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Reference Desk May 2012

Researchers in Spain Use New Method to Detect Traces of Veterinary Drugs in Baby Food

    ALMERIA, Spain, May 18, 2012—The quantities are very small, but researchers in Spain have found residues of drugs given to livestock in milk powder and in meat-based baby food, and they have developed a system to analyze these substances quickly and precisely.

    Antibiotics, such as tilmicosine, or antiparasitic drugs, such as levamisole, are given to livestock in order to avoid illness, but they can remain later in food. Scientists from the University of Almeria (UAL) have confirmed this, while checking new methodology to identify the minute quantities of these substances that remain in baby food preparations.

    "The concentrations detected have been generally very low. On one hand, this suggests they are not worrying amounts; on the other hand, it shows the need to control these products to guarantee food safety," Antonia Garrido, professor of analytical chemistry at UAL, explained.

    With this objective, the team has developed a "multi-residue' method," which allows several drugs to be detected at a time in baby food. Chromatographic techniques are used for this, in order to separate compounds, and mass spectrometry to identify them.

    The "precise, simple, and fast" methodology has been validated by analyzing 12 meat products (cow, pig, or poultry) and nine milk powder samples. Data indicate that concentrations of veterinary drugs vary from 0.5 to 25.2 µg/kg in the former and 1.2 to 26.2 µg/kg in the latter, "although with more samples, more conclusive results would be obtained."

    Sulfonamides, macrolides, and other antibiotic traces have been found, as well as anthelmintics and fungicides. In total, they found five veterinary drugs in milk powder and ten in meat products, especially if they were chicken or other poultry.

    The study published in the journal Food Chemistry suggests that this could be because in some farms there is no thorough control on the administration of drugs to animals.

    Until now, the European Commission has regulated the levels of pesticides and other substances in cereal-based foods for children and babies, but not in animal-based foods. As a result of the lack of regulation, a zero tolerance policy is usually applied to veterinary drugs in food, as they can cause allergic reactions, resistance to antibiotics, and other health problems.

    Source: Plataform SINC

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