Advice Issued on Removing Nicarbazin Residues

UK - A new report, published today by the Food Standards Agency, has advised British farmers to devise a system making sure that any bin receiving nicarbazin is completely emptied in the five-day run-up before the first birds go for slaughter.
calendar icon 14 May 2008
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The report also looks into the possible causes of nicarbazin residues in chicken. Nicarbazin is a medicated feed additive used to treat a debilitating poultry disease called coccidiosis.

The report follows a joint Government and industry initiative facilitated by the Food Standards Agency.

This initiative, which investigated feed practices on farms in order to find possible causes of nicarbazin residues, was launched in response to people wanting veterinary medicine residues in food to be be kept to a minimum. These residues are not a significant food safety risk for consumers but are avoidable with good farm practice.

For 12 months, from February 2007 to January 2008, farms sampled under the National Surveillance Scheme (NSS) for veterinary medicines were sent a questionnaire, by an independent project co-ordinator, seeking information about their feed management practices. The NSS checks for residues of nicarbazin in UK poultry, as required by EU law. This is undertaken by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, an agency of DEFRA, details of which can be found at the link below.

The study identified several possible factors as likely causes of detectable nicarbazin residues in chicken. These all relate to the management of feed storage and distribution systems on farm. For example, they include the feed available to birds in the period just before slaughter, the age of feed storage bins, bin emptying and different in-house feeding systems. Key recommendations include:

  • maintaining current best practice advice
  • maintaining and updating training on the use of nicarbazin on farms
  • ensuring farmers are aware of the precise amounts of nicarbazin feed required
  • ensuring that both single and double bins are emptied of any remaining nicarbazin containing feed before the five days withdrawal period before processing

It is hoped that the recommendations from this project will be taken into account in best practice for nicarbazin use and general feed management on farms so that the incidence and levels found are reduced further.

The science behind the story

Nicarbazin is a coccidiostat used to treat a protozoan disease, coccidiosis, that can be debilitating or even fatal to poultry. It is used as a feed additive to control the disease at a critical period of the birds’ lives but should not be used within five days of the birds’ slaughter. This ensures no appreciable residues of it remain in chicken for human consumption. It is combined in equal amounts with another coccidiostat, narasin, in the only UK-licensed product that contains nicarbazin, Maxiban.

Residues can be found in poultry meat but are more common in poultry liver. Neither is a significant food safety risk at the levels found, but can be avoided with good farm practice.

A UK action level for residues has been set at 200 µg/kg based on international Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) considerations. Residues over 1000 µg/kg are investigated on-farm by Animal Health, as this amount suggests a possible failing in feed management. This recent investigation considered all detectable residues, including those below 200 µg/kg, which greatly increased the amount of data available to assess risk factors.

Further Reading

More information - You can view the full report by clicking here.
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