Animal product residue monitoring

​​​​​Animal product residue monitoring is conducted under the National Residue Survey (NRS) by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, through various random and targeted testing programmes.

Random residue monitoring includes 15 meat programmes, an egg programme, a honey programme, and two aquatic animal programmes.

Random animal product residue monitoring programmes:

  • ensure participating industries satisfy Australian export certification and importing country requirements
  • enable domestic meat processing facilities to satisfy state and territory government regulatory authority licensing requirements
  • provide evidence of good practice in the use of pesticides and veterinary medicines by the participating industries
  • support quality assurance initiatives of participating​ industries.

Targeted animal product residue monitoring programmes are designed to meet particular management objectives relating to potential chemical residues that could pose a risk for access to export or domestic markets.

All animal product residue monitoring programmes are designed, operated and reviewed within agreed budgets by the NRS in consultation with peak industry bodies.

Random monitoring programs

Of the 15 meat programs, cattle, sheep and pigs provide the largest number of samples monitored for residues. Other meat programs cover products derived from camels, deer, goats, horses, kangaroos, poultry, ratites (emu and ostrich) and wild boars. The two aquatic animal programs cover aquaculture and wild-caught seafood.

The likelihood of residues from pesticides, veterinary medicines or contaminants guides the choice of chemicals that are measured in the samples. The chemicals include those used commonly in agricultural and veterinary practice, as well as those necessary to fulfil export requirements. Some chemicals are monitored that are not registered for use, nor are likely to be used in Australian animal production systems but may be important to satisfy the requirements of international trading partners.

Sample collection and analysis

Collection rates are based on production levels of the commodity, or, in the case of exported products, are based on direction from overseas markets.

Samples of products are taken by authorised government officers or company quality control officers at registered production or processing establishments. The distribution of samples is proportional to the production volume of the establishment and the NRS sends sample requests to the establishments specifying the kind of product required and the production period during which samples are to be taken. Animals are then selected for sampling at random along the slaughter chain. Once samples are collected they are sent to a central receival and dispatch facility within the NRS, sorted into batches and forwarded to appropriate laboratories for analysis.

Choosing material for analysis

The matrix usually selected for analysis is the one that is expected to contain the highest concentration of a residue. The matrix may be inedible, and does not necessarily represent the part most likely to be eaten.
For example, fat is analysed for pesticides, kidney is analysed for antibiotics, liver is analysed for metals, and urine or faeces is analysed for some hormonal growth promotants.

Chemical screens

The likelihood of residues from pesticides, veterinary medicines or contaminants guides the choice of chemicals that are measured in animal product samples. The chemicals include those used commonly in agricultural and veterinary practice, as well as those necessary to fulfil export requirements. Some chemicals are monitored that are not registered for use, nor are likely to be used in Australian animal production systems, but may be important for international trade.

The range of chemical screens to which animal product samples are subjected are listed in the following table:

Veterinary drugs and animal treatments
Group Chemicals
AnthelminticsBenzimidazoles, closantel, macrocyclic lactones and triclabendazole
AntibioticsAminoglycosides, anticoccidials, antimicrobials, beta lactams, cephalosporins, macrolides, nitroimidazoles, phenicols, sulphonamides and tetracyclines
HormonesResorcyclic acid lactones, steroids, stilbenes and trenbolone
Other Veterinary DrugsBeta-agonists, andro and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Pesticides, animal treatments and environmental contaminants
Group Chemicals
Fungicides, Herbicides and InsecticidesBenzoyl ureas, carbamates, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, organochlorines, organophosphates, persistent organic pollutants and pyrethroids
Environmental ContaminantsMetals

Random monitoring program results

CommoditySamplesCompliance %
Beef4,38299.95%
Camel15100.00%
Chicken330100.00%
Deer13100.00%
Eggs143100.00%
Emu988.89%
Goat15598.71%
Honey12698.41%
Horse11699.14%
Kangaroo50100.00%
Ostrich3100.00%
Ovine2,53999.69%
Pigs1,00299.41%
Poultry32100.00%
Wild Boar50100.00%
Wild Caught Seafood70100.00%
Aquaculture155100.00%
Total9,190 99.74%


Cattle program summary 2006-07 to 2015–16
Year 2006-072007-082007-082009-102010-112011-122012-132013-142014-152015-16
Samples5,2905,3985,7325,7065,7315,9005,9246,0004,3754398
Compliance99.9699.9399.95100.0099.9399.95100.0099.9699.9699.95
Sheep program summary 2006–07 to 2015–16
Year 2006–072007–082008–092009–102010–112011-122012-132013-142014-152015-16
Samples4,4865,0655,4755,4675,4585,5405,5105,4942,5432,551
Compliance (%)99.5899.6199.8099.7899.7899.7599.8599.7699.6899.61
Pig program summary 2006-07 to 2015-16
Year 2006–072007–082008–092009–102010–112011-122012-132013-142014-152015-16
Samples2,8712,7393,3022,9752,7392,7632,7592,7511,0201,002
Compliance (%)99.9099.8599.9199.9799.8599.9399.9699.9299.5199.41

Detailed animal results tables by commodity.

Targeted monitoring programs

Samples included in target monitoring programs are collected and tested under the National Residue Survey by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in accordance with agreed industry requirements. Results are released to relevant authorities and to industry for action where necessary.

National organochlorine residue management (NORM) program

The NORM program focuses on minimising the risks of organochlorine (OC) residue occurrence in beef and is jointly funded by the beef industry and state/territory governments. Besides testing cattle from at-risk properties at abattoirs, the NORM program supports owners of properties with identified OC contamination hazards to develop and apply on-farm property management plans to minimise the risk of OC residues.

The NRS coordinates the program and manages the payments to others involved, such as laboratories and state/territory governments.

National antibacterial residue minimisation (NARM) program

The NARM program focuses on minimising the occurrence of antibacterial residues in bobby calves from dairy farms and is funded by the beef industry. State/territory governments support the program through activities related to traceback investigation, and the management of dairy farms found to have consigned bobby calves for slaughter with antibacterial residues above relevant Australian Standards.

Investigations have found that residue contraventions occur when management systems are inadequate or break down. Consequently a major focus of activities has been to work with industry quality assurance schemes and stakeholders to introduce initiatives that heighten farmer awareness and minimise the risk of residues occurring. The NRS coordinates the program and manages the payments to others involved, such as laboratories and state/territory governments.

Targeted antibacterial residue testing (TART) program

The TART program focuses on cattle at abattoirs suspected by veterinary inspectors of having received antibacterial treatment inside the required withholding period. It combines targeted testing, quality assurance, extension and regulation to minimise antibacterial residues in beef.

The NRS coordinates the program and manages the payments to others involved, such as laboratories.

Sheep targeted antibacterial residue testing (START) program

The START program focuses on sheep at abattoirs suspected by veterinary inspectors of having received antibacterial treatment inside the required withholding period. The NRS coordinates the program and manages the payments to others involved, such as laboratories.

Pig targeted antibacterial residue testing (PTART) program

The PTART program focuses on pigs at abattoirs suspected by veterinary inspectors of having received antibacterial treatment inside the required withholding period. The NRS coordinates the program and manages the payments to others involved, such as laboratories.

Audit-related programs

Hormonal growth promotant (HGP) audit program

Some markets, such as the European Union (EU) and Non-EU HGP sensitive markets prohibit the importation of products from animals treated with HGPs. Australia has developed HGP-free programs, which allow Australian cattle producers to supply those markets.

On-farm audits are used to monitor compliance with accreditation requirements. The NRS manages the testing of samples taken during the audits and manages the payments to others involved such as laboratories, AUS-MEAT Limited, state/territory governments and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

Residue management audits

In 2009 the NRS, on behalf of the cattle industry, engaged AUS-MEAT Limited to conduct targeted property management audits throughout Australia as part of a comprehensive approach to residue management. Since then the NRS residue management audit program has expanded to include the sheep and goat industries.

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