UN urges ban on food-scare antibiotic

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food and agriculture organization

The United Nations world food body urged countries to remove the
antibiotic chloramphenicol from the food chain after events last
week led to a European food scare.

The United Nations world food body urged countries to remove the antibiotic chloramphenicol from the food chain after events last week led to a European food scare.

This week German authorities banned sales from a farm in the northwest of the country after a calf tested positive for the banned antibiotic. The measure followed last week's reports of German animal feed containing the same antibiotic, and in a separate case, contaminated calf liver was exported from the Netherlands to several European countries.

"The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has suggested that countries should take steps to stop the use of chloramphenicol in food production,"​ said the FAO in a statement.

Advice from a FAO scientific committee concluded that the compound is genotoxic, with the ability to cause genetic damage or possibly lead to cancer. It has also been linked to a potentially lethal form of anaemia, although the incidence of this is rare.

Based on this evidence, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international body on food standards, stated that a maximum residue limit could not be established and so the antibiotic should not be used in food production.

In Germany, state agriculture officials in Lower Saxony said inspectors were carrying out checks on the farm where the antibiotic was found. There is suspicion that the animals received illegal drugs. Officials refused to reveal the farm's exact location, but it has been barred from selling animals as a precautionary measure "until further notice,"​ the federal Agriculture Ministry said.

The Agriculture Ministry have established no connection so far to last week's scare. In that case, health officials believe the antibiotic was contained in shrimps that were imported from the Netherlands to a German animal feed plant.

The scare cost two Agriculture Ministry officials their jobs after it emerged that it took them nearly two weeks to act on an alert by the Dutch government.

On Monday, Lower Saxony authorities said tests on pig feed had proved negative, although the banned substance was probably still present in undetectable amounts.

Related topics: Safety, Regulation, Aquaculture, Europe

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