The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is set to implement a new testing system to detect illegal drug residues in meat, poultry and egg products, as part of its effort to improve food safety and protect consumers.

The new system will be implemented later in summer 2012 and will enable the agency to conserve resources, provide more reliable results, and examine more chemical compounds from each sample.

USDA food safety under secretary Elisabeth Hagen said the new testing methods will help safeguard consumers from illegal drug residues in meat products.

"By allowing us to test for more chemical compounds from each sample, these changes will enable USDA to identify and evaluate illegal drug residues more effectively and efficiently," Hagen added.

Previously, when the FSIS collected 300 samples from 300 cows it checked only for one chemical. With the new system, the agency can test one sample for as many as 55 pesticide chemicals, nine antibiotics, various metals and eventually more than 50 other chemicals.

Meanwhile, FSIS is also beefing up its scheduled sampling programme by increasing the annual number of samples per slaughter class from 300 to 800.

According to the agency, if any establishment has samples with illegal residue levels, it will inform the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which will monitor the practices of the producers supplying livestock or poultry to the establishment, and the establishment may also be subject to additional reviews.

Image: The new testing system will enable the FSIS to examine more chemical compounds from meat samples taken in the US. Photo: MaJaKDS.