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Residue management Market support and research needs

Project start date: 01 January 2004
Project end date: 05 May 2006
Publication date: 05 May 2006
Project status: Completed
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There are three parts to this review:

• a residue risk assessment;

• a discussion about residue testing requirements for the ED market; and

• a review of management arrangements for the industry-funded programs managed byNRS.

The risk assessment includes a brief description of each of the main residue risks to the meat industry. The likelihood of unacceptable residues is assessed, together with a summary of recent results from the NRS residue monitoring survey. There is also an appraisal of market sensitivity. A risk mitigation strategy is suggested, taking into account the nature of the residue problem and the probability and likely impact of a residue incident.

The risk assessment looks at the big picture, allowing the various residue thi-eats to be viewed in perspective and prioritised. It is intended to facilitate sound decision-making about residue risk management and a balanced portfolio of residue project work.

The profile of chemicals in the NRS residue monitoring survey reflects the risk assessment findings. The current system of regularly reviewing chemicals included in the survey is working well. A raft of minor changes is suggested to the profile of chemicals tested. However, this is 'fine-tuning' - no major changes are needed.

Over the next twelve months, SAFEMEAT needs to consider and develop national policy on a number of emerging residue issues, such as monitoring antimicrobial resistant organisms and the management of genetically modified material in the animal food chain.

Safe grazing intervals need to be established and made readily available for chemicals that pose a residue risk from consuming contaminated pasture or stock feed.

The approach to residues by our trading partners is changing, with less emphasis on traditional residue concerns, such as heavy metals, and increasing interest in the microbiological status of meat and on new classes of chemicals, such dioxins and endocrine disruptors. An active watching brief must be maintained across the full range of meat residue issues, so that critical residue intelligence does not pass unrecognised. This should be a clear part of the NRS brief .

The ED requires a higher rate of residue monitoring than is needed for access to other markets. This significantly increases the cost of the residue monitoring survey, particularly for the sheep industry where product destined for the ED cannot be readily identified and streamed prior to slaughter, so the higher rate of testing applies to all sheep killed in ED accredited works.

Options for reducing the cost of compliance with ED residue testing requirements are discussed. The Sheepmeat Council needs to consider compliance with ED residue testing requirements, taking into account the additional costs involved, market access risks, value of the ED market and beneficiary-pays principle.

Industry representatives should be intimately involved in all future market access negotiations that involve significant residue compliance costs. The review of NRS management arrangements was initiated in part because of industry concern about alienation from the NRS decision making process. The implications of the Banham report were of particular concern. It seemed that decisions about NRS focussed on Government needs, with much less importance given to the commercial relationship between NRS and its client industries. An inability to transfer industry funds from NRS to MLA for residue research purposes and a more aggressive approach by AFF A to recovery of corporate overheads added to industry unease. AFF A has recently responded to the Banham recommendations. It seems the strategic direction proposed in the Banham report (AFF A opting out of a partnership with industry on residue matters and acting only in service delivery mode) will not be pursued. This alleviates much of industry concern.
NRS should continue to manage the residue monitoring survey for the cattle and sheep industries. NRS should also continue to provide a laboratory proficiency evaluation service for meat residues, but with an increased proportion of costs borne by participating laboratories.

A stock take of residue laboratory capability in Australia and New Zealand is needed. It may be necessary to actively encourage laboratories to establish and maintain proficiency for some tests for which there is little commercial demand.

Residue R&D should be funded through and managed by MLA.

Alternative service providers should be actively explored for management of the targeted residue control programs. It is proposed that management briefs are prepared for the HGP and NARMjTART programs, and that expressions of interest are sought nationally for program management.

Management of the NORM program should also be contestable. However, the immediate priority is to implement operational changes to the program. NORM has languished for the last two years, with changes urgently needed but delayed by funding uncertainty and various reviews. NORM is a large and complex program. If NORM management was put out to tender, there would be a hiatus of at least twelve months, and possibly much longer, whilst the new management arrangements are bedded down. This delay must be considered against potential efficiency gains from changing program manager. It is recommend that NRS continues as NORM program manager for the time being, and that priority is given to implementing recommendations from the 2001 review of targeted testing programs. The cattle and sheep industries need to take a more active role monitoring NRS service delivery and costs.

Funding for Cattlecare, Flockcare and National Vendor Declarations (NVDs) should be channelled through MLA rat-her than NRS.

Cattle industry reserves held by NRS are excessive and need to be managed down. Sheep industry residue levies should be left unchanged for the next twelve months. Although sheep industry reserves are higher than necessary, income is expected to decline.

Data protection concerns need to be addressed. There should be a formal industry-government agreement on data protection. Residue data held by NRS should be available for use by the Commonwealth Government within the agriculture portfolio, but should not be made more widely available without prior approval from the industry funding the program.

The 2001 review of targeted residue testing programs and the AEMS risk assessment of plantations and horticultural crops need to be implemented.

More information

Project manager: Douglas McNicholl
Primary researcher: Alwani Pty Ltd