residue control programme in 2002.

Prohibited substances

The use of unauthorised growth promoters or other prohibited substances wasnot detected in samples taken from live animals or at slaughterhouses. Theantibiotic chloramphenicol was not detected in milk, eggs or honey either.

Meat

A total of 8,300 tests were conducted for meat (beef, pork, poultry, horse,mutton, farmed game and elk). One pig kidney sample and two beef kidneysamples were reported to be positive. Chemical confirmation was only obtained for one beefkidney sample. It could not be shown that regulations concerning medicinalagents had been violated, the report states.

One pig kidney sample contained ochratoxin, which was probably due topoor-quality feed.About half of the samples of reindeer liver and kidneys contained higherlevels of cadmium than is permitted for bovine liver. In the monitoringprogramme for wild game, heavy metal tests focused on elk liver and kidneys,whose cadmium levels exceeded the maximum residue limit for bovine tissuesin nearly every case. Finnish legislation prohibits the use of liver andkidney of elk older then one year for human consumption.

Prohibited substances were not found in poultry, nor were residues ofmedicinal agents, feed additives or environmental contaminants, the report also details.

Milk

A total of 2,908 tests were conducted for milk, and most commonly theantimicrobial agents were tested. Other tested compounds were for inflammation painkillers, mould toxins and environmental toxins. Onlyantimicrobials were detected in microbiological screening tests in five milksamples. Two of these were chemically confirmed. One was found to be the result of improper sampling and the other was probably due to aninsufficient waiting period after the application of a salve.

Fish

A total of 225 tests were conducted for fish. The report states that concentrations of medicinal agents exceeding the maximum residue limits were not found in fish samples.Two samples of rainbow trout contained small amounts of the anti-parasitemalachite green, the use of which has been prohibited since 1 October 2001.It could not be shown that fish older than three years had been treatedafter the prohibition came into force.

Eggs

A total of 576 tests were conducted for eggs. Lasalocid was found in two eggsamples. Lasalocid is added to feed and its use is authorised for poultrybut not for laying hens because of residues in eggs. The levels observed arenot harmful for consumers. The problem was apparently due to minorcontamination in the feed production process. No violation of feedregulations or negligence in feed production was observed. The reports states that the feed industryhas consequently made changes in production arrangements.

Honey

A total of 136 tests were conducted for honey. One honey sample was found tocontain sulfamethazine. There was no indication that hives had been treated,however. It is possible that bees visited treated hives nearby and thencontaminated their own hives, the report suggests.

One honey sample had a higher concentration of lead than normal. Itturned out that this was due to the container, whose sides and bottom hadbeen soldered together. Solder contains lead as well as tin and a containermade in this way is not suitable for storing food.

The complete results of residue examinations of products of animal origin in Finland in2002 is available on the websites of the National FoodAgency , the National Veterinary and Food Research Institute and the Ministryof Agriculture and Forestry .

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