European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
Scientific Opinions

Opinion of the Scientific Panel on contaminants in the food chain (CONTAM) related to hormone residues in bovine meat and meat products

Question number: EFSA-Q-2005-048

Adopted date: 12/06/2007

application/pdf Summary

application/pdf Opinion

In line with the obligations as defined in Article 11a of Directive 96/22/EC as amended by Directive 2003/74/EC the Commission asked EFSA to examine new data on substances and products thereof with hormonal activity which may be used legally in Third Countries for growth promoting purposes in bovine meat production. The substances under consideration are the naturally occurring steroids, testosterone and progesterone, as well as the synthetic compounds trenbolone acetate, which has demonstrated affinity to androgen receptors, zeranol, which has a high affinity for oestrogen receptors, and melengestrol acetate, which resembles progestins. In accordance with the mandate, the Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain reviewed the scientific literature that became available in the period between 2002 and the first few months of 2007, until drafting of the present Opinion.  The Panel noted that the understanding of the complex mechanisms of action of steroid hormones is still a matter of scientific research and new insights into the complex genomic and non-genomic regulatory mechanisms controlling hormonal homeostasis in different phases of life are still emerging.
The Panel noted the availability of advanced methods of analysis with high sensitivity and reproducibility, allowing the measurement of residues of natural and synthetic hormones in animal tissues. However, no surveillance studies quantifying the amount and nature of residues in edible tissues of cattle treated with growth promoting hormones under practical conditions, have been conducted in countries that have licensed the use of growth promoting hormones.
At present, epidemiological data provide convincing evidence for an association between the amount of red meat consumed and certain forms of hormone-dependent cancers. Whether hormone residues in meat contribute to this risk is currently unknown.
The CONTAM Panel concluded that the new data that are publicly available do not provide quantitative information that would be informative for risk characterisation and therefore do not call for a revision of the previous assessments of the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health (SCVPH) (EC, 1999, 2000, 2002).

Publication date: 18/07/2007
Last updated: 18/07/2007