This paper presents a historical review of antimicrobial use in food animals, the causes of residues in meat and milk, the types of residues found, their regulation in Canada, tests used for their detection, and test performance parameters, with an emphasis on immunoassay techniques. The development of residue detection methods began shortly after the introduction of antimicrobials to food animal production in the late 1940s. From initial technical concerns expressed by the dairy industry to the present public health and international trade implications, there has been an ongoing need for reliable, sensitive, and economical methods for the detection of antimicrobial residues in food animal products such as milk and meat. Initially there were microbial growth inhibition tests, followed by more sensitive and specific methods based on receptor binding, immunochemical, and chromatographic principles. An understanding of basic test performance parameters and their implications is essential when choosing an analytical strategy for residue testing. While each test format has its own attributes, no one test will meet all the required analytical needs. Therefore the use of a tiered or integrated System employing assays designated for screening and confirmation is necessary to ensure that foods containing violative residues are not introduced into the food chain.

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