Additives and Contaminants
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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
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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.
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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Animal Feed Production: Feed Safety
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