Veterinary Residues — Seafish

Legislation on veterinary residues in aquaculture

Residues from veterinary medicines used by culturists to treat fish and shellfish can sometimes be detected in seafood. Our guidance explains more.

Approved medicines may be used to treat food-producing animals. There is legislation in place that establishes which treatments are permitted, and Maximum Residue Limits, or MRLs, are placed on various substances and species. The use of non-approved medicines is prohibited. Internationally, MRLs are set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, but these MRLs are not binding in the EU. Instead, the EU adopts the MRLs outlined in Regulation 37/2010.

In the UK, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate manages the use of veterinary medicines and runs surveillance programmes to monitor for residues in locally produced food and imported food. Port Health officials monitor veterinary residues in imported food according to their veterinary checks regime. 

To find the MRLs of pharmacologically active substances permitted in seafood in the EU, please click here; you can also find a list of substances banned in the EU here. Alternatively, you can find more about veterinary residues on the DG Sante website, which also lists major developments to MRLs. The EMA also offers a Q&A page.

The Legislation

  • Directive 2001/82 allows the use of medicines in food-producing animals only if the medicines have been assessed as safe.
  • Regulation 470/2009 allows medicines to be administered if those substances are on a 'permitted' list. The Regulation also introduces the concept of reference points for action (RPAs), the possible adoption of Codex MRLs, and extrapolation.
    • RPAs are maximum limits that may be applied to substances not listed as permitted. Currently, no RPAs have been set.
    • Codex MRLs allow the Commission to bypass the full assessment normally carried out by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) by approving MRLs set by the Codex.
    • Extrapolation allows the EMA to apply MRLs established for one foodstuff to another, in order to make veterinary medicines more available.
  • Regulation 37/2010 lists permitted substances.
  • Directive 96/23/EC requires the monitoring of residues according to a national control plan - and imposes a similar requirement on third countries wishing to export to the EU.
  • Decision 2002/657 establishes  minimum required performance limits (MRPLs) and Decision 2005/34 establishes a course of action if substances with MRPLs are detected in third country imports. The table below shows current MRPLs.
Substance or metabolite MRPL (µg/kg) in aquaculture product
Chloramphenicol 0.3

Nitrofuran metabolites:

  • Furazolidone
  • Furaltadone
  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Nitrofurazone
Sum of malachite green and leucomalachite green 2