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Animal Health

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Livestock Production
Tuesday, March 1, 2016 4:43:32 PM
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Feed safety assurance essential worldwide


Johan Den Hartog, managing director of GMP+ International



Livestock production and the consumption of animal products are crucial to the economic and nutritional well-being of millions of people around the world. Animal feed plays a leading role in the food industry as the most important contributor to safe, abundant, and affordable animal proteins for a growing population. The role of animal feed in the production of safe food is recognized worldwide.


The feed business is characterized by a strong international level of operation of the supply chain as well as a national focus of the production of finished mixed feeds for livestock and aquatic animal. Suppliers of feed ingredients like grains and oil seeds and their by-products are produced in large quantities in USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and India. Micro-components or additives are produced in a limited number of countries, dominated by China. Premixtures are produced by companies with a high level of animal nutrition knowledge, mainly originating from Europe and United States. Finally, the finished feeds are produced in the regions where livestock and aqua farming mainly occurs. Growing regions are Pacific Asia, Middle East and some Latin American countries. Europe and North America are stabilizing or slowly decreasing. This all means that the feed sector is operating internationally and triggered nationally.


Food safety is a topic worldwide. It is already an important issue in Europe and North America for longer time. It gets also a higher ranking more and more in Pacific Asia, Middle East, and Latin America.


It is crucial to realize that feed safety contributes substantially to the safety of animal products. A proper feed safety control of the supply of feed ingredients as well as of the production of the finished feed mixtures is essential. In every stage of the production chain, risks can occur and result in contamination with undesirable substances or microbiological agents. A proper feed safety control for the whole chain is essential in order to be able to provide safe animal products. Because the feed sector is mainly operating internationally, a uniform approach of feed safety assurance in the whole chain is crucial to achieve the best results at the lowest cost. In this article, we give an overview of possible feed safety risks and the way of control them in a transparent way and according international standards.


Feed safety hazards


Practise tells that feed ingredients can be contaminated with chemical and physical substances and biological agents. It depends on the used ingredients and the origin and production processes of these ingredients and the aqua feed as such.


Chemical hazards may occur through natural chemicals (such as mycotoxins), industrial and environmental contaminants (like heavy metals, dioxins, and PCB's), and residues of veterinary drugs, pesticides, and radionuclides.


Physical hazards are foreign objects like pieces of glass, metal, plastic, or wood.


Biological hazards are such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.


  Figure 1:  EWS notifications by contaminants

  Source: GMP+ International


In animal production a too high contamination could influence the growth performance of the animals, increase the feed conversion, but also induce disease resistance, and result in biological changes. These are all consequences with an economic impact.


Above that, contaminants transferred from feed into the animals can also have a negative impact on the safety of the animal products for the consumers and on the health image of it.


It is clear that safe animal feed is essential for livestock and aqua farming, not only for a profitable production of the animal products, but also for undisturbed and continue sales into the market, especially export markets. Moreover the consumers expect a healthy product. To get safe animal feed, a proper feed safety control by means of an adequate assurance system is a precondition. If such an assurance system is applied demonstrably, it will add value to the animal products definitively.


Essential elements in a feed safety assurance system


For the application of proper feed safety control, a series of risk mitigation measures should be put in place to achieve the best possible result. 

  1. First of all, it is necessary to implement a proper prerequisite program. It is about maintenance of buildings and machinery, training of employees, hygiene and cleaning program, pest control, etc. This all creates a basic level of control of possible hazards in the production process.
  2. Secondly, HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is a tool to identify specific hazards, which could become risks in the production process, remained after application of the prerequisites. HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement, handling, to manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of the finished feed product.
  3. This will result in identifying the real risks in the production process and in taking proper control measures, as well as monitoring of the effectiveness of these control measures. Any change in the production process should be implemented after renewing the hazard analysis for identifying new risks and adjusting control measures. 

Additionally to HACCP, a proper quality management system ensures the consistent application of the defined control measures and verification procedures.


GMP+ Feed Safety Assurance


The control measures previously mentioned are well known elements in many quality systems. They are all integrated in the GMP+ Feed Safety Assurance (FSA) certification. Based on practical experiences of many participants collected in the past 25 years, GMP+ International added additional elements into the GMP+ FSA certification scheme: chain approach, traceability, and early warning.


Practical experiences show that often the source of contamination in the feed sector occurs in the supply chain. In the past, some cases resulted in delivery of huge amounts of contaminated feed ingredients downstream, resulting in much media attention and high cost for removal. Therefore, in 1999 it was decided to extend the scope of the GMP+ FSA certification to the whole supply chain.


Chain approach is a basic principle in the GMP+ FSA certification scheme and it means that all companies in the supply chain take their responsibility regarding the control of the feed safety of the products they deliver or services they provide. It is the most effective approach to mitigate emerging risks in the chain as early as possible instead of an uncontrollable end-of-pipeline approach.


Only in some cases, a gatekeeper option is allowed for the producers of pre-mixtures and mixed feed. GMP+ Feed Certification scheme is unique in the world with this chain approach principle and therefore appreciated by many mixed feed producers. I enables them to have an adequate control of the risks which may occur.
  Figure 2:  EWS notifications by feed product
  Source: GMP+ Internationa


All measures mentioned before are preventive to avoid contamination of feed products put on the market. Traceability and EWS are additional corrective measures to trace back contaminated feed products delivered into the market. It enables to find the source of the contaminated lot(s) and if possible to find out the cause, which can contribute to improved control in the supply chain in the future.


Traceability also enables to trace customers who received (possibly) contaminated lots to block these lots and avoid further distribution of the contaminated feed. Practise shows that this approach is very effective and avoids incidents at a larger scale with image and financial damage.


Finally, EWS is an extra safety net. In case a GMP+ FSA certified company exceeds the maximum permitted level of a contaminant in feed products, it is obliged to notify GMP+ International. When other companies can be confronted with the same contamination in purchased feed materials, GMP+ International will send a EWS message to all GMP+ FSA certified companies in order to alert them. This contributes to minimize the impact of contaminated lots of feed product on the market.


Participation in GMP+ FSA certification


Currently, over 14,800 companies / locations are GMP+ FSA certified, in over 79 countries all over the world. All kind of companies are involved: collection of arable products, trade, producers and processors of feed materials, transports, transport charters, producers of additives, of pre-mixtures and compound feed. In this respect, GMP+ FSA certification is leading globally. This global presence and acceptance of GMP+ FSA is a real opportunity for feed producers in the Middle East to add value to animal products, when it should be produced by animal feed produced under GMP+ FSA certification. Moreover, the GMP+ Feed Certification scheme is based on 25 years practical experienced which resulted in regular updates of the standards of the scheme. Participation in the GMP+ FSA certification would enable feed producers in the Middle East to benefit from the lessons learned by the international GMP+ feed community in the past.


GMP+ International is an independent, non-profit organization operating internationally and based on a balanced stakeholders participation of the feed and food production chain.



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Article made possible through the contribution of Johan Den Hartog

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