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Community Reference Laboratories - Residues

Animals are exposed during their lifetime to different chemicals that could lead to the presence of undesirable substances likely to be harmful to human health in food of animal origin. A further exposure to such substances may occur while processing in the food production chain. These substances are generally defined as residues. The concept of residue and the measures to control the presence of chemical residues in food of animal origin are established in Council Directive N° 96/23/EC (on measures to monitor certain substances and residues thereof in live animals and animal products).

Community legislation identifies the following three possible origins of undesirable chemical residues in food of animal origin:

  • Residues of substances used for therapeutic purposes (e.g. antibiotics);
  • Residues of substances used illegally (e.g. hormones);
  • Residues of environmental contaminants (e.g. heavy metals).

For the purpose of residue control the European Union has created a network of laboratories. This network consists of four Community Reference Laboratories (CRLs, designated in N° 96/23/EC), National Reference laboratories (NRLs) designed by each Member State and routine laboratories also responsibility of MS.

The functions of the CRLs for the detection of residues in the veterinary public health field are defined in Annex V to Council Directive N° 96/23/EC and could be summarised as follows:

  • to develop new analytical methods and validate them to be used as a reference, and keep informed the NRLs about the advances in methods and equipment;
  • to assist NRLs by helping them to:
  •   implement
  •   quality assurance system
  •   technical advice
  •   training courses
  •   comparative tests
  •   identify residues in case of disagreement between Member States and
  •   to provide the Commission with technical and scientific advise.

Workprogramme for CRLs responsible for the residues sector (July 2001-June 2002) pdf

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