In response to a report by the National Food Residue Database (NFRD), the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has stated: “Consumers should not be unduly concerned about consuming poultry meat.”

The NFRD reported that 20% of poultry liver samples contained nicarbazin residue. Nicarbazin is a drug used to kill a parasite that damages the gut of birds reared using intensive farming practices. It is routinely added to the feed of younger birds, but is supposed to be removed from the diet of older birds to prevent it entering into the food chain.

The FSAI said that the low toxicity of nicarbazin, the low levels found in chicken liver and the fact that chicken liver is not consumed in large quantities, suggest that nicarbazin residue does not pose a serious threat to public health.

Indeed, Dr Michael O’Keeffe, head of laboratories in residual studies at the food safety department who published the findings told just-food that although residue levels found were high, “the residue levels found in muscles are one tenth of those found in the liver.” He added: “It is true to say that the toxicity of nicarbazin is not well defined, but it does not rate as possessing a high toxicity level.”

Nevertheless, he said, “consumers want toxicity levels to be as low as possible, so any steps that can reduce nicarbazin residue in poultry should be taken.”

According to Dr John O’Brien, chief executive of FSAI, the authority has already taken measures to reduce residue levels.

“The FSAI and the Department of Agriculture and Food thoroughly investigated these residue notifications in 2004 and were satisfied that a specific risk to consumers of poultry meat did not arise from these incidences,” he said. “Poultry producers should be particularly vigilant to ensure that withdrawal periods are applied and that the potential for cross contamination of feed is kept to a minimum. We will continue to monitor controls to ensure that best practice is applied in the industry.”