Corticosteroids: illegal use in livestock

Corticosteroids and specifically synthetic glucocorticoids (e.g. dexamethasone, betamethasone, prednisolone …) are molecules widely used in veterinary clinical practice.

The illicit use of synthetic corticosteroids as growth promoters is a fairly common practice in beef cattle breeding. These drugs can be administered individually, or in combination with other unauthorized molecules (e.g. sex hormones and beta-agonists). The aim is to exploit the synergistic effects between the different drugs and improve the production performances of the animals.

However, the use of these compounds poses a serious problem for the health of consumers: the possible accumulation of veterinary drug residues in the edible organs of the bovine and its meat, has been defined as potentially dangerous. Possible side effects include the immunosuppressive action and the alterations of the glucose metabolism, with the relative increase of the glycaemia and the insulin resistance.

Current legislation in European Union

The use of hormones and steroid drugs for therapeutic purposes in individual animals, for example for the treatment of fertility-related disorders, is permitted but strictly regulated by specific regulations. These require that a certain period of time must elapse from treatment before the animal is considered suitable for slaughter. All this has the aim of minimizing the presence of any residues in food of animal origin intended for human consumption.
Any use of corticosteroids outside the regular prescription by the veterinarian and the consequent registration in the appropriate register is defined as illicit treatment.
Current legislation provides for the execution of systematic investigations, both in the farm and in the slaughterhouse, aimed at identifying the improper use of cortisone as growth promoting agents.

Control mechanism

The European Union has always tried to maintain high standards regarding food safety which then became a primary objective of the Union.
Over the years, the official controls carried out in the various Member States have highlighted the presence of glycocorticosteroids in feed, in the injection sites, in the urine and in the organs (e.g. liver), especially in beef cattle.

However, there is reason to believe that the spread of this phenomenon is greater than that evidenced by the positive cases detected by official controls. The current strategies of illicit treatments, in fact, are based on the use of very low dosages or molecules of unknown structure, which make the analyzes conducted with traditional diagnostic techniques complex and often ineffective.

Need for innovation

In recent years, in order to fight the illicit use of these drugs, a growing demand has emerged from the market for an innovative method for the detection of corticosteroids (or their effects) even at low doses or in matrices different from those traditionally used (e.g. milk, muscle, water, feed) to accompany official controls.

Your needs are important!

We are always open to new ideas and suggestions. Our PT programme is flexible and one of our most important advantages is the versatility, for this reason we want to ask you to compile a very short survey (3 minutes) about matrices of interest for corticosteroids. This will help us to value all the possibilities and, if it’s possible, we will implement in our programme the new suggestions or the new ideas, thus continuing to ensure the best possible service.

We want to guarantee our quality and convenience and for this reason in case one of the matrices indicated by you should become part of our future programme, we will be happy to apply you a discount on the corresponding PT!

Our current offers

Currently in our programme you can find PTs for the research of corticosteroids in the two matrices of great interest: urine and liver. This year the PT for the research of corticosteroids in bovine urine took place during the Round of May, while the PT for the research of corticosteroids in bovine liver is scheduled for the Round of November:

PT for the research of Corticosteroids in bovine liver (L2401)
Round of November

  • Deadline for online order: October 7th 2022
  • Shipping date: November 21st 2022
  • 20g x 2 Test Materials for confirmatory method or 10g x 2 Test Materials for screening method (in case the provided volume is not enough, it is possible to order additional material at a reduced price) .
  • The Test Materials could be incurred or spiked.
  • Separate evaluation data for screening (B code) and confirmatory methods (A code), with the assigned value deriving only from quantitative confirmatory results. Even if you are evaluating a screening method, the PT simulates what you would do in your routine (comparing your results with the confirmatory ones).
  • This PT is accredited EN ISO/IEC 17043:2010.

If you want to see more details about this or other PTs, such as the list of researched molecules, schedule, prices… go to this page to download the entire programme.

Here you can find information on HOW TO ORDER.

For any further information, do not hesitate to contact us at

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