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The BBC's Tom Fielden
"There are questions over the residual levels of the toxins in the food we eat"
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Biochemist and nutritionist, Dr Alan Long
"If you want cheap food you are going to have to pay a price somewhere"
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On PM:
Richard Young of the Soil Association and Roger Cook, director of the National Office for Animal Health
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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 01:47 GMT 02:47 UK
Fears over drugs in poultry
Battery chickens
The Soil Association says it is concerned for consumers
The Soil Association is warning that the level of potentially damaging drug residues in food may be higher than government figures suggest.

In a report, the organisation, which advocates organic farming, raises concerns over the effect residues found in chicken and eggs may have on humans.

The Ministry of Agriculture (Maff) said there had been no attempt to mislead the public over the level of residues, adding that 99.5% of samples taken last year were residue-free.

An independent government committee was recently set up to look into the issue.

'Too dangerous'

Antibiotics and other drugs are routinely used in intensive farming to protect livestock from disease, to treat sick animals and as growth promoters.

The Soil Association says some studies show that certain drugs can cause birth defects in animals and are suspected of being able to induce cancer.

Richard Young, one of the report's authors, challenged the government's presentation of statistics.

He said: "Despite repeated assertions by regulators that nearly all poultry products are free from detectable residues, figures show clearly that about 20% of chicken meat and 10% of the eggs tested contain residues of drugs deemed too dangerous for use in human medicine."

It is important to stress there has been no attempt to mislead or misrepresent any figures

Maff statement
In view of consumer interest in this area, the government recently set up an independent Veterinary Residue Committee to advise the chief executives of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and Food Standards Agency.

This committee first met in April this year.

A spokesman for Maff said: "It would be premature to comment further on the Soil Association report until the committee has had time to consider its findings."

But in a statement, Maff did say: "It is important to stress there has been no attempt to mislead or misrepresent any figures.

"All test results are fully reported every year and have been since 1995.

'Below safety limits'

"Every year the Veterinary Medicines Directorate takes about 37,000 samples to test for residues.

"It was encouraging that last year around 99.5% of all samples were residue free.

"The residues mentioned in the Soil Association report were all found at levels well below World Health Organisation safety limits."

The Soil Association said it was most concerned about drugs used in intensive farming to control intestinal parasites in poultry and game birds.

These include nicarbazin, lascalocid and dimetridazole.

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21 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Chicken health 'at risk'
08 Oct 99 | Antibiotics
Why farm antibiotics are a worry
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