The elimination of violative residues in beef is one of the most important elements facing ranchers and cattle feeders in producing safe food products.

Looking over our shoulder is USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency. Via the National Residue Program (NRP), they verify that residue tolerances for animal tissues aren't violated at any step in the beef-production chain.

NRP, which covers both domestic and imported food-animal products, is comprised of sampling plans that address chemical and drug residues from legal and illegal veterinary drugs, pesticides and environmental contaminants. FSIS collects samples of meat, poultry and egg products at inspected establishments and analyzes these samples at FSIS laboratories.

The majority of sampling is conducted under inspector-generated sampling from suspect animals in meat-processing establishments. In scheduled sampling, healthy-appearing animals are sampled and the findings provide exposure-assessment data.

If a violative level of chemical residue is found, FSIS notifies FDA and assists in obtaining the names of the parties involved in offering animals for sale. FDA and cooperating state agencies will follow-up on known violators with “educational” visits. If a problem isn't corrected, subsequent enforcement action could result.

Quality-assurance guidelines

The first step in residue control is to recognize everything entering the animal through feed, water or the hide has the potential to impact beef safety. Adopting a philosophy that mistakes and errors can occur, then looking for critical control points in the production process, makes the quality-control process a simple matter of common sense and routine checks of the system.

Some general guidelines include:

  • Antibiotic label directions always include appropriate withdrawal times.

  • Violative antibiotic residues can result from improper mixing or not following withdrawal times of medicated feed additives.

  • Extra-label antibiotic use must follow FDA regulations, which include a valid veterinary-client relationship.

  • Consider all chemicals as potential hazards and store them away from feed storage and mixing areas.

  • No one has the authority to adjust a feed additive's labeled dose.

  • Fluids leaked from feed-processing equipment can cause contamination.

  • The only approved location for implant administration is the middle third of the backside of the ear.

A thorough review of the “Beef Producer's Guide for Judicious Use of Antimicrobials” is recommended. Visit: www.fda.gov/cvm/Documents/JUBeefPR.doc or ask your state Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) coordinator.

Products such as pesticides and conditioners used on raised feeds must be FDA/USDA/EPA approved. Proper training should be available to all who work with these products, and should include personal safety, accidental spills and preventing contamination of the feed and water supply.

Producers should also maintain records of any use on pasture or crops to document that proper withdrawal times have been met for grazing cattle.

In order to maintain the continued effectiveness of medicines, administer only the amount of antibiotics needed to bring an animal back to health. BQA guidelines specify:

  • Avoid using antibiotics important in human medicine.

  • Use a narrow spectrum of antimicrobials when possible.

  • Treat the fewest number of animals possible.

  • Limit antibiotic use to disease prevention or control.

Attention to BSE

While not technically a violative-residue issue, FDA has determined that protein derived from mammalian tissues for use in ruminant feed is a food additive.

In 1997 the FDA adopted the “Animal Proteins Prohibited from Ruminant Feed” regulation (21 CFR 589.2000) to prevent BSE through feed. It established requirements for renderers, protein blenders, feed manufacturers, distributors (including haulers), individuals and establishments responsible for feeding ruminant animals.

The regulation prohibits the use of protein derived from mammals in ruminant animal feed. There are, however, exceptions:

  • Milk products (milk and milk protein).

  • Blood and blood byproducts.

  • Pure porcine or pure equine protein.

  • Gelatin.

  • Inspected meat products which have been cooked and offered for human food (“plate waste”) or further heat processed for animal feed use.

The regulations banned the feeding of meat and bone meal (MBM) made from certain ruminant animal byproducts to cattle and other ruminant animals in the U.S. Under these regulations, it's permissible to feed MBM made from pork or poultry byproduct meal to cattle and other ruminant animals.

The ban only affects ruminant-animal feeding and not blood meal, feather meal or chicken litter. Because the rendering process separates fats from proteins, the World Health Organization considers tallow to be low risk for transmission of BSE.

Clint Peck is director, Beef Quality Assurance, Montana State University.

For more information go to:
www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/2007_Blue_Book.pdf or www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/bse.html.