Skip to 0 minutes and 11 secondsIn the frame of the European General Feed and Food Law, set by regulation 178 of 2002, specific norms to guarantee feed safety have been laid down to ensure that feed stuff do not present any danger to human or animal lives or to the environment. Apart from the requirements for feed hygiene, they also include rules on substances intentionally added to or naturally contaminating feed. Regulation 1831 of 2003 is about additives for use in animal nutrition, while directive 32 of 2002 and subsequent regulations, is about undesirable substances in animal feed. According to the European Commission's commonly accepted definition, feed additives are products using animal nutrition for purposes of improving the quality of feed and the quality of food from animal origin.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 secondsOr, to improve the animal's performance and health, such as providing enhanced digestibility of the feed materials. Those feed additives include substances, microorganisms, or preparations which are intentionally added to feed or water in order to favorably affect the characteristics of feed. The characteristics of animal products. The animal production performance or welfare. The environmental consequences of animal production, and to satisfy the nutritional needs of animals. There are five general categories of feed additives, technological that favorably affect the characteristic of feed-- such as preservatives, antioxidants, stabilizing agents, emulsifiers, acidity regulators, and silage additives. Then sensory that stimulate animal appetite, so that they naturally want to eat more-- for example, colorants and flavoring compounds.

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 secondsThen nutritional, that provide a particular nutrient that may be deficient in an animal's diet, such as vitamins, amino acids, and trace elements. Then zootechnical that improve the overall nutritional value of an animal's diet, such as digestibility enhancers, probiotics, and prebiotics. And last, coccidiostats and histomonostats that are intended to kill or inhibit protozoa, which are microorganisms responsible for enteric diseases mainly in poultry.

Skip to 2 minutes and 47 secondsFeed additives are often used in intensive farming production on a large scale. However, they can be also using the nutrition of pets, such as dogs, cats, and horses. Companies wishing to put a feed additive on the EU market must obtain prior authorization from the European Commission. The process involves the submission of an application with information on the identity of the additive, its conditions of use, control methods, and data demonstrating its efficacy and safety. The European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, reviews this information and examines both the efficacy and safety of the additive in terms of animal and human health, as well as the environment.

Skip to 3 minutes and 40 secondsIn parallel, the European Union Reference Laboratory for Feed Additives evaluates the analytical methods used to determine the presence of the additive in feed and its possible residues in food. Following the positive opinion by EFSA, the European Commission authorizes the additive through a regulation that is granted for specific animal species and/or conditions of use, and is limited to 10 year periods which may be renewed. All authorized feed additives are included in the European Union Register of Feed Additives, which is regularly updated and is freely available on the European Commission website.

Skip to 4 minutes and 27 secondsBy definition, undesirable substances are any substance or product-- with the exception of pathogenic agents-- present in the product intended for animal feed which presents a potential danger to human health, animal health, or the environment, or could adversely affect livestock production. Thus, undesirable substances include many pollutants originating from human activities, such as dioxins, or naturally occurring in environment-- such as heavy metals-- as well as natural toxins produced by plants or fungi-- such as mycotoxins. Also, some authorized feed additives-- for instance, coccidiostats-- are considered contaminants when present in a non-target feed due to the unavoidable cross-contamination. Such phenomenon occurs when different types of products-- for instance, feed containing coccidiostats in blank feed-- are manufactured after each other in the same production line.

Skip to 5 minutes and 32 secondsAnd traces of the feed additive are unintentionally transferred to the batches intended for species or categories not provided for in the additive authorization. Since it is impossible to fully eliminate the presence of undesirable substances, it is important that their content in products intended for animal feed is reduced to acceptable levels according to the concept of ALARA, as low as reasonably achievable, following good practices at all stages. Based on the scientific risk assessment related to the presence of a contaminant in feed performed by the EFSA panel on contaminants in the food chain, maximum levels and action threshold can be set in all products intended for animal feed.

Skip to 6 minutes and 28 secondsMaximum levels are concentrations of undesirable substances that, when exceeded, make products for animal feed non-compliant. While action thresholds are concentrations of undesirable substances below maximum levels that, when exceeded, involve investigations to identify the sources and steps to reduce or eliminate such sources, as in the case of dioxins and PCBs. Both feed additives and undesirable substances in products for animal nutrition are officially monitored in each member state under the Multi-Annual National Control Plan, in order to obtain an overview of the state of compliance with feed law and to surveille feed business operators and their activity.

Additives and Contaminants

The General Food Law (178/2002) lays down rules on substances intentionally added to or naturally contaminating feed.

The key pieces of EU regulation governing animal feed includes:

  • Regulation 1831/2003 deals with additives for use in animal nutrition

  • Directive 32/2002 and subsequent regulations deals with undesirable substances of animal feed

Feed Additives

The European Commission describes feed additives as products used in animal nutrition for purposes of improving the quality of feed and the quality of food from animal origin, or to improve animals’ performance and health.

There are five general categories of feed additives:

(1) Technological: that favorably affect the characteristic of feed, e.g. preservatives, antioxidants, stabilizing agents, emulsifiers, acidity regulators, and silage additives.

(2) Sensory: that stimulate animal appetite, so that they naturally want to eat more– for example, colorants and flavoring compounds.

(3) Nutritional: that provide a particular nutrient that may be deficient in an animal’s diet, such as vitamins, amino acids, and trace elements

(4) Zootechnical: that improve the overall nutritional value of an animal’s diet, such as digestibility enhancers, probiotics, and prebiotics

(5) Coccidiostats and histomonostats: that are intended to kill or inhibit protozoa, which are microorganisms responsible for enteric diseases mainly in poultry

Companies wishing to put a feed additive on the EU market must obtain prior authorization from the European Commission. The process involves the submission of an application with information on the identity of the additive, its conditions of use, control methods, and data demonstrating its efficacy and safety. The European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, reviews this information and examines both the efficacy and safety of the additive in terms of animal and human health, as well as the environment.

In parallel, the European Union Reference Laboratory for Feed Additives evaluates the analytical methods used to determine the presence of the additive in feed and its possible residues in food. Following the positive opinion by EFSA, the European Commission authorizes the additive through a regulation that is granted for specific animal species and/or conditions of use, and is limited to 10 year periods which may be renewed.

All authorized feed additives are included in the European Union Register of Feed Additives, which is regularly updated and is freely available on the European Commission website.

Undesirable substances

By definition, undesirable substances are any substance or product, with the exception of pathogenic agents, present in the product intended for animal feed which presents a potential danger to human health, animal health, or the environment, or could adversely affect livestock production.

Thus, undesirable substances include many pollutants originating from human activities (e.g. dioxins); those naturally occurring in the environment (e.g. heavy metals or natural toxins produced by plants or fungi such as mycotoxins); and authorized feed additives when present in a non-target feed due to the unavoidable cross-contamination. This may occur when different types of products, for instance, feed containing coccidiostats in blank feed, are manufactured after each other in the same production line and traces of the feed additive are unintentionally transferred to the batches intended for species or categories not provided for in the additive authorization.

Since it is impossible to fully eliminate the presence of undesirable substances, it is important that their content in products intended for animal feed is reduced to acceptable levels according to the concept of ALARA, as low as reasonably achievable, following good practices at all stages. Based on the scientific risk assessment related to the presence of a contaminant in feed performed by the EFSA panel on contaminants in the food chain, maximum levels and action threshold can be set in all products intended for animal feed.

Maximum levels are concentrations of undesirable substances that, when exceeded, make products for animal feed non-compliant. While action thresholds are concentrations of undesirable substances below maximum levels that, when exceeded, involve investigations to identify the sources and steps to reduce or eliminate such sources, as in the case of dioxins and PCBs.

Both feed additives and undesirable substances in products for animal nutrition are officially monitored in each member state under the Multi-Annual National Control Plan, in order to obtain an overview of the state of compliance with feed law and to surveille feed business operators and their activity.

What we would like you to do

Please share any thoughts you have about the use of feed additives in animal feed:

  • Do you think they are needed?

  • Do you think there are adequate controls in place?

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This video is from the free online course:

Animal Feed Production: Feed Safety

EIT Food