National Chemical Residues Programme

NCRP collects and tests samples from randomly and targeted selected animals or animal products. Results are used to establish the level of good agricultural practice and for official assurances purposes.

Purpose and aims

The NCRP monitors the chemical residue status of live animals and animals sent for slaughter and processing. It also tests food products from animals, birds, farmed salmon, ocean fish, and honey for the following:

  • registered veterinary medicines and agricultural compounds
  • deregistered agricultural chemicals that are persistent environmental contaminants
  • banned or restricted substances and toxic agents, such as poisons used to control possums.

The programme, which has been operating since the mid-1960s:

  • enables MPI to provide overseas regulatory authorities with assurances about the residue and contaminant status of food exported from New Zealand
  • gives domestic and export consumers confidence in the meat, farmed salmon, and bee products that New Zealand produces.

Find out more about monitoring of farmed salmon:

Scope of the programme

The programme has 5 distinct elements: monitoring, surveillance, species verification, research and development, and special programmes.

Monitoring programme for animals presented for slaughter

The Monitoring programme monitors the prevalence of residues and contaminants in the national population of healthy animals. The types and numbers of animals to be sampled – and the residues and contaminants to be analysed – depend on the risk profiles of the compounds themselves.

A sampling regime for each year's monitoring is issued through a Notice under the Animal Products Act (APA) 1999. Confidential sampling plans are issued by MPI. These are created using internationally accepted or agreed sampling rates, taking account of particular market-access requirements where necessary.

Samples may include edible tissue such as kidney, liver muscle, or fat, depending on which tissue has the highest residues – this is known as 'marker tissue'. For certain compounds, blood and urine from live animals is sampled, or urine and bile from slaughtered animals.

Surveillance programme for 'at risk' animals

The Surveillance programme specifically targets animals for testing that are considered to pose a higher risk of containing residues or contaminants compared to animals in the general population. This may include:

  • animals from suppliers/properties where non-compliant residues or contaminants have previously been identified
  • animals that present with injection site lesions
  • animals that have been treated with a veterinary medicine just before slaughter or within the withholding period
  • animals from contaminated land.

Residue programme coordinators (RPCs) from MPI are responsible for coordinating the activities of the programme at the premises and farm level.

Species verification programme

The Species verification programme verifies the authenticity of the species in labelling of boneless meat, farmed deer, and wild game products. The programme involves a random sampling scheme operated at US-listed meat export premises, processing premises, and cold stores.

MPI issues a sampling plan that lists the premises or businesses that are selected for sampling purposes. The sampling plan is strictly confidential to MPI technical supervisors and is kept secure at all times. The carton or meat from which a sample is taken is retained until test results have been reported, so that non-conforming results can be traced back to the source.

Research and development programme

The Research and development programme includes individual projects designed to enhance the overall capability of the other national programmes. They include:

  • surveys that assess risks that may be associated with particular contaminants or practices
  • keeping abreast of international trends by attending international meetings and reviewing literature
  • investigating unusual or unexpected events or findings.

Special programmes

Special programmes are designed for a specific purpose that falls outside the parameters of the other programmes. Examples include the development of on-site rapid screen tests and the Hormonal Growth Promotant (HGP) Control Programme.

The HGP Control Programme is a market-access requirement and is operationally mandated by a regulated control scheme. The programme identifies animals that have been implanted with HGP and the associated information is stored in a database. MPI supplies this information to processors so that implanted animals can be identified at slaughter and their animal products excluded from specified export markets.

How sample information and test results are reported

Test results are reported directly to MPI's online database. This database is used to record information about samples taken in accordance with the NCRP monitoring programme. It also records information about samples from surveillance, species verification, surveys, and the HGP Control Programme.

Corrective action

Where residues or contaminants exceed the maximum permissible limit for a particular compound, corrective procedures ensure that:

  • a traceback is initiated
  • the finding is investigated
  • the supplier’s details, the class of animal at risk, and the non-compliant compound are indentified and may be placed on a surveillance list
  • the supplier is notified of the actions that will be taken by MPI.


The traceback involves examining the Animal Status Declaration (ASD) or Supplier Declarations, which document the recent animal treatments. Investigation may also include talking to the supplier or their veterinarian. It may also include an on-farm investigation. The supplier may be able to identify – and change – farm systems that have resulted in the problem. Further targeted sampling and testing of animals from the supplier are undertaken to check that the problem has been resolved.

Investigating findings

MPI's residue programme coordinators are responsible for:

  • investigating the residue finding
  • informing and advising MPI of possible actions to be taken
  • coordinating the handling of animals presented for slaughter from suppliers on the surveillance list
  • ensuring that, when an animal is submitted inside the withholding period (WHP), animal products are disposed of appropriately.

Surveillance list

This list is used for residue surveillance purposes. It is circulated to primary processors with a registered RMP specifically for animal products. Animals submitted for slaughter by a supplier whose name is on the list are retained, and some are tested for the non-compliant compound. The supplier's name is removed from the list once they have demonstrated that animal products from their property remain consistently below the threshold for the non-conforming residue.

Action MPI takes

MPI is able to:

  • make judgements about how the animal products will be disposed of
  • restrict the movement of affected animals and mark them
  • prosecute offending suppliers, if appropriate, and levy fines of up to $100,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporate bodies.
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