AMES, Iowa -- Iowa pork producers who send their animals to Iowa packing plants should be aware of Japan's recent announcement regarding implementation of maximum residue limits (MRLs) for agricultural chemicals, antibiotics and feed additives in imported meat and meat products. This system is similar to the current USA system, but with some differences in levels. Iowa State University Extension swine veterinarian James McKean says that, in effect, these MRLs will become the safe limit for chemicals in food when the requirements become effective on May 29, 2006.
“There are some differences between withdrawal times in the United States and Japan based on the new MRLs, but under most conditions, strict observance of the U.S. withdrawal times also will meet the Japanese MRLs,” he said. “However, there are systematic differences. U.S. MRLs are based on 'target' tissue levels, like in the kidney, liver, muscle and fat, while Japan has established MRLs for many tissues and for processed meats. Japan is more likely to specifically test observed injection sites for residues than the USA, which would require a longer withdrawal time for various products.”
The new MRLs affect all food species (cattle, swine, poultry), including all fresh, frozen and processed products, and offal imported into Japan. The requirements also pertain to domestic Japanese products.
U.S. packers have been informed of these changes and likely have begun communications with their clients and customers about these changes. But because the timeline to the May 29 implementation date is so short, McKean urges all producers to immediately check with their packer and veterinary practitioner about whether changes to production practices or drug selection are needed.
Producers can find details for specific drugs on a special section of the National Pork Board’s Web site. This Pork Checkoff-funded site (www.pork.org/producers/JapanMRL.aspx) features information supplied by drug and pharmaceutical manufacturers for U.S. and Japanese residue MRLs and withdrawal times.
If violations occur, the results and subsequent financial ramifications for the industry could be sobering. It’s important for producers to use even greater care in selecting and administering drugs, particularly injectable forms for heavier weight pigs.
“On imported products, a first violation found within a one-year period may trigger a 50 percent inspection of all shipments from that species, country and/or production type,” McKean said. “A second violation may cause 100 percent inspection and increased testing. Also, the product is held until results are known, and importers may be required to pay for the testing and costs of holding the products until cleared. These consequences make finding even one violation an issue for all producers.”