Feed safety standards
Managing feed safety starts first with a good knowledge of what is safe and what is not and how to prevent/minimise/control. For that, operators can rely on a combination of legal and professional sectorial standards.
Hazards in feed may be of chemical (heavy metals, dioxins, mycotoxins, pesticide residues, etc.), biological (Salmonella, TSE agent, viruses) or physical nature (metal, glass, etc.). Securing feed safety requires assessing the risk that, whenever contaminants are present in a feed, they are present at levels that are safe for the animal eating them and do not adversely impact on the animal welfare and performance. In addition, the risk that such hazards are transferred into food of animal origin (accumulation in meat, fat or kidneys, transfer into milk or eggs) at levels unsafe for consumers must also be assessed. Finally, the risk for the environment is also taken into consideration.
Such risk assessments require specific knowledge and skills which can be provided by public authorities and their risk assessment bodies, which make significant contributions to the setting of legal standards, most of the time via maximum limits, which are established based on an EFSA risk assessment.
Maximum limits for chemicals are set in two major pieces of EU legislation, i.e. the EU Directive on Undesirable Substances and Products (Directive 2002/32/EC) and in the EU Regulation on Pesticides MRLs (Regulation (EC) No 396/2005). In addition, guidance values are established for certain mycotoxins with no or negligible transfer into animal products leading to negligible exposure of consumers (Commission Recommendation 2006/576).
Microbiological criteria are set for Salmonella and Enterobacteriaceae in feed materials of animal origin only (Regulation (EC) 142/2011). Standards for feed materials from vegetable origin is a non-EU harmonized area, meaning it is left to national authorities to define appropriate targets in terms of microbial contamination of feed.
As regards physical hazards, the EU Regulation (EC) No 767/2009 prohibits the presence of packaging residues in feed.
The EU RASFF is widely used as an indicator to identify the risk-exposure ranking of the different types of contaminants:
- 3 out of 4 notifications concern microbial contamination; however the absence of a harmonised EU standard limits its analytical value;
- Heavy metals, ragweed, non-authorised chemicals and ruminant DNA represent between 6 and 12 notifications per year;
- Non-compliance with MRLs for pesticides and dioxins represent 4 to 6 notifications per year. Non-EU-authorised GMOs are detected occasionally (0 to 2 notifications per year).
FEFAC strongly supports the establishment of harmonised EU standards for contaminants in feed whenever this is justified, based on occurrence data and risk assessment by EFSA. FEFAC is collecting data from its member companies on contamination of feed materials and sharing these data with EFSA or DG SANTE, as relevant.
FEFAC continues requesting additional risk management focus on the prevention of contamination at an early stage of the chain (e.g. prevention of mycotoxins at farm level), in line with its “top-of-the-pyramid approach”. Indeed, once a contaminant is present, the feed manufacturer has only very limited risk-mitigation options.
FEFAC requested the establishment of specific pesticide MRLs for products destined exclusively for feed use, in the context of the REFIT consultation. Such harmonised standards are essential to ensure the proper functioning of the single market.
FEFAC calls also for harmonization of standards for the management of the Salmonella risk at EU level. Meanwhile, FEFAC, together with other partners of the chain, have defined common principles for the management of Salmonella risk along the chain (toolbox).
FEFAC, as an observer member of CODEX, contributed in partnership with its International Feed Industry Federation, to the drafting of a Guidance document on prioritizing hazards in feed and Guidelines on the application of risk assessment for feed, based on an FAO report on hazards associated with feed safety.