Keeping veterinary medicine records


A record of all veterinary medicines that have been used to treat food-producing animals must be retained

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. If you did not buy the veterinary medicines yourself, you need documentary evidence of how you acquired them.

Records must be kept for five years.?

Animals may be sent for slaughter only after the end of the withdrawal period.

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 & 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.

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.

Record keeping for horses

European Union 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.

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.

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 these Regulations (in whatever form they are held) relating to food-producing animals, and may remove them to enable them to be copied.


It is an offence to:

  • import an unauthorised veterinary medicinal product
  • fail to detain an animal for inspection when required by an inspector
  • sell or supply an animal for slaughter for human consumption:
    - that contains, or to which there has been administered, an unauthorised substance or product
    - that contains excess residues of veterinary medicines (above the maximum residue limit)
    - if the withdrawal period for the product administered to an animal, including medicated feeding stuffs, has not expired. Withdrawal periods for animal medicines are changing all the time; consult a veterinary surgeon for up-to-date withdrawal periods
  • use veterinary medicines outside the terms of their licence, unless prescribed by a veterinary surgeon
  • use hormones or other unlicensed substances for growth promotion purposes
  • fail to keep the correct records (as in the attached document above)

If you commit an offence the maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: March 2018

Please note

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 amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

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