FAO regards food safety as an essential component of food security and is mandated to provide information on this subject, as it relates to agriculture and animal production.


Rome Declaration on World Food Security 1996: "We, the Heads of State and Government, or our representatives, gathered at the World Food Summit at the invitation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, reaffirm the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger."


The "FAO Food and Feed Safety Gateway" was created to provide a one-stop site for official authorized information on subjects such as BSE, dioxins, mycotoxins, antibiotics, etc., as they relate to animal feeding. Specifically, it was a means of helping the steering committee of a joint FAO/OIE/WHO Meeting on BSE: public health, animal health and trade, held in June 2001, to find all relevant information. It continues in expanded form as a useful service to scientists, technicians and policy makers who need to be aware and up-to-date on these critical issues.

The site is managed by Roopa Rajah (Information Management Specialist) and Daniela Battaglia (Animal Production Officer, Feed Safety and Information).


The Special Question of Animal Feed Safety

The main discussion points are followed by extracts from:

Animal Feeding and Food Safety - Report of an FAO Expert Consultation 10 to 14 March 1997

"Recent public concerns prompted by the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United Kingdom (UK), and other more common food problems associated with Salmonella, E. coli and other micro-organisms [and more recently dioxin contamination in Belgium], have encouraged health professionals and the feed industry to scrutinise more closely the causes and control of these diseases. Some of the corrective measures are as basic as improving housekeeping and staff training in feed mills. Other means require more difficult challenges of possibly limiting the use of, or radically changing the way some ingredients are prepared (processed), sourced, or where animals are grazed. "

Categories of feeds at risk (low to high)

  • Cereals etc.
  • Vegetable proteins
  • Plants with natural toxins (cassava, legumes, etc.)
  • Fruits and other crop byproducts (pesticides)
  • Fishmeals and other fish byproducts
  • Household/catering waste
  • Animal byproducts
  • (GMOs?)

Approach to National Feed Safety

  • Feed Law
  • Implementation
    • Training
    • Information
  • Laboratories
    • ISO
  • Feed mills
    • HACCP
  • Small scale producers


  • Infrastructure
  • Imported feeds and raw materials (international)
  • Local distribution (adulteration)
  • Non-manufactured feeds (local feed resources, wastes, byproducts)
  • Language


Extract from Animal Feeding and Food Safety, Report of an FAO Expert Consultation, 10 to 14 March 1997, Annex 3. Control of health factors in the production of animal feeds: An overview.

"Worldwide, the tonnage of feed exceeds 4 billion tonnes per annum of which some 550 million tonnes are milled feeds. The largest portion of the 4 billion tonnes of feed involves subsistence farming on the Indian sub-continent and Asia. Present knowledge of human health as it relates to this sector is at best limited, hence this paper tends to emphasize what is known of the feed industry from the view of the developed world. A large effort needs to be made to define the nature of the impact of aquaculture and other subsistence livestock operations on human health. This activity may represent the world's largest recycling enterprise, employing tens of millions of people. It is an enormously complex global materials handling and manufacturing effort involving the movement of huge quantities of by-products and co-products throughout the world and the extensive movement of animals. Yet despite the magnitude of livestock production, the frequency of human health problems associated with this enterprise is very low. This paper will attempt to identify problem areas and to set forth scientifically reliable procedures to minimise the transmission of hazards from foods of animal origin to human health."

Further extract from Annex 4 of the same Report - Infections and intoxications of farm livestock associated with feed and forage

"For the purpose of this paper, animal feed includes any substance, whether processed, semi-processed or raw which is used for animal consumption. It includes, therefore, forage crops, manufactured feed and such things as animal and human wastes. Forage comprises green plants, including the ear or seed head, which may be consumed by animals, either fresh or as cured or fermented product. The term food is confined to any substance, whether processed, semi-processed or raw which is consumed by humans.

Animal feed or forage may be the source of a limited number of infections for farm animals that could in theory lead to human illness. These include Salmonella enterica and Toxoplasma gondii, Trichinella spiralis and possibly the agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The risk to human health from several other infectious agents, which may contaminate either feed or forage, appear to be either negligible or non-existent. These include Bacillus anthracis, Clostridium botulinum toxin, Listeria monocytogenes and Mycobacterium bovis.

Animal and human waste may be incorporated in animal feed or can be used to fertilise forage crops. The use of untreated human wastes in fish farming may be associated with serious human health problems. For example, liver fluke infestation (clonorchiasis and opisthorchiasis) in Southeast Asia.

Mycotoxins in animal feed can result in foods of animal origin containing these compounds. This risk is well recognised but it has yet to be quantified accurately and in some instances the risk may be of theoretical rather than practical importance.

Pesticides, agricultural and industrial chemicals, heavy metals and radionuclides may pollute animal feed and forages. The methods available for controlling pollution from these sources are well understood from a technical viewpoint although the effective implementation of controls can prove to be difficult."

Annex 3 contains the following details on control of feed preparation, manufacture and distribution.

"The quality of livestock feed and forage and their potential impact on human health begins with the growing and harvest of feedstuffs in the farmer's field and/or the grazing of the animals. It has already been mentioned that the size of this extremely diverse enterprise is some four billion tonnes turnover per annum, of which the majority is on subsistence farms on the Indian subcontinent and Asia. Feedstuff quality is affected all along the, sometimes, lengthy market route to the consumer of animal products. It is wise for the feedstuff (commodity) user to know that the ingredients being purchased for feed, or the area being grazed, is free from contamination which would not ordinarily be removed by processing, and/or that pastures and ponds are free from pollution or other contamination. Be it the large-scale full-line feed mill producing finished feeds for sale, or the small on-farm feed mixer, the quality of the ingredients is of importance to the health of the animal consuming the feed and to the human consumer who uses the animal products. The buyer of these raw materials should know that the feedstuffs being bought have come from sources where the feedstuff is handled in such manner as to minimise exposure to moisture, pests, toxic chemicals, filth, microbial or other contamination which could cause health problems in food animals and subsequently in human consumers. Training of workers at all levels of the handling and processing by which feedstuffs become animal feed is important to the maintenance of a healthy feed supply. The vehicles, vessels, storage facilities, conveying equipment and environmental management should all be maintained at the highest standard of cleanliness and free of excess moisture so that spoilage is controlled and the conditions under which contaminants such as mycotoxins and Salmonella flourish are effectively eliminated. On-going sampling of ingredients to be certain that quality standards are met and testing for any suspected contaminants, plus a constant effort at good housekeeping, will minimise health problems attributable to the feeding of livestock. Regarding grazing and natural forages, such as free-ranging cattle, as well as enrichment of aquaculture ponds with animal manure, measures should be taken to assure that the forages and ponds are not contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, radionuclides (in those regions where this is a known problem), or mycotoxins. For the aquatic food animals sanitary measures should be taken to avoid infecting workers or consumers of these products with the bacterial, viral and parasitic agents found in night soil and manure. The means exist to minimise the contamination of the manufactured feeds through appropriate technology, that is, through current good manufacturing practices (CGMP), and careful handling of the feedstuffs.

Feed and Forage Quality Assurance

Quality assurance (QA) begins with the concept of what the feed product is to be, in terms of the species being fed and the results being sought. Ingredient specifications are important to quality assurance in defining the quality of the feedstuffs to be accepted by the processor when the raw materials are received for processing. The formulation of the finished feed, including any added medications, should meet the regulatory requirements of the government as well as satisfy the animal production objectives of the customer. Other QA factors involve the manufacture and distribution of the feed. Not only should the feed be of good quality, it should also arrive in good condition and in a timely fashion.

The key elements in effective quality assurance at the feed production facility should include the following.

  • Proper sampling
  • Laboratory testing and microscopy
  • In-plant quality control
  • Control of drug carry-over
  • Plant sanitation and integrated pest management
  • Plant cleanliness
  • The receiving area
  • Storage

Prevention is the best measure

Processing will not remove mycotoxins, heavy metals, and some pesticides, but processing which includes pelleting, extrusion, or otherwise heat-treating the feed can kill or significantly reduce the number of bacterial pathogens. Further along the process stream, the handling systems can re-contaminate such feed before it reaches the animal to be fed, if these areas are not routinely cleaned as noted above. By denying access by pests or other contaminants to the plant (rodents birds, pesticides, etc.), the cleaned feedstuffs, ground mash, pelleted or extruded feed, which are relatively clean, are less likely to be reinfested.

Handling of finished feeds: their storage and transport

  • Bulk storage
  • Warehousing
  • Transportation

Current Good Manufacturing Practices

CGMP includes the material discussed above in the total manufacturing context. Record keeping should be an integral part of the receiving and processing functions. This permits claims to be made against suppliers for defective ingredients and provides information so that any defective feed that has been sold can be recalled, or the consumer warned of the defects in manufacture. The fact that much of the world follows CGMP at some level accounts for the fact that diseases affecting human consumers of animal products are rare. The checks and balances of the CGMP system allow tracking as well as analysis and action to prevent problems before they affect the human consumer of livestock products. Such management and manufacturing controls can be developed for subsistence farmers and others in remote areas through an extension agent system.

Good Grazing Practices

Grazing livestock including aquatic species should not be put at risk on lands or water exposed to agricultural spray drift or other industrial or naturally toxic events or activities which could introduce toxins or diseases. Field and laboratory testing of forages and water analysis plus a thorough knowledge of the land to be grazed should be a routine part of animal production in any geographical location.

The Report concludes:

  • Certain chemical substances and biological agents incorporated into feed, either intentionally or unintentionally, can result in hazards in food of animal origin and may enter feed at any stage of production up to the point of feeding.
  • The risks to human health associated with hazards involved in animal feeding are relatively low in comparison the risks arising from to foodborne hazards from other sources.
  • Where foodborne hazards originate in feed, the hazard should be adequately controlled.
  • Feed ingredients which do not pose any foodborne risk or for which any foodborne risk can be adequately controlled should not be prohibited from use in feed on the basis of food safety concerns.
  • Changes in feed or in the formulation of feed, as well as changes in feed processing methods, may result in changes in the risk from foodborne hazards which originate in feed. It is important that this be recognised and that potential risks be evaluated before any change is made.
  • The management of risk from foodborne hazards which originate in feed needs to be weighed against the potentially greater risks that would result from an inadequate or overly expensive food supply as well as the environmental risk that would result from the failure to recycle nutrients.
  • There is a need for collaboration between all parties involved in feed and animal production, especially those in a position to provide veterinary clinical and epidemiological information, to establish the linkage between any identified or potential hazard and the level of risk. Such information is essential for the development and maintenance of appropriate risk management options and safe feeding practices.
  • Regulatory programmes should be established which ensure that foods of animal origin produced for human consumption are both safe and wholesome. In this context, the hazards which have been identified by the Consultation are well recognised, and suitable and appropriate control measures are in place in many countries. Examples include anteand post-mortem inspection of slaughter stock, the control of the manufacture and use of veterinary drugs and agricultural chemicals, as well as residue monitoring programmes.
  • Though no conclusive evidence has yet been published, the Consultation determined it to be prudent not to exclude BSE as a potential foodborne hazard. It concluded that the risk that arises from this should be assessed and managed in exactly the same way as other foodborne hazards. This may necessitate the exclusion of certain material from feed for particular circumstances.
  • The disciplines that apply to international trade in both food and feed, as well as in feed ingredients were agreed to during the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and set out in the SPS Agreement. The code of practice for good animal feeding that has been developed by the Consultation is intended to provide guidance which will minimise foodborne risks associated with feeds in a manner which is consistent with the principles of the SPS Agreement. The Consultation was of the view that adherence to this code should obviate the need for any trade restrictions on food or feed based on feed related human health concerns.

Annex - Draft code of practice for good animal feeding.


This code of practice applies to feed manufacturing and to the use of all feeds, other than those consumed while grazing free range. The objective of the code is to encourage adherence to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) during the procurement, handling, storage, processing (however minimal), and distribution of feed for food producing animals. A further objective is to encourage good feeding practices on the farm.

There are potential risks to human health associated with the contamination of feed with chemical or biological agents. This code outlines the means by which these hazards can be controlled by adopting appropriate processing, handling and monitoring procedures. The principle approaches required for assessing foodborne hazards to human health have been outlined elsewhere.

General management

The ultimate responsibility for the production of safe and wholesome feed lies with the producer or manufacturer who should produce feeds with as low a level of hazard as possible and comply with any applicable statutory requirements.

The effective implementation of GMP protocols will ensure that:

  • buildings and equipment, including processing machinery, will be constructed in a manner which permits ease of operation, maintenance and cleaning;
  • staff will be adequately trained and that training is kept up to date;
  • records will be maintained concerning source of ingredients, formulations including details and source of all additives, date of manufacture, processing conditions and any date of dispatch, details of any transport and destination;
  • water used in feed manufacture is of potable quality;
  • machinery coming into contact with feed is dried following any wet cleaning process;
  • condensation is minimised;
  • sewage, waste and rain water is disposed of in a manner that ensures that equipment, ingredients and feed are not contaminated; and
  • feed processing plants, storage facilities and their immediate surroundings are kept clean and free of pests.

Raw materials of animal and plant origin

Raw materials of animal and plant origin should be obtained from reputable sources, preferably with a supplier warranty. Monitoring of ingredients should include inspection and sampling of ingredients for contaminants using risk based protocols. Laboratory testing, where undertaken, should be by standard methods. Ingredients should meet acceptable, and if applicable, statutory standards for levels of pathogens, mycotoxins, herbicides, pesticides and other contaminants which may give rise to human health hazards.

In order to control the spread of specific pathogens it may be necessary to specify, for any given ingredient, the country and species of origin and any treatment process used prior to purchase. Care should be taken to preserve the identity of such material after procurement to facilitate any tracking that might be required.

Minerals, supplements, veterinary drugs and other additives

Minerals, supplements, veterinary drugs and other additives should be obtained from reputable manufacturers who guarantee the concentration and purity of ingredients and provide instructions for correct use.

General management of feeds

  • Feeds should be stored so as to prevent deterioration and contamination. Processed feeds should be separated from unprocessed ingredients.
  • Containers and equipment used for transport, storage, conveying, handling and weighing should be kept clean.
  • Equipment should be 'flushed' with 'clean' feed material between batches of different formulations to control cross contamination.
  • Pathogen control procedures, such as pasteurization or the addition of an organic acid to inhibit mould growth, should be used where appropriate and results monitored.
  • Apart from feeds fed moist, such as silage and by-products of brewing, ingredients and feeds should be kept dry to limit fungal and bacterial growth. This may necessitate ventilation and temperature control.
  • Waste and unsaleable material should be isolated and identified, and only recovered as feed after freedom from hazardous contamination has been assured. Waste and unsaleable material containing hazardous levels of veterinary drugs, contaminants or any other hazards should be disposed of in an appropriate and, where applicable, statutory manner and not used as feed. If freedom from hazardous contaminants cannot be established, the material should be destroyed.
  • Packaging materials should be newly manufactured unless known to be free of hazards that might become feedborne.
  • Labels should be consistent with any statutory requirements and should describe the feed and provide instructions for use.
  • Feeds should be delivered and used as soon as possible after manufacture.


All plant personnel should be adequately trained and should work to GMP standards

Useful Web Links

Codex Alimentarius

Animal Feeding and Food Safety - Report of an FAO Expert Consultation 10 to 14 March 1997

Food Safety Initiative Home Page

FDA/CFSAN Bad Bug Book: Introduction to Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins

US FDA / Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN)

Food Safety and Inspection Service

National Center for Food Safety & Technology (NCFST)

Food Safety

EU White Paper

MAFF UK; Food Safety and Standards - Food Safety



International HACCP Alliance

National Food Safety Database Home Page

These links, together with preset searches of the WWW and FAO pages and documents will be placed on the AGA Web Site