Quantitative modelling to estimate the transfer of pharmaceuticals through the food production system

C.L. Chitescu, A.I. Nicolau, P.F.A.M. Romkens, H.J. van der Fels-Klerx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Use of pharmaceuticals in animal production may cause an indirect route of contamination of food products of animal origin. This study aimed to assess, through mathematical modelling, the transfer of pharmaceuticals from contaminated soil, through plant uptake, into the dairy food production chain. The scenarios, model parameters, and values refer to contaminants in emission slurry production, storage time, immission into soil, plant uptake, bioaccumulation in the animal's body, and transfer to meat and milk. Modelling results confirm the possibility of contamination of dairy cow's meat and milk due the ingestion of contaminated feed by the cattle. The estimated concentration of pharmaceutical residues obtained for meat ranged from 0 to 6 ng kg-1 for oxytetracycline, from 0.011 to 0.181 µg kg-1 for sulfamethoxazole, and from 4.70 to 11.86 µg kg-1 for ketoconazole. The estimated concentrations for milk were: zero for oxytetracycline, lower than 40 ng L-1 for sulfamethoxazole, and from 0.98 to 2.48 µg L-1 for ketoconazole. Results obtained for the three selected pharmaceuticals indicate a minor risk for human health. This study showed that supply chain modelling could be an effective tool in assessing the indirect contamination of feedstuff and animal products by residues of pharmaceuticals. The model can easily be adjusted to other contaminants and supply chain and, in this way, present a valuable tool to underpin decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-467
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health. Part B, Pesticides Food Contaminants, and agricultural wastes
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • tandem mass-spectrometry
  • veterinary antibiotics
  • terrestrial environment
  • tetracycline residues
  • liquid-chromatography
  • organic contaminants
  • degradation kinetics
  • exposure assessment
  • poultry litter
  • animal manure


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