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Profiling for abuse of anabolic agents in meat production

Project Reference: 04-RESR-06

Status: Completed

Commencement Date: October, 2005

Project Duration: 36 months


The abuse of anabolic steroids in cattle production has been prevalent across Europe since the mid-1980s. These substances are used to increase the muscle mass of the animals and therefore make the carcasses more valuable at slaughter. In recent years, more sophisticated anabolic cocktails comprised of a mixture of potent hormones are being used.  They are particularly difficult to detect because each individual hormone is present at a very low level.  

There have been a number of high profile cases of Police Service of Northern Ireland and Garda Siochana seizures of these illegal anabolic hormone cocktails in recent times. This project profiled the abuse of anabolic agents in meat production and described the development of a high throughput and rapid detection method to allow the targeting of cattle treated with anabolic agents.

Principal Contractor(s):

Prof Chris Elliott, Queen’s University Belfast


Dr Michael O'Keeffe, Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin



Laboratory capacity building

Peer Reviews:

I.M. Traynor*. S.R.H. Crooks, J.Bowers, C.T. Elliott. “Detection of multi-B-agonist residues in liver matrix by use of a surface plasma resonance biosensor”. Analytica Chimica Acta 483 (2003) 187-191.

Rodat T. Cunningham, Mark H. Mooney, Xiao-lei Xia, Steven Crooks, David Matthews, Michael O’Keeffe, Kang Li, and Christopher T. Elliott. Analytical chemistry (2009), 81(3), 977-983.

Eleanor Duffy, Mark H. Mooney, Christopher T. Elliott, Michael O’Keeffe*. “Studies on the persistence of Estradiol Benzonate and Mortestosterone Decanoate in hair of cattle following treatment with growth promoters, determined by ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography A, 1216(2009) 8090-8095.

Rodat T. Cunningham*, Mark H. Mooney, Xiao-lei Xia, Steven Crooks, David Matthews, Michael O’Keeffe. “Feasibility of a Clinical Chemical Analysis Approach to predict Misuse of Growth Promoting Hormones in Cattle. Analytical chemistry (2009), 81,977-983.

Randall C. Willis, (2009) “Corralling steroid-laced cattle”. Analytical chemistry (2009), 81(3) 860-860.

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