Is it really important?
With growing population and climate change, Sustainability has become more and more pressing issue with every passing day. According to United Nations-Food and Agricultural Organisation, Animal feed plays a primary role in the global food industry and it is the largest and most important component to ensure the sustainable production of safe and affordable animal proteins.
The feed production and requirements are directly proportional to the production food from animal sources. The challenge hence is not only to meet the demand for feed production, but to ensure its safety, as the quality of feed directly impacts the quality and well being of the animals and the subsequent products. As the end point consumers are humans feed safety is a direct contributor to human health. Therefore, it is wise to assert that feed production should also be aligned with as much as stringent safety systems as there are for food safety systems. Additionally when it comes to food safety and security there is no denying the fact that: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy; Foot-and-Mouth Disease; dioxin, mycotoxin, E.coli O157:H7 contamination; and the development of antimicrobial resistance, all are directly related to animal feeding.
Do we really have any guidance and structure to follow?
While every country has its own demand for animal protein and thus sources to meet the demand, not every country has the know-how and awareness yet to place the focus on feed safety the way it needs. It is important to note that while the first world countries have their National regulatory bodies to scrutinize every production facility for safety and quality standards, the third world countries where the industry is widely unorganized, barely have a clue how severely feed safety lapses can cost their business.
Additionally, with the rampant innovations that are taking place, at times even the first world countries are left oblivious how to deal with the risks associated with the novel ingredients(e.g. agro-industrial by-products, insects, food processing by-products, food wastes etc.)
So, what’s the reference for now?
In order to meet this gap FAO & WHO collated the guidance document regarding feed regulatory frameworks by harmonizing them with the Codex Alimentarius and other international standards. The Codex Alimentarius documents provide guidance on application of risk assessment framework w.r.t animal feeding and production. The Risk-based measures taken by the operators/management go a long run in prevention and control of hazards.
A brief preview of General Principles and requirements of the Codex code
Storage and procurement
Procurement and storage should be in a stable condition so as to prevent contamination by pests, or by chemical, physical or microbiological contaminants or other objectionable substances during production, handling, storage and transport. Where applicable, good manufacturing practices (GMPs), good agricultural practices and, where appropriate, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles1 should be followed to control hazards that may occur in food. Feed ingredients should be obtained from safe sources and be subject to a risk analysis. The procedure used should be consistent with the Working Principles for Risk Analysis for Application in the Framework of the Codex Alimentarius. Monitoring of feed ingredients should include inspection and sampling and analysis for unwanted substances using risk-based protocols. Feed ingredients should meet acceptable and, if applicable, statutory standards for levels of pathogens, mycotoxins, pesticides and undesirable substances that may give rise to consumers’ health hazards.
Labelling should be lucid and informative as to how the user should handle, store and use feed and feed ingredients. Labelling or & the additional documents should contain Information about the species /category of animal for which the feed is intended, The purpose, List of ingredients including additive in descending order of proportion, Contact information, Registration number if applicable, Directions and precautions, Lot identification, and Date of manufacture, use before date/ expiration date.
Traceability/product tracing and record keeping of feed and feed ingredients Traceability of feed and feed ingredients should be done by a transparent record keeping system for timely and effective withdrawal or recall of products. These records need to readily accessible to enable the prompt trace-back of feed and feed ingredients to the immediate previous source and trace-forward to the next subsequent recipients.
In emergency situations operators should inform the competent authorities in the company/ country if they consider that a feed or feed ingredient does not satisfy the feed safety requirements established in the Codex Code. The information should detail and at least contain a description of the nature of the problem, a description of the feed or feed ingredients, the species for which it is intended, the lot identifier, the name of the manufacturer and the place of origin. The competent authorities and operators should immediately take effective measures to ensure that those feed or feed ingredients do not pose any danger to consumers’ health.
Inspection and control procedures
Feed and feed ingredients manufacturers and other relevant parts of industry should practice self-regulation/auto-control to secure compliance with required standards. It will also be necessary for risk-based official regulatory programmes to be established to check that feed and feed ingredients are produced, distributed and used in such a way that foods of animal origin for human consumption are both safe and suitable. Inspection systems should be designed and operated based on objective risk assessment appropriate to the circumstances. Risk assessment should be on the basis of latest available scientific evidence. Monitoring of feed and feed ingredients, whether by industry or official inspection bodies, should include inspection and sampling and analysis to detect undesirable levels of unwanted substances.
Health hazards associated with animal feed
It is crucial that levels of undesirable substances are sufficiently low in feed and feed ingredients that their concentration in food for human consumption is consistently below the level of concern. Codex Maximum Residue Limits and Extraneous Maximum Residue Levels set for feed should be applied.
Feed additives and veterinary drugs used in medicated feed
Feed additives and veterinary drugs used in medicated feed should be examined for safety by the competent authorities. Veterinary drugs used in medicated feed should comply with the provisions of the Codex Recommended International Code of Practice for the Control of the Use of Veterinary Drugs. Feed additives should be received, handled and stored to maintain their integrity and to minimize unsafe contamination. Antibiotics should not be used in feed for growth promoting purposes in the absence of a public health safety assessment. Feed and feed ingredients should only be produced, marketed, stored and used if they are safe and suitable. In particular, feed and feed ingredients contaminated with unacceptable levels of undesirable substances should be clearly identified as unsuitable for animal feed and not be marketed or used.
The presence of undesirable substances such as industrial and environmental contaminants, pesticides, radionuclides, persistent organic pollutants, pathogenic agents and toxins such as mycotoxins should be identified, controlled and minimized. Animal products that could be a source of the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) agent should not be used for feeding directly to, or for feed manufacturing for, ruminants. Control measures applied to mitigate unacceptable level of undesirable substances should be examined in terms of their impact on food safety.
There is no doubt that human health safety is and will be impacted by feed safety as long as the human population continues to be dependent on food from animal sources. With growing population this dependency is only supposed to grow. Although it is evident that feed production industry is not at the same ground level worldwide be it in the name of technology or regulatory frame work, It does not serve as an excuse to ignore the importance of feed safety. Since the guiding principles of Codex Alementarius w.r.t Feed Safety are publicly accessible worldwide, it is high time each business owner takes it upon himself to implement a risk-based system at his facility to ensure a safer feed, safer food and in turn a healthier and sustainable human life.
References are available upon request.
by Deepika Bharti, Freelancer