Antibiotics have been widely used in poultry production for the treatment of bacterial diseases. However, drug residues can remain in products derived from animals after the cessation of the drug therapies. Feathers, in particular, have shown an affinity for antibiotics such as tetracycline, suggesting the persistence of these drugs in nonedible tissue. After the birds are slaughtered, feathers are ground into feather meals, which are used as organic fertilizer or an ingredient in animal diets, thereby entering into the food chain and becoming a potential risk for public health. To evaluate the depletion of oxytetracycline (OTC) and its metabolite 4-epi-oxytetracycline (4-epi-OTC) in the muscles, liver, and feathers, 64 broiler chickens, bred under controlled conditions, were treated orally with a commercial formulation of 10% OTC for 7 days. The analytes were quantified using liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry. OTC and 4-epi-OTC were found in the feathers for 46 days, whereas they were found in the muscle and liver for only 12 and 6 days, respectively. These results prove that the analytes remain in feathers in higher concentrations than they do in edible tissues after treatment with tetracyclines. Thus, feather meals represent a potential source of antimicrobial residue contamination in the food chain.

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