Christmas foods such as turkey, quails' eggs, beef and salmon have been found to contain potentially dangerous levels of veterinary medicine.

Christmas foods such as turkey, quails' eggs, beef and salmon have been found to contain potentially dangerous levels of veterinary medicine.

The findings by government scientists revealed alarmingly high traces of drugs fed to animals in a wide range of luxury foods sold in Britain.

Experts said the residues – some of which cause cancer in large enough doses – could be harmful, particularly to children, and have been banned in Britain.

A report by the Veterinary Residues Committee also found imported pâté, prawns and honey were contaminated with residues of the toxic antibiotic streptomycin. The discovery prompted investigations in Mexico and China.

In turkeys, residues were found of antibiotics above levels permitted by British law. Excessively high levels of additives called coccidiostats, used to control infection, were also found. Quail eggs had traces of dimetridazole, a drug suspected to cause cancer which has been banned for use in quail in the UK.

Five of the 30 samples of quail and seven samples of quail eggs had traces of lasalocid, a highly toxic drug.

The Food Standards Agency said that at the levels detected there was no risk to human health. But Richard Young, of the Soil Association, said young children could be harmed if they ate the meat.

"Doubling the dose of lasalocid by accident kills chickens and turkeys each year. Despite efforts by the industry to clean up its act, the overall use of farm drugs has gone up substantially," he said.

Samples of beef contained residues of hormones, while farmed salmon had traces of the antibiotic ivermectin and the potentially cancer-causing medicine malachite green.

The report found illegally high levels of tetracyclines in prawns from Thailand and Bangladesh and a concentration of the drug nicarbazin in a sample of French pâté above the level permitted in Britain.

A spokesman for the committee said the testing was designed to reassure consumers and make sure their health was not compromised.

Robin Maynard, of the rural lobby group Farm, said the findings were damaging to farmers and consumers. "These chemicals are a tool and a product of the intensification of agriculture. Most farmers don't want to be forced to use so many of these products.''


Turkey and broiler chicken: residues of chlortetracycline, tylosin, and nicarbazin above permitted levels

Quail: residues of lasalocid, above permitted level

Quail eggs: residues of lasalocid and dimetridazole, which is banned for use in quail

Farmed salmon: traces of ivermectin, banned as a medicine for salmon

Farmed salmon and trout: residues of leuchomala chite green, which is banned

Prawns: traces of tetracyclines and chloramphenical, an antibiotic

French paté: residue of nicarbazin