In the guide
This guidance is for England
A record must be kept of the proof-of-purchase of all veterinary medicines bought for food-producing animals, as well as a record of all veterinary medicines administered to such animals. Records must be kept for five years.
Animals may be sent for slaughter only after the end of the withdrawal period.
Further information can be obtained from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.
Reasons for record keeping
There are three reasons for keeping and retaining veterinary medicine records:
- the record assists 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
- 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
- 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 record keeping document.
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 must also be maintained of any medicinal treatment given to animals that are bred or kept for the production of food, wool, skin or 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, they 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 their records).
Proof of purchase must be retained for at least five years.Back to top
Disposal of 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:
- the date of disposal
- the quantity of product involved
- how and where it was disposed of
Most veterinary practices will safely dispose of any unused or expired veterinary medicinal products upon request.Back to top
Record keeping for horses
Legislation defines the horse as a food-producing species. Therefore keepers are required to maintain records for any purchase or acquisition of veterinary medicinal products for administration to horses. Similarly, a record of administration must also be kept, just like any other food-producing animal. If a veterinary surgeon administers a veterinary medicine to a horse then this must be recorded, both in the horse passport and in a separate record. Further information on horse medicines and record keeping requirements can be found on the GOV.UK website.Back to top
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 (more information on the cascade and prescribing unauthorised medicines is available on the GOV.UK website).
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:
- date they examined the animals
- name and address of the owner
- identification and number of animals treated
- result of the veterinary surgeon's clinical assessment
- trade name of the product, if there is one
- manufacturer's batch number shown on the product, if there is one
- name and quantity of the active substances
- doses administered or supplied
- duration of treatment
- withdrawal period
The veterinary surgeon must keep the record for at least five years.Back to top
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 the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013 (in whatever form they are held) relating to food-producing animals, and may remove them to enable them to be copied.Back to top
For more information on the work of trading standards services - and the possible consequences of not abiding by the law - please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.Back to top
Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007
Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013
Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013
Animals and Animal Products (Examination for Residues and Maximum Residue Limits) (England and Scotland) Regulations 2015
Last reviewed / updated: February 2022
In this update
No major changes
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on changes to legislation can be found by following the above links and clicking on the 'More Resources' tab.