DARD publishes the Wall report into hormone residues

UK - The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has published Professor Wall's report on the sampling and testing procedures for illegal hormone residues in cattle.
calendar icon 18 October 2006
clock icon 3 minute read
The Department takes issues relating to public health very seriously and in this role frequently carries out routine inspections for illegal substances, including growth-promoting hormones, in food producing animals.

Earlier this year, as a result of this routine testing, the illegal growth-promoting hormone - alpha-nortestosterone - began to be detected in increasing numbers of "on farm emergency slaughter" (OFES) cattle.

Given that the pattern of these findings was unusual, and that no evidence of illegal administration was found on the farm-holdings involved, the Department commissioned Professor Patrick Wall, University College Dublin and former Head of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, to carry out a full assessment of its procedures for the sampling and testing of material from cattle, for the presence of illegal hormone residues.

Commenting on the report, a DARD spokesperson said: "Professor Wall has produced an extremely thorough scientific assessment of the situation. We are grateful for the insights he has brought to this issue and welcome the fact that he has confirmed the integrity and legitimacy of all DARD's procedures relating to the collection, transport and testing of samples and concluded that current procedures should continue."

Professor Wall highlighted the exceptional standard of the analytical work carried out by the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) laboratory, thus confirming the validity of the test results.

The Report states that DARD acted on the basis of existing scientific knowledge at the time, which indicated that the presence of nortestosterone in male cattle was evidence of illegal administration. However, Professor Wall concludes that, in light of the findings in OFES animals, the currently accepted scientific consensus that nortestosterone does not occur naturally in male cattle needs to be reviewed.

In these circumstances, and given the fact that no evidence of illegal administration has been found following on-farm investigations, the Department has decided not to proceed with prosecution in any of the cases involving OFES animals this year. However, animals found positive at a meat plant will continue to be declared unfit for human consumption and condemned, in compliance with the EU Regulations. The Department will continue with the current testing regime and retains the right to prosecute in future cases where evidence of illegal administration is found.

The Department said that work by scientists at AFBI is already well advanced into the development of analytical tests of hair samples. Such tests would enable them to distinguish whether a positive finding of nortestosterone was the result of illegal administration.

The report also draws attention to the differing approaches in the Republic, Great Britain and in other EU Member States to the use of OFES and the entry of such animals into the food chain.

The Department accepts Professor Wall's recommendation that current procedures used in Northern Ireland for the entry of OFES animals into the human food chain should be reviewed and it will consult on this with the key organisations involved.

In conclusion, the DARD spokesperson said: "Professor Wall's report has highlighted that many of these issues need to be addressed on a pan-European level and we will raise these issues with other EU Member States at the earliest opportunity. The findings of this report will inform scientific debate and also allow a re-assessment of current scientific opinion, which if changed, may then form the basis of any amendments to the legislation".

"We are committed to working together with the industry on all of these matters and will soon issue guidance on criteria to be used when animals are being considered for OFES and to ensure best husbandry practice. We also intend to consult on the way forward with producers, processors, retailers and the Food Standards Agency."

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