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UK standards on medicines for farm animals

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A field with two cows and their two calves
Credit – Ann Cook

The Mail on Sunday and Daily Mirror have run stories claiming that there could be changes to the UK’s veterinary medicine safety standards for food-producing animals after the EU Exit Transition Period.

The articles quote campaigners who claim that, at the end of the Transition Period, the rules that are currently in place could be loosened in order to facilitate at UK-US trade deal. Friends of the Earth has alleged that this could include changes to regulations governing Monensin, an antibiotic that has been outlawed for use as a growth promoter in the EU since 2006.

The government has made it very clear that we will maintain our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards at the end of the Transition Period. All existing food safety, animal welfare, and environmental standards will be retained through the EU Withdrawal Act and form part of our domestic law. This includes all existing import requirements.

The scientific methodology for establishing the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) of substances in medicines has also not been changed. MRLs protect consumers from residues of medicines in produce. These limits are used to establish withdrawal periods - the period that must elapse after the last administration of the medicine before produce from that animal may enter the food chain.

The legislative changes will ensure that the UK can set appropriate MRLs and ensure that products for food-producing species can be made available on the UK market. Existing MRLs determined while we were in the EU will be retained.

There is no change to the UK ban on using veterinary medicines, such as Monensin, for the growth promotion of animals.

A Defra spokesperson said:

We are absolutely committed to maintaining the stringent controls on the medicines that can be used for all animals, including food-producing ones, following the end of the Transition Period.

This means the ban on Monensin as a growth promoter and other controlled substances will remain in place, helping to protect the health of people, animals and the environment.

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