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The keeping and retention of veterinary medicine records

If you are the keeper of food-producing animals or treating farm animals intended for human consumption, you must keep a record of the proof of purchase of all veterinary medicines bought for those animals. You must also keep a record of all veterinary medicines administered to such animals.

If you did not buy the veterinary medicines, documentary evidence of how you acquired them, and a record of any veterinary medicinal product you give to or treat any food-producing animals with is still needed.

Animals may be sent for slaughter only after the end of the withdrawal period. These records must be kept for five years.

In the guide
Reasons for record keeping
What records must be kept and how
How do I dispose of any unwanted veterinary medicinal products?
Record keeping for horses
Records of products administered to a food-producing animal under the cascade
Penalties
Specific powers for local authority officers

Reasons for record keeping
There are three reasons for keeping and retaining veterinary medicine records:

  1. to assist in ensuring that animal products for human use are safe and free from veterinary drug residues. This includes meat and all other products - for example, milk, eggs, honey and wool
  2. to provide a record that livestock and other creatures have been treated in a timely and appropriate manner to prevent them being subjected to unnecessary suffering
  3. to record that veterinary medicines have been obtained from a legitimate source, that they have been used correctly in accordance with the product licence provisions (except where otherwise directed by a veterinary surgeon) and any that are not used have been disposed of in an appropriate manner

What records must be kept and how
If you are the keeper of food-producing animals, or treat farm animals that will end up as food intended for human consumption, you must keep a record of the proof of purchase of all veterinary medicinal products bought for those animals, and a record of any veterinary medicinal products you give them or treat them with. If you did not buy the products yourself you must keep documentary evidence of how you acquired them.

A format for the keeping of these records is set out on the attached document:

Record keeping (Word 72KB)
Record keeping (PDF 218KB)

Any person required to keep a record must retain that record for a period of five years following the administration or other disposal of the product.

Animals can only be sent to slaughter after the end of the withdrawal period of the veterinary medicinal product that has been administered.

A record shall be maintained of any medicinal treatment given to animals that are bred or kept for the production of food, wool, or skin, or for other farming purposes, and the number of mortalities found on each inspection.

If a veterinary surgeon administers a veterinary medicinal product to a food-producing animal, he must either enter the information in the keeper's records or give it to the keeper in writing (in which case the keeper must enter the details required in his records).

Proof of purchase must be retained for at least five years.

How do I dispose of any unwanted veterinary medicinal products?
A keeper who disposes of any or all of the veterinary medicinal products other than by treating an animal must record:

Most veterinary practices will safely dispose of any unused or expired veterinary medicinal products upon request.

Record keeping for horses
European Union legislation defines the horse as a food-producing species. Therefore, keepers are required to maintain records for any transactions involving the retail sale of veterinary medicinal products for administration to horses. The record may be kept within the horse passport or in a separate record. Further information on veterinary medicines for horses can be found in the Horses section of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate website.

Records of products administered to a food-producing animal under the cascade
The cascade provides a legal mechanism allowing veterinary surgeons to use their clinical judgement to prescribe a suitable medicine where no authorised medicine exists.

A veterinary surgeon administering a veterinary medicinal product to food-producing animals under the cascade or permitting another person to administer it under the vet's responsibility must, as soon as is reasonably practicable, record the:

The veterinary surgeon must keep the record for at least five years.

Penalties
It is an offence to:

If you are found guilty of an offence then you may face a fine and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Withdrawal periods for animal medicines are changing all the time - consult a veterinary surgeon for up-to-date withdrawal periods.

Specific powers for local authority officers
An officer of any local authority who has entered premises exercising any statutory power of entry for the purposes of enforcing any legislation relating to food hygiene, feed hygiene or animal health, may inspect any records made under these Regulations (in whatever form they are held) relating to food-producing animals, and may remove them to enable them to be copied.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted. Please contact us for further information.

Relevant legislation
Animal and Animal Products (Examination For Residues and Maximum Residue Limits) Regulations 1997
Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007
Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013
Veterinary Medicine Regulations 2013

Last reviewed/updated: February 2014

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