The use of veterinary medicines in the UK is controlled and monitored by the Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD). The VMD is an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK.
Ensuring food safety when using veterinary medicine
A high priority in the VMD's work is ensuring that veterinary medicines are used in a way that protects food safety and the environment. Their remit includes:
- regulating veterinary medicines in accordance with national and European guidelines
- putting in place and operating monitoring programmes for residues in food to ensure consumers are not exposed to unacceptable residues of veterinary medicines
- providing policy advice to government ministers
- actively monitoring the marketing and use of veterinary medicines and taking appropriate enforcement action
The VMD fulfils its remit by making scientific assessments of the safety and effectiveness of potential medicines before they are authorised, and operating systems of post-authorisation surveillance and monitoring. They work closely with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to make sure that consumer safety is given priority in veterinary medicines authorisation and surveillance.
Veterinary medicines residue levels
Rigorous safety assessments are undertaken to make sure that any veterinary medicines residues remaining in food are not harmful to people. For food that might contain residue of a particular medicine, an agreed Maximum Residue Limit (MRL), is calculated.
The MRL is the maximum concentration of residue that is legally permitted or acceptable in or on a food. Any residues below the MRL pose no concerns for consumer health. Even when the MRL is exceeded, it is unlikely that the residues are of concern - however, an individual assessment would be made.
The VMD organises investigations on farms where residues above the MRL originated. They determine the cause and give advice to farmers.