Antibiotic Residues in Food

Antibiotics are widely used in livestock, poultry and aquaculture industries due to their availability and low cost to fight and/or prevent disease and also to promote growth. However, some antibiotics have been prohibited for use in food-producing animals in various countries such as USA, Canada, Australia and in Europe because of concerns about possible carcinogenicity and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

When ingested or injected, antibiotic residues can accumulate in the body and may be detected in the blood, muscle tissue, eggs and body fluids like milk. Therefore, all food-producing animals that are given antibiotics must go through a withdrawal period before the meat, eggs and milk are sent to the market. Antibiotic residue tests are important to determine that food products are free from antibiotic residues before reaching consumers.

Antibiotic residues in food products may pose a threat to human health in several ways:

  • Spread of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria leading to outbreaks or infections that may be difficult to control or treat
  • Some antibiotics are carcinogenic and/or can cause potentially fatal illnesses in high doses e.g. nitrofurans and chloramphenicol
  • Antibiotics kill off “good” bacteria in your gut, which may upset the microbial balance and lead to illness caused by harmful bacteria
  • Allergic reaction to certain antibiotics in extremely sensitive individuals

Vet Food Agro Diagnostics (M) Sdn Bhd offers validated test methods to assist local producers, importers and regulatory bodies to screen for and detect antibiotic residues in food products:

According to Malaysian Food Act 1983, two types antibiotics are prohibited in food products: chloramphenicol and nitrofurans. For the maximum residue limits (MRL) of tetracyclines, sulfonamides and fluoroquinolones in food, please click here.