Recently, on 13th November 2019, a Conference was organized in New Delhi by The Association of Analytical Communities (AOAC-INDIA) together with Nestle Food Safety Institute (NFSI-INDIA) as a knowledge partner, also supported by Apex Food Regulator FSSAI to discuss the challenges faced by the Food Industries in India towards the tackling of residual presence of antibiotics in animal products used by them.
The Conference was inaugurated by Dr. N BHASKAR (Advisor QA-FSSAI) who spoke on the keynote topic of monitoring of such antibiotic residues in foods of animal origin.
Antibiotics are part of the Veterinary drugs administered to food producing animals routinely for treatment, prevention of disease or to modify physiological functions. However, such drugs leave behind residues in the organisms which can make their way in the animal products such as meat, milk ,eggs and honey and thus find their way into the human food chain.
International Organisations such as Codex Alimentarius lay down maximum residual limits (MRL) for such residues in different animal products. In India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) publishes regulations laying down such limits to be followed by Food Producers in India. The recent Gazette Notification of maximum tolerance limits of 43 such antibiotics and veterinary drugs was announced vide FSSAI Circular dated 29th March 2019.
A Survey conducted in some of the metropolitan centres to monitor antibiotic residues in milk showed results which were somewhat disturbing.
India, which produced over 175 million tonnes of dairy products in 2018, needs to build up a framework of Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring System (ARMS). It is necessary to set up training centres for teaching good Animal Husbandry Practices to Dairy Farmers across the Country. Dr. Bhaskar stressed on the need to have simple, quick and cost effective multi residue screening methods for veterinary drug residues.
Other topics covered in the pre-lunch session of the Conference were
- Overview of approvals process and MRL setting
- Overview of initiatives by AOAC for Antibiotic and Veterinary drug residues
- Regulation and enforcement of MRLs by residue monitoring plans
- Challenges and Solutions for the analysis of drug residues in Honey and Dairy Products
In the post-lunch session, the topics covered were
- Method Validation and Quality Assurance/ Quality Control
- Quantitative Analysis of certain metabolites and other banned compounds
- Compliance – Industry perspective
- Compliance – Laboratory perspective
Some of the points highlighted by the Speakers are summarized below :
Dr. Jack F Kay :
- Guidance on residue monitoring and national residue programmes
- Maximum Residue Limits for Dairy Products should be graded as per age groups and Region.
- Minimum Regulated Performance Limits (MRPL) should be defined for the residue monitoring programme. Above this limit the consignment can’t be released.
- By Products of Milk such as Cheese and Butter should also be checked for MRL.
- Enforcement of Standards should be more by consensus taking in to account legitimate concerns of all parties involved.
- Talked about toxicological studies for different animal tissues to arrive at different MRLs.
Dr. Kaushik Banerjee ( Chairman – AOAC India) :
- Dr. Kaushik Banerjee spoke about Standard Method Performance Requirements (SMPR) work from and its importance. How this will help to know if the method is fit for purpose or not considering a lot of variation from one lab to the other.
- Points for further action on how SMPR can be used in India.
Dr. Simon Hird :
- Antimicrobials as growth promotion
- Microbial Growth inhibition method
- Mentioned some of the residue challenges India is facing in exporting consignments to European Union, particularly in shrimps.
- Method validation and Quality Assurance, different screening and monitoring methods for multi-residue analysis.
-detection of nitrofurans
-detection of chloramphenicol in Honey
-detection of Melachite in Agricultural Products
Dr. S.K. Bhalla :
- Raising levels from Pesticide residues to Antibiotic residues
- Dairy Management Practices and Farm Management Practices
- Stressed on the simple, cost effective and quick platform methods to screen milk.
- Mentioned how simple changes like feeding animals after milking can reduce instances of mastitis.
Dr. S.N. Bhat (Senior Manager, Nestle Food Safety Institute) :
- Collaborative partnership and sharing knowledge to help build trust and improve Food Safety in “South Asian Region”.
- Formation of working groups by Nestle to establish convenient methods of sampling and analysis.
Dr. Saurabh Arora (AOAC India):
- Challenges of the future with respect to the testing requirements
- Better co-ordination among food testing laboratories, with AOAC acting as facilitator.
While large Dairy Manufacturers have strict procedures on Quality Control and normally abide by laid down guidelines, it is the smaller players who ignore the rules. Normally, if a batch of milk is found to contain antibiotic residue above the tolerance limit of 10 µg/L, it is to be discarded, but the smaller dairy owners overlook this. Dr. S.K. Bhalla raised a pertinent question about exploring further actions to utilise this milk to produce a non-ingestible by-product without discarding it altogether.
It is essential that Antibiotics are administered under prescribed conditions and the watchful eyes of the veterinarians. It is also necessary that appropriate tool kits are available at the field level for effective monitoring of residue limits, particularly in the case of milk which are often the main diet of infants. Over the counter sales of such antibiotics should be discouraged.
The final presentation by Dr. Saurabh Arora of AOAC highlighted the Compliance of Standards by the Laboratories.
Today, high routine laboratories in most Nations follow liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to ensure consumer protection speedily at affordable costs. This process of screening helps find certain types of antibiotic residues in foods such as raw milk, eggs, infant formula and meat and fish-based products by simultaneously monitoring 23 drugs in one go. One of the LC-MS/MS method published by Nestlé can analysis as many as 150 residues.
There are other procedures for detecting large numbers of veterinary drugs in one operation. But no single method is available to detect all the drug residues in one method. In the context of milk, it is more important to come out with a screening method, which fulfills the requirement of the Indian regulations, simple, cost effective and quick so that the milk can be screened at the collection level.
It is necessary in the Indian Context to educate and train Dairy and Poultry farmers and Bee Keepers in the latest standards of animal husbandry procedures as well as to maintain high level of quality control to keep antibiotic residues within permissible limits to avoid contaminating the food chain that can have wide ranging effects on the health of the people.