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Development and Strengthening of Radio-Analytical and Complementary Techniques to Control Residues of Veterinary Drugs and Related Chemicals in Aquaculture Products (D52039)


Farmed shrimp accounts for ~ 55 % of the global shrimp production

Aquaculture practice (fish and seafood farming) is becoming more widespread for the inexpensive and intensive production of protein rich foods. In the period 2000–2012, intensive aquaculture production increased at an average annual rate of 6.2% from 32.4 million to 66.6 million tons. Inevitably, agrochemical inputs such as veterinary pharmaceuticals and related substances are required to control aquaculture-related diseases and improve yields. Residues of such inputs, plus unintended natural toxins (in aquaculture products and feeds) and contaminants at production sites, pose public and environmental health risks and must be addressed. This calls for robust national regulatory frameworks underpinned by sound laboratories, to among others safeguard consumers and aquaculture production, and enhance international trade in aquaculture products.

Research is needed now on analytical methods that will strengthen laboratory performance and nuclear and isotopic techniques can play an important role. Research is also required to better understand the contamination of aquaculture production sites, with potential public and environmental health implications. Through the above mentioned research, this CRP aims at strengthening Member State analytical laboratories and national chemical residue monitoring programs thus contributing to the improvement of food safety, better aquaculture production and management practices as well as enhancement of trade in aquaculture products. New analytical methods will be developed (including improved environmentally friendly sample preparation techniques) validated and transferred amongst Member States laboratories. The CRP will contribute to the knowledge-base on contamination of aquaculture production systems.


The global drive for food security underlines the importance of food safety and the need to protect the consumer. The increased demand for aquaculture products as a protein source, public awareness about safe food, requirements of international markets, and the role agricultural/aquaculture product exports play in the economies of many Members States, all combine to create a pressing need for effective national food safety systems to control various microbiological and chemical hazards. Veterinary pharmaceuticals and related substances are widely used in aquaculture and their misuse could result in unsafe residues in fish or shrimp. The residues and/or contaminants in aquaculture products as well as in the environment where production is done could pose a health risk. Thus, major issues currently confronting the aquaculture industry in terms of ensuring public health and meeting international trade requirements are food safety, quality and traceability. This is in addition to the increasing concern about potential contamination/pollution of aquaculture production sites. Chemical contaminants could also persist in aquaculture habitats and may end up in sediments thus prolonging exposure. Food safety and environment laboratories must therefore have technical capabilities (including development and validation of analytical methods) to demonstrate that they can confidently detect these contaminants and support risk management and communication, good agricultural practices and address trade and public health concerns.
Aquaculture practices and regulatory mechanisms are at different levels of development in countries that produce and export aquaculture products. These countries could benefit from IAEA support through research (involving countries with greater experience) to reduce the rejection or detention of non-compliant products and the consequent severe economic losses. For example, some Member States with very meager economies can lose about USD$ 50 million in fish products alone due to bans by major trading blocks such as the European Union.
Meanwhile extensive and frequent use of antimicrobials in aquaculture may be associated with the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance. This is currently a public (and increasingly environmental) health concern, further underlining the need to monitor the use of these antimicrobials. Besides the antimicrobials, some agrochemicals and natural toxins (mycotoxins), posing health risks, could unintentionally end up in aquaculture products. Mycotoxins known for their negative health effects in fish and shrimps, and attendant economic losses, could also occur at levels in aquaculture that cause a potential risk to consumers. This is another area where little knowledge exists and thus needs to be researched.

The blossoming global fisheries and aquaculture sector presents numerous opportunities and a number of challenges that need addressing.

Nuclear techniques

Research will involve (but not limited to): Radio-receptor Assay techniques: use of H-3 and C-14 labelled radio tracer compounds along with liquid scintillation counters; Radio-immunoassays (RIA) as appropriate; Isotope labelled (Deuterated and C-13) along with complementary chromatographic techniques in sample preparation to improve precision; Electron capture detectors with Ni-63; Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS). Efforts will also be made to help Member States ensure sustainable use of these technologies.

CRP Overall Objective

The overall objective of this CRP is to enhance national control programs for residues of veterinary pharmaceuticals and related chemicals in aquaculture products and feeds (including water) as well as aquaculture production sites.

Specific research objectives

  1. To improve laboratory capabilities to collect reliable data on the safety of aquaculture products and aquaculture itself
  2. To assess the cost-effectiveness of new sample preparation techniques and optimum use of radio-analytical tools to ensure aquaculture product and environmental safety
  3. To assess ways to strengthen laboratory QA/QC to ensure food and environmental safety
  4. To enhance the understanding of potential effects of aquaculture inputs and contamination/pollution of aquaculture production systems

Expected research outcomes

  1. Enhanced safety of aquaculture products in Member States and therefore boosted consumer confidence and improved access to the local and international markets
  2. Greater awareness of and better practices regarding aquaculture inputs such as feeds and water, and possible contamination of aquaculture sites
  3. Enhanced national food and environmental chemical contaminant monitoring programs supported by competent and technically self-reliant laboratories that meet international standards
  4. Improved detection capabilities of analytical tools used in monitoring contaminants in aquaculture
  5. Enhanced laboratory competences according to international standards

Expected research outputs

  1. Methods/tools for screening, quantitation and confirmation of pharmacologically active compounds, mycotoxins and other relevant chemicals in aquaculture, feeds and water
  2. Standard Operating Procedures/protocols and laboratory manuals of analytical methods for pharmacologically active compounds, mycotoxins and other relevant chemicals
  3. Guidelines on optimum use of liquid scintillation counters for radio-receptor assays in residue analysis
  4. Reports on markers/indicators of aquaculture production practices or conditions, and relevant analytical methods
  5. Protocols and data to support implementation of Codex guidelines and contributing to setting guidelines on respective contaminants
  6. Comprehensive CRP report including TECDOC or special issue publication
  7. Set of data on risk exposure and indicators of aquaculture production systems
  8. Successful inter-laboratory studies conducted
  9. Developed analytical techniques and knowledge disseminated widely e.g. through the IAEA TC programme


  1. Quality proposals received and evaluated latest Jan 9th 2015
  2. First RCM: April-May 2015 (Vienna)
  3. Phase 1 work: 2015-16
  4. Second RCM: 2016 (tbd)
  5. Phase 2 work: 2016-17
  6. Third RCM: 2018 (tbd)
  7. Phase 3 work (including final reports and dissemination of findings): 2018-20
  8. Final RCM: 2020 (Vienna/tbd)


The CRP findings will provide solutions to laboratory challenges and enhance national residue and environmental monitoring programmes.

Selected reference

  1. FAO: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture: opportunities and challenges. 2014. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3720e.pdf. Accessed 23 June 2014.
  2. Nácher-Mestre, J., Serrano, R., Portolés, T., Berntssen, M.H.G., Pérez-Sánchez, J, and Hernández, F. (2014). Screening of Pesticides and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Feeds and Fish Tissues by Gas Chromatography Coupled to High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry Using Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization: J. Agric. Food Chem., 62 (10), pp 2165–2174.
  3. Kan, C. A., and G. A. L. Meijer. (2007). The risk of contamination of food with toxic substances present in animal feed. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 133:84-108.
  4. Better Management Practices for Omani Aquaculture: http://www.raisaquaculture.net/uploads/media/better%20management%20practices.pdf. Accessed 23 June 2014.
  5. New York Times, http://tinyurl.com/kpv8fuh. Accessed 24 June 2014.
  6. Stolker, A.A.M., Zuidema, T. and Nielen, M.W.F. (2007). Residue analysis of veterinary drugs and growth promoting agents. TRAC Trends Anal. Chem. 26: 967–979.Tacon, A.G., and Metian, M. (2008) Aquaculture feed and food safety. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1140: 50–59.
  7. The Fish Site. (2013). Pakistan's Seafood Allowed to Enter EU After Ban Lifted, 29 July;http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/20865/pakistans-seafood-allowed-to-enter-eu-after-ban-lifted.
  8. Cabello, FC., Godefrey, H. P., Ivanova, L., Dolz, H., Millanao, A., and Buschmann, A. H. (2013) Antimicrobial use in aquaculture re-examined: its relevance to antimicrobial resistance and to animal and human health. Environmental Microbiology. Volume 15, Issue 7, pages 1917–1942, July 2013.
  9. Hoa, P. T. P., Managaki. S., Nakada. N., Takada, H., Shimizu, A., Anh, D.H., Viet, P. H., and Suzuki. S. (2011). Antibiotic contamination and occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in aquatic environments of northern Vietnam; Science of the Total Environment, 409; 2894–2901.
  10. Woźny,M., Obremski, K., Jakimiuk, E., Gusiatin,, and M., Brzuzan, P. (2013). Zearalenone contamination in rainbow trout farms in north-eastern Poland; Aquaculture 416–417: 209–211.



Responsible/Contact: Research Contracts | Last update: 10 Dec, 2014