Approved antibiotics are only permitted for use to treat diseases and prevent infections but not for growth promotion in food-producing animals. Farmers are required to comply with the specific antibiotic’s withdrawal period to ensure that no antibiotic residues or only trace levels below the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) are left in the meat and meat products when they are produced for supply to Singapore consumers. Hormones are banned from use in growing cattle and sheep in many countries including Singapore. AVA does not allow the use of hormones in animals for export of meat to Singapore. On the other hand, hormones are not used in poultry production nowadays to promote growth in poultry. However, all meat and poultry, and their products contain small amounts of hormones even if the animal is untreated because all animals produce hormones naturally essential for their normal development and growth. In this respect, the use of claims such as “Antibiotic/Hormone free”, “Raised without antibiotics/hormones”, “Antibiotic/hormone free feed” or claims that imply similar meaning are redundant.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore has a strict inspection and testing regime to ensure the safety of both imported and domestic foods. For meat and poultry, and their products found to contain antibiotic residues exceeding the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) or contain any synthetic hormone growth promoters, the consignment will be rejected at the point of import.
Why are antibiotics and hormones used in animals raised for food? Like humans, animals need antibiotics to fight off bacterial infections. Approved antibiotics are used in food animal production to treat diseases and prevent infections in the animals. However, antibiotics are not allowed for growth promotion purposes in food animal production.
Certain hormones are used in animal production in some other countries to make growing cattle and sheep calves gain weight faster. Thus they help to reduce the waiting time and the amount of feed taken by an animal before slaughter. Hormones are however not used in poultry production as they are not effective in increasing the growth of poultry.If hormones are not used, what are the reasons for the rapid growth rate in today’s commercial poultry? The main reason for commercial poultry getting bigger and growing faster is natural genetic selection. Scientists select chickens with better growth rates, more efficient feed conversions, and stronger immunity to diseases.
Secondly, poultry nutrition has improved over the years. Through nutritional research, the birds are able to be kept to specific target weights in terms of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals requirements to optimise performance and growth.
Thirdly, the birds are produced in better growing environment such as proper temperature, air quality, ventilation, lighting and feeder and drinker space to obtain optimum performance.
Thus, the right environment together with superior genetics and good nutrition yields a bigger bird that does not require the use of hormones. How is the use of antibiotics and hormones regulated?When animals are treated with antibiotics, a certain period of time must elapse (known as withdrawal period), before they can be sent for slaughter. This ensures that the antibiotic has done its job and passed out of the animal’s system. As a further safeguard, any residual antibiotics must not exceed the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) set by AVA. Compliance with this ensures that there is no food safety concern over any residual trace present in the food produced and do not contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. Many countries including Singapore have prohibited the use of hormones to promote growth in growing cattle and sheep. AVA does not allow the use of hormones in animals for export of meat to Singapore. Hormones are not useful in increasing weight gain of poultry and thus they are not used in poultry production