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Papers presented at the workshop on feed and food safety (APHCA 02/7)

Animal feed safety

(by Andrew Speedy, Senior Officer (Feed and Animal Nutrition)

Animal Production and Health Division, FAO-Rome)


In recent years public concern about the safety of foods of animal origin has heightened due to problems that have arisen with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), chemical contamination, outbreaks of foodborne bacterial infections, as well as growing concern about veterinary drug residues and microbial resistance to antibiotics. These problems have drawn attention to feeding practices within the livestock industry and have prompted health professionals and the feed industry to closely scrutinise food quality and safety problems that can arise in foods of animal origin as a result of animal feeding systems. It is important to note, nonetheless, that despite the magnitude of livestock production, the frequency of health problems associated with this sector is very low.

The livestock sector plays an essential role in agricultural and economic development as well as food security. The global livestock output is growing at a rate of 2.5 percent per year and meat production now exceeds 230 million tonnes, and world demand and consumption of livestock products is expected to nearly double again in the next 20 years. Most of this increase is expected to take place in developing countries associated with greater population growth and emerging economies, particularly in Asia. As a global average, animal products provided about 16 percent of the calories in the diet. Meat and other animal products provide essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. The livestock industry therefore can be seen to have great economic and nutritional significance in the world as a whole.

In the Asia and Pacific countries (excluding China), meat production has risen from 18 million tonnes in 1981 to 34 million tonnes in 2001, a growth of 5 percent per year for 20 years. In particular, chicken meat has increased from 3.8 million tonnes to 10.1 million tonnes in that period; pig meat from 4 to 7.6 million tonnes; beef and buffalo meat from 6.5 to 11 million tonnes; and sheep and goat meat from 3.3 to 4.6 million tonnes. In addition, milk production has increased from 82 million tonnes to 184 million tonnes and egg production from 5.4 million tonnes to 10.7 million tonnes in those twenty years (all data from FAOSTAT).

Most of this increase in production has been achieved from grain and protein cake. The author estimates that the requirement for cereals for feed in Asia-Pacific (excluding China) has increased from 75 million tonnes in 1981 to 150 million tonnes in 2001 (figures which agree with the FAOSTAT supply utilization account). The corresponding quantity of protein feeds has increased from 15 to 29 million tonnes. Total feed requirement for poultry has increased from 21 million tonnes to 49 million tonnes over this period; pig feed from 20 to 38 million tonnes; and cow feed from 27 to 61 million tonnes.

This demonstrates the increase in demand for livestock feed and particularly for poultry, pig and dairy feeds from the feed industry. Given the increasing concern about the safety of animal feeds from both the human and animal health perspectives, the following paper considers the potential hazards and the actions that should be taken.

Potential hazards and other issues associated with animal feeds


Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi of various genera when they grow on agricultural products before or after harvest or during transportation or storage. Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors influence fungal growth and mycotoxin production on a given substrate. The intrinsic factors include water activity, pH, and redox potential whereas extrinsic factors which influence mycotoxin production are relative humidity, temperature and availability of oxygen.

Many mycotoxins, with different chemical structures and biological activities, have been identified. They may be carcinogenic (e.g. aflatoxin B1, ochratoxin A, fumonisin B1), oestrogenic (zearalenone), neurotoxic (fumonisin B1), nephrotoxic (ochratoxins, citrinin, oosporeine), dermonecrotic (trichothecenes) or immuno-suppressive (aflatoxin B1, ochratoxin A, and T-2 toxin). Much of the published information on toxicity concerns studies in experimental animals and these may not reflect their effects in humans and other animals. In addition, the implications for human health of the presence of combinations of mycotoxins are not well understood.

Mycotoxins are regularly found in feed ingredients such as maize, sorghum grain, barley, wheat, rice meal, cottonseed meal, groundnuts and other legumes. Most are relatively stable compounds and are not destroyed by processing of feed and may even be concentrated in screenings. Different animal species metabolise mycotoxins in different ways. For example in pigs, ochratoxin A can undergo entero-hepatic circulation and is eliminated very slowly while it is rapidly excreted by poultry species. The polar mycotoxins, such as fumonisins, tend to be excreted rapidly.

Mycotoxins, or their metabolites, can be detected in meat, visceral organs, milk and eggs. Their concentration in food is usually considerably lower than the levels present in the feed consumed by the animals and unlikely to cause acute intoxications in humans. However residues of carcinogenic mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin B1 and M1, and ochratoxin A, when present in animal products pose a threat to human health, and their levels should be monitored and controlled. The Codex Alimentarius Commission is currently considering maximum limits for Aflatoxin M1 in milk. The extent of mycotoxin accumulation in fish tissues due to consumption of contaminated feed is poorly understood.

Veterinary drugs

Veterinary drugs may be administered in animal feeds for livestock and aquaculture. If good veterinary practices are employed then MRLs should not be exceeded, however, if GVP is not adhered to, residues in foods of animal origin may exceed MRLs.

The need for the containment of antimicrobial resistance due to the use of antimicrobials in livestock, including their addition to feedstuffs, is gaining much attention. Antimicrobials are used for therapeutic, prophylactic or growth purposes, and in the latter case they are added to feed and/or water. Even first-line antimicrobials (e.g. glycopeptides) are being used as feed additives for growth promotion. The assessment and containment of public health risks associated with the use of antimicrobials in livestock is a matter of priority.

The results of recent control checks carried out by EU Member States on imports of fish and poultry have revealed the presence of Nitrofuran residues on imported shrimps and poultry. Further control checks on imported shrimps revealed the presence of Chloramphenicol residues. Nitrofurans are veterinary drugs whose use in food producing animals is no longer allowed in the EU because of health concerns, including a possible increased risk of cancer in humans through long term consumption. Chloramphenicol is a potent, broad-spectrum antibiotic drug, which has been banned for use in food producing animals in the EU since 1994. It is used in human medicine only in serious situations.

Agricultural and other chemicals

Potential contaminants in feedstuffs include excessive residues of pesticides and fungicides, or other environmental contaminants such as the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and heavy metals including mercury, lead, or cadmium.

Dioxins and PCBs are ubiquitously present as contaminants in the environment and dietary intake represents the most common route of human exposure. PCBs and dioxins have similar physical and chemical properties. They are both lipophilic and persistent compounds that accumulate in the food chain, consequently biological samples often contain both dioxin and PCB congeners. Foods of animal origin are the greatest source of human exposure to these contaminants and animal feeds may be an important source of contamination for livestock. Contaminated fats or oils added either intentionally or unintentionally to manufactured feeds can be a source of dioxins and PCBs. These industrial pollutants may be emitted into the air contaminating soil and water and remaining deposited on pastureland. In this case grass-fed animals in highly contaminated areas may give rise to unsafe food products.

Weak associations have been reported between exposure to dioxins and soft tissue carcinomas and lung cancer. Initial symptoms of high PCB exposure are reversible dermal and ocular effects and persistent respiratory problems. Foetal exposure to dioxins and/or PCBs might be associated with cognitive deficits in infants and children. An increase in tumour incidence, as well as neurological, endocrine, hepatoxic and immunotoxic effects were observed in populations accidentally exposed to high levels of PCBs, polychlorinated dibenzofurans and polychlorinated quaterphenyls. Maximum levels of these contaminants allowed in foods of animal origin have been established in some countries, but existing limits are quite variable.

Plant materials growing in areas with high levels of other environmental pollutants such as radionuclides and heavy metals that are used as feed may also lead to unacceptably high levels of contamination in food products of animal origin. Similarly, fish oils used as animal feed ingredients, may contain high levels of lipid-soluble contaminants if they are produced from fish grown in polluted areas. In Western Europe, effective measures to limit environmental pollution have been put in place. In Central and Eastern Europe some areas of high contamination occur due to industrial activity.

Infectious agents

Animal feed may be the source of a limited number of infections for farm animals that could lead to human illness on consumption of foods of animal origin. These include Salmonella enterica, Bacillus anthracis, Toxoplasma gondii, Trichinella spiralis and possibly the agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The risk to human health from several other infectious agents which may contaminate feed or forage, appear to be either negligible or non-existent.

Heat treatments of varying severity are commonly used to ensure the microbiological quality of animal feed. Irradiation may be considered a potentially important control measure for certain microbial agents in the feed of food-producing animals. The joint FAO/IAEA/WHO Study Group on High Dose Irradiation which convened in Geneva, in September 1997, concluded that food irradiated to any dose appropriate to achieve the intended technological objective is both safe to consume and nutritionally adequate. As their conclusion was partly based on animal feeding studies in a broad cross section of species, fed a variety of diets, it may be assumed that the study group conclusion would also apply to irradiated animal feed. Notably, irradiation is not permitted either by EC Regulation or by Codex Guidelines in organic production systems.

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs)

TSEs in ruminants are non-febrile neurological diseases of man and many animal species including ruminants. They have a long incubation period and are ultimately fatal. TSEs are associated with incompletely defined agents, currently termed prions, which are resistant to normal heat treatment of feed and food. Sheep scrapie has been recognised for over 250 years, while Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was first recognised in the United Kingdom in 1986. For BSE it has been postulated that the aetiological agent enters the feed primarily through rendered infected tissues (notably the tissue of the central nervous system and the reticuloendothelial system) under conditions of insufficient heat treatment to destroy or inactivate the infectious agent. The reported occurrence of a new variant of the human TSE, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD), has raised the possibility of an association with BSE in cattle with CJD in humans through consumption of meat from BSE infected cattle. At the present time, there is a strong presumption of a link between this new variant and the possible transmission of the infective agent from infected bovine tissue to humans.

Other infectious agents

Salmonellae are widely distributed in nature, and animal feed is only one of many sources for farm animals. Animal and plant origin feed ingredients are frequently contaminated with Salmonellae. Processed feed can be contaminated from these raw feed ingredients.

There are over 2000 Salmonella serotypes and these can be divided arbitrarily into three unequally sized groups. These include the species specific serotypes such as S. dublin (cattle); the invasive serotypes which may cause septicaemic disease in several animal species (e.g. S. enteritidis and S. typhimurium); and the non-invasive serotypes which tend not to result in septicaemia. Members of the first group are not recognised as foodborne pathogens. The third group is by far the largest and may be associated with subclinical infections in farm livestock. They can cause disease on occasion and are associated with food poisoning in humans. The principal manifestation of human salmonellosis is a gastroenteritis. Septicaemia occurs in a proportion of patients.

Toxoplasma gondii, the protozoan is found in cats and based on serological surveys also in birds, other domesticated species including sheep, pigs, goats, and horses. The primary source of infection for animals is feedstuffs contaminated with faeces of cats and possibly rodent tissues. A proportion of humans may become infected following the handling or consumption of contaminated raw meat.

Trichinella spiralis is a nematode which parasites the intestinal tract of mammals, particularly pigs. The larvae encyst in the tissues, particularly the muscles which act as a source of infection for humans who consume raw or partially cooked meat. The clinical manifestations include fever, muscle pain, encephalitis, meningitis, myocarditis and rarely death. The cysts can be killed by freezing infected carcasses at -18 degrees C for 20 days. They are also heat sensitive and are killed by traditional rendering temperatures. Effective cooking of raw meat and table scraps before feeding to farm animals would eliminate this hazard.

Bacillus anthracis, which causes anthrax, sporulates on exposure to air and the resulting spores can survive for long periods in the environment and in contaminated animal feed. The spore is widespread in some CIS countries. There have been cases of anthrax in people who have consumed the meat of infected animals.

Control of feed borne hazards

Given the direct links between feed safety and safety of foods of animal origin, it is essential that feed production and manufacture be considered as an integral part of the food production chain. Feed production must therefore be subject, in the same way as food production, to quality assurance including food safety systems based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system.

Industry is ultimately responsible for the quality and safety of the food and feed that it produces. National authorities should provide guidance to industry including codes of practice and standards that they must respect. Governments must also establish the necessary controls to ensure that industry consistently meets mandatory quality and safety requirements.

The foregoing outlines the responsibilities of both industry and national governments in ensuring safety of feed and food. It is important to realise however that the large volume of international trade in foods of animal origin, as well as in feedstuffs, adds an important international dimension to the control of animal feedstuffs. Furthermore the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) advocates that national standards related to food safety be harmonized with international standards. In light of existing shortcomings in the regulation of feed safety, several actions and activities have been undertaken at international level to develop sound standards, guidelines and recommendations in this area. International organizations also have an important role to play in providing information and training which could be used at national level to improve the knowledge and skill of those involved in all areas of the feed industry, including primary producers of feed materials, in order to prevent failures in food/feed safety systems rather than control them.

Work at international level on the safety of animal feed-stuffs

Several international organizations are actively involved in work related to the safety of animal feedstuffs. They generate and disseminate information on various aspects of feeds and their use including potential food safety hazards linked to feed. Furthermore, they provide technical assistance to countries aimed at improving feed production, feeding practices and feed control programmes.

Animal feed safety has become one of the priority areas in the Animal Production and Health Division of FAO which continues to provide extensive information on animal feeds and feeding through its Animal Feed Resources Information System (AFRIS) on the Internet, and associated publications and documents. The system includes detailed scientific and practical information on over 700 feedstuffs, with data sheets, full text articles and reviews. In particular, FAO provides a Food and Feed Safety Gateway[3] with links to official information from international and national organizations on BSE and transboundary zoonotic diseases, contaminants, antibiotics, etc. Other international meetings included the Joint FAO/WHO Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators, Marrakech, 28-30 January 2002[4], and the Pan-European Conference on Food Safety and Quality, Budapest, 25-28 February 2002[5].

Recently, an Expert Consultation and Workshop on Alternative Protein Sources for the Animal Feed Industry was held in Bangkok, 29 April-3 May 2002[6], with support from the International Feed Industry Federation. This meeting, which was attended by 70 participants from 26 countries, reached a number of important conclusions, including amongst others: that safety of animal feed was of paramount importance and codes of practice should be developed; the feeding of ruminant meat meal to ruminants should be banned everywhere because of BSE; if MBM is banned in domestic animal feed, exports should also be banned; specialization of feed mills was identified as an important step to avoiding cross-contamination and this was supported by representatives of the feed industry; correct protein nutrition is important not only for performance but also to minimize nitrogen excretion and reduce pollution; there is a serious disposal problem if animal by-products are not to be used for pigs and poultry, or for aquaculture. In this context, ‘meat meal’ should be reclassified in the FAOSTAT database into more detailed categories and by species to provide a clearer picture of production, use and trade; the collection of adequate quantitative and qualitative information on all protein feeds is required; more information is required on alternative, locally available plants as sources of protein, and to clearly identify the reasons for relatively low adoption in the past; and FAO should set up ‘country profiles’ of feed production by species and feed resources by countries. These conclusions represent advice by the invited experts for action by FAO. They also highlighted the different needs of developed, developing and transition countries.

FAO is involved in consultation with stakeholders in the development of guidelines for good farming practices in the context of Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD).

FAO continues to work with countries through its Technical Cooperation Programmes (TCP) and General Cooperation Programmes (GCP) to assist with the development of the feed industry, feed information and utilization of locally available feed resources. In addition, projects are being implemented for capacity building for surveillance and prevention of BSE and other zoonotic diseases, including elements of risk analysis, surveillance and diagnosis, as well as training of persons in the feed and meat industries.

A web-based international information system on standards, regulations and other official texts related to food safety, animal and plant health is under development with the support of the governments of the Netherlands and USA. The system, of which a prototype was presented at the above-mentioned Pan-European Conference on Food Safety and Quality, is expected to be operational towards the end of 2002.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), which was established by the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme in 1962, is an intergovernmental body comprising 165 members whose responsibility it is to develop and publish international standards, guidelines and codes of practice related to food quality and safety. Codex Alimentarius standards are recognized in the WTO SPS Agreement as the bench marks for food safety.

Several existing Codex standards, guidelines and recommendations include provisions relating to the quality and safety of animal feeds and food of animal origin. These include:

There are several issues currently being considered by the CAC which are directly related to the safety of feedstuffs. Perhaps most significant, was the decision of the 23rd Session of CAC (28 June - 3 July 1999) to establish a Codex Ad Hoc intergovernmental task force on good animal feeding which would address all issues relating to animal feeding. The terms of reference of the Task Force are the following:

The first session of this task force was held in copenhagen in 2000 and the next session will be March 2003.

The issue of animal feed is a complex one requiring multi-disciplinary inputs and collaboration from the fields of human and veterinary medicine, agriculture, academia and from national control agencies. Several organizations are already involved in various aspects of this issue and it is important that there be coordination and discussion among the different parties involved if clear and sound guidance that is widely supported is to be developed in a timely manner. The Intergovernmental codex task force on safe animal feeding is an important forum for the required collaboration and consensus.

One of the main tasks facing the Task Force is the completion of the draft code of practice for good animal feeding that was prepared by a panel of experts on the subject during an FAO expert consultation that was held in Rome in 1997. The draft code, along with comments submitted by several countries and international organizations will form the basis of the discussions on this topic. All food safety issues identified by the CAC in the terms of reference of the task force can be considered in the elaboration of the new code. It is considered by some parties that the development of positive and negative lists of feed ingredients may be an important contribution to the control of animal feed internationally.

Antimicrobial resistance

The matter of antimicrobial resistance is actively being considered by the International Office of Epizootics (OIE), which has set up an ad hoc expert group on the topic. Among other issues, this group will consider the development of technical guidelines on the prudent use of antimicrobials and the monitoring of quantities of antimicrobials used in animal husbandry. The ad hoc expert group called upon FAO to take up the role of coordinator with regard to the use of antibiotics as growth promoters.

WHO, with the participation of FAO and OIE, has held a series of meetings on the question of antimicrobial resistance the last of which was held in September 2001 in Norway and based on their findings, has recommended the termination of the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters if similar products are also licensed in human medicine. Global principles for the containment of antimicrobial resistance in food-producing animals were also issued by WHO, in June 2000. This has direct implications for animal feeding practices.

The question of microbial resistance is also being discussed within the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods (CCRVDF) and the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH). The former CCRVDF receives scientific advice from the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives which currently considers the impact of antimicrobial residues on the gut but does not consider the transfer of antimicrobial resistance arising from the use of antimicrobials and their release into the environment, as this is beyond their terms of reference. The role of CCRVDF in broader discussions of the question of antimicrobial resistance is uncertain. CCFH considers antimicrobial resistant bacteria in relation to food hygiene. This committee is already involved in risk assessment associated with microbiological contamination of food, and is therefore well-placed to take a risk analysis approach to the question of antimicrobial resistance.

Environmental and industrial contaminants

Problems originating from the contamination of animal feed with dioxin and PCBs, highlighted the existing disparity among regulations in different countries related to the presence of these contaminants in foods including their maximum allowed limits. The Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants (CCFAC) has requested that the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) consider these groups of compounds and provide scientific advice to guide the Committee in its task of establishing guideline or maximum levels in food and feed. In its Fifty-ninth meeting held in Geneva, in June 2001, JECFA was informed that FAO and WHO have initiated a project to update principles and methods of risk assessment of chemicals in food.

General principles and methods for the assessment of food additives, contaminants, residues of veterinary drugs and pesticides, and food ingredients that have been developed through the years have been published in the reports of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives and the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues.

CCFAC has also initiated work on a proposed draft Code of Practice for Source Directed Measures to Reduce the Contamination of Food with Chemicals. At the 32nd Session of this Committee it was decided to forward this proposed draft to the Executive Committee for preliminary adoption. This work is important in terms of reducing contamination of animal feed which is produced in areas highly affected by environmental pollutants. CCFAC is also currently working to establish maximum limits for the presence of lead and cadmium in food and feed materials.

Programmes to monitor and control levels of environmental and other chemical contaminants in food and feed must be supported by adequate analytical expertise and equipment. The dioxin crisis revealed that until recently, few laboratories were equipped to carry out testing for this group of contaminants. FAO is frequently involved in providing technical assistance to countries to improve their capability in food contaminant analysis.

Mycotoxin contamination

During its 32nd Session held in Beijing in March 2000, the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants decided to create a single general Code of Practice for the Prevention of Mycotoxin Contamination in Cereals, including specific Annexes related to the prevention of Ochratoxin A, Fumonisins and Zearalenone contamination in cereals, for consideration at its next meeting. Given that approximately 26 percent of the world cereal production is used directly for animal feeding (FAOSTAT) this work has direct implications for the control of mycotoxin contamination in feed.

The capability and reliability of food control analytical services are important considerations in the implementation of national programmes to ensure feed safety. FAO, in collaboration with the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAEA), has been widely involved in improving analytical quality assurance in laboratories carrying out mycotoxin analysis and has implemented several training courses on this topic. FAO training programmes help prepare laboratories to obtain official accreditation.

Transmissable spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs)

Research and investigation continues in the area of TSEs due to the important implications for the safety of foods of animal origin. In the face of a wave of consumer doubt fuelled by new evidence of the spread of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), in June 2001, FAO, WHO and OIE, held jointly in Paris a Technical consultation on BSE: public health, animal health and trade. The final report of that meeting is now available.[7]

BSE is widely regarded as the cause of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a rare but fatal brain disease that has thus far killed over 100 people. The largest outbreak of BSE has been in the UK, with almost200,000 cases reported, but cases have been reported in native cattle almost all over Western Europe, in some Central European countries (Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Czech republic), in Israel and Japan. However, potential spread to other countries may have occurred through exportation of meat-and-bone meal feed supplements and live cattle, and this has triggered renewed concerns about globalization of BSE. The meeting reviewed current evidence on the safety of bovine based foods, the risk that BSE may be occurring in countries where no cases have yet been reported and make recommendations on how to avoid an international epidemic of BSE and vCJD.

FAO issued several press briefings and communications urging countries around the world, not just those in Europe, to be concerned about the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its human form, vCJD. FAO calls for action to protect the human population, as well as the livestock, feed and meat industries. It suggested that all countries which have imported cattle or meat and bone meal (MBM) from Europe, especially the UK, during and since the 1980s, can be considered at risk from the disease. It added that countries at risk should implement effective surveillance for BSE in cattle and controls on the animal feed and meat industries. At present, this means: laboratory testing of samples from slaughtered cattle, and correct disposal of fallen stock and improved processing of offals and by-products. Within countries, FAO recommended applying the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system (HACCP) which aims at identifying potential problems and taking corrective measures throughout the food chain. Some of the issues include the production of animal feed, the raw materials used, cross-contamination in the feed mill, labelling of manufactured feeds, the feed transport system, as well as monitoring imported live animals, slaughtering methods, the rendering industry and the disposal of waste materials. Legislation to control the industry and its effective implementation is required, including capacity building and the training of operatives and government officials.

National programmes to prevent foodborne hazards related to animal feed

A basic component of the national controls necessary to guarantee the quality and safety of feeds and foods includes legislation and regulations. The legislation defines responsibilities and designates authority with respect to the wide spectrum of activities involved, establishes basic procedures to be followed in enforcing the legislation, and provides standards, guidelines and other recommendations to be respected by the industry in the production of animal feed.

Legislation and regulations concerning the production, manufacture, handling, storage and use of animal feed should be coherent and complementary parts of national food legislation. The development and implementation of food law is a political process, which is dynamic and evolutionary and often reflects changing public and political concerns. Unless governments undertake periodic review of food/feed legislation to ensure its coherency, it may become a patch work of additions and revisions leading to overlapping, redundant and conflicting jurisdictions for government agencies and gaps that could give rise to public health problems. Recent food safety problems involving unsafe feed have demonstrated certain weaknesses and gaps in existing legislation in force in many countries.

Some countries may wish to update policies in line with today’s food and feed safety issues. For example given the current possibilities of modern biotechnology, it may be necessary that regulations and procedures for the evaluation, authorisation and labelling of foods produced from biotechnology, be established. Measures instituted should not be more restrictive than necessary to meet legitimate food/feed quality and safety objectives.

The WTO SPS Agreement calls upon members to harmonise food safety measures internationally. Recent food safety crises linked to feed contamination have heightened international awareness of existing disparity among national legal limits for maximum levels of contaminants that could be associated with animal feedstuffs. This raises questions about the appropriate level of consumer protection and also constitutes a barrier to trade. Current work by relevant international organizations to determine appropriate guidelines levels of contaminants is necessary to facilitate eventual harmonisation of regulations without compromising public safety.

Enforcement of legislation and regulations depends on effective administration of feed control programmes, the existence of an inspection service whose staff is well trained in feed production and manufacture and related safety issues and analytical services adequately equipped and with sufficient capacity and the required technical expertise to carry out the volume and types of analyses necessary to support monitoring and surveillance programmes as well as routine regulatory testing.

There is agreement throughout the international community that food safety measures should be scientifically justified. This highlights the need for research on feed-related safety hazards in foods of animal origin. The establishment of research networks could be a useful strategy to promote sharing of scientific information and hence improve the chances of building more rapidly on scientific developments to arrive at reliable answers to questions regarding feed safety and quality.

Where potential problems associated with feed are not effectively covered by existing rapid alert systems for food safety, governments should take the necessary steps to ensure the implementation of swift action to contain and eliminate any feed safety problems with the potential to cause public health risk. In the case of feed in international trade, Codex provides guidelines for the Exchange of Information in Food Control Emergency Situations (CAC/GL 19-1995).

In seeking to address the weaknesses in feed control that have become apparent in recent years, governments must pay considerable attention to the inter-relations that exist between different agencies and the need to establish cooperative and coordinating mechanisms to ensure the best possible implementation of all programmes while giving privilege to public health concerns when these arise. The composition and safety of feed have important food safety implications, but are also critical considerations in animal health and husbandry. It is fitting therefore that governments establish suitable mechanisms for food safety agencies, agriculture departments and veterinary services to work together in determining the best policies and actions with regard to animal feed. It must be emphasised that an important aspect of control lies in training. Poor practices within the animal feed industry are often linked to lack of knowledge of associated hazards and how these should be managed. The development of relevant training and extension programmes for people involved in the feed industry or in animal feeding at farm level is an important aspect of control of animal feed.

The control of BSE offers a clear illustration of the need for close collaboration among food control and other concerned agencies. Measures that have been established in Europe and elsewhere centre around surveillance and notification of BSE in live animals, establishment of processing conditions for mammalian tissues to be used in animal feed and prevention of the use of mammalian tissues in feedstuffs for ruminants. The first of these activities would fall under the responsibility of veterinary services. The complexity of the flows of raw material, animal meal and compounds containing animal meal highlights the need for close cooperation between various agencies in order to achieve public health objectives.


Certain chemical substances and biological agents incorporated into feed at any stage of production up to the point of feeding, either intentionally or unintentionally, can result in hazards in food of animal origin. National food safety programmes should therefore include the control foodborne hazards that originate in feedstuffs.

Effective control of animal feedstuffs requires multi-disciplinary input. 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.

The disciplines that apply to international trade in both food and feed, as well as in feed ingredients were agreed upon during the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and set out in the SPS Agreement. Considerable work has been undertaken by the international community to support a uniform approach towards ensuring feed safety that is consistent with SPS principles.


Countries should review existing food safety and quality legislation so as to ensure that it provides an adequate basis for the control of feed-related hazards with the potential to cause public health risks.

Countries should participate to the fullest extent possible in the work being undertaken by international organizations involved in developing standards, guidelines and recommendations relating to feed-borne hazards.

Continued research is needed into the public health implications of animal feeds to support risk analysis of feedborne hazards. This would facilitate the setting of MRLs and the determination of effective control measures for protecting public health.

Suitable analytical and diagnostic methods should be developed for rapid screening and confirmation of feedborne hazards in national surveillance and monitoring programmes as well as in routine regulatory testing.

Mechanisms should be established to ensure multi-disciplinary scientific input, involving human medicine, veterinary medicine, animal science, crop science, food/feed technology, environmental science and toxicology, into policy and programme decisions relating to the control of feedborne hazards.

Dialogue among producers of feed or feed ingredients, livestock and aquaculture industries and government should be encouraged as an essential part of the process of elaborating codes of practice for the feed industry. This will ensure that eventual regulations and guidelines are practicable and widely supported.

Coordination and cooperation among several government agencies and departments may be necessary to ensure successful and efficient implementation of feed control programmes.

International organizations should continue to develop and make available information related to animal feed safety to their member countries thus supporting national feed control programmes.

It is recommended that national/regional projects are undertaken on capacity building for surveillance and prevention of BSE and other zoonoses. For this purpose, a model project has been developed.

The project will aim at assisting the governments of the countries concerned in carrying out risk analyses and establishing preventative measures against BSE and other zoonotic diseases. The project should focus on strengthening and supporting the veterinary services, assisting them in gaining a greater understanding of the epidemiology of the disease and risk factors. In addition diagnostic facilities will be developed within the countries for TSEs, and Good Practices in the animal feed industry and meat industry will be developed. Governments and producers will be assisted to prevent the possible spread of the disease or other similar zoonoses also through the assurance of the quality and safety of materials entering the human food chain through livestock feeds. The project intends to build national capacity, co-operation at national and regional level and to develop human resources for the management of healthy livestock production, safe feed manufacture and product processing.


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vii FAO/WHO 1999. Codex Alimentarius Commission Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of organically produced foods cac/gl 32-1999

viii FAO/WHO 2000. Report of the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants, 32nd Session, Beijing China, 20-24 March 2000. Alinorm 01/12.

FAO information resources - “feed and food safety”

(by Roopa Rajah, Information Management Specialist Animal Production and Health Division, FAO-Rome)

1 Introduction

“The world can be seen as only connections, nothing else... A piece of information is really only defined by what it’s related to, and how it’s related. There really is little else to meaning. The structure is everything.” Tim Berners-Lee. Weaving the Web.

An information system is a bottomless pit that collects the experiences of specialists and generalists in a palace which can be reached and searched for relevant information. This place where the information is stored can be a bundle of papers, a person’s memory or a computer’s memory. An information system may also be named after the content as a knowledge base when it contains dynamic data or information resource when it contains different types of content such as text, data, maps, etc. An information system needs an architect to design its “structure” and presentation of the content in such a way that it will be easily accessed and appreciated. Information architecture is as old as human communication. Where there’s information, there’s architecture. However, the challenge is to design the architecture in such a way that every one can find all the rooms and the contents of the room. When a book is published the author and the editor provide the architecture to the information in that book. However, electronic information involves an additional information architect who is an information management specialist. Information architecture is the science of deciding what you want your site to do and then constructing a blueprint before you begin to put the thing together. The questions to be asked are: What pieces of content does the site need? What sorts of functionality will be required? These questions are answered by the information architect (management specialist).

Information management involves is a discipline involving skills that will enable the professionals and the organization to make well-informed decisions resulting in a distinct competitive advantage in the world. It draws upon skills from records and information management, information technology, and strategic management.

It is important that the information management specialist follows some basic steps:

- Define the site's goals

- Collect co-workers opinions and assemble them in a coherent, weighted order of importance

- Define the audience

- Start organizing the future site into pages of content and functions that the site will need to have.

The responsibility of an information management specialist is to expand the profile of the organization so that it can answer the needs of 21st century questions faced with increasingly complex issues in the management of intellectual property, digital information resources, and new organizational relationships. Therefore the information manager must have the basic, if not detailed, knowledge of the substance or the content of the information resource as well as the ability to present the information to the audiences. For this purpose, the information architect (manager) needs to work with graphic designers, art directors, and creative directors, as well as the production team which is the body of members who produce the information. Information management professionals must understand and effectively manage information from its conception, including its role in the organization's ability to meet its strategic goals. They must be able to manage information strategically, referring back to the organization's core mission.

Today's information management professionals must possess content skills, an understanding of how and why data is created, who should have access to it, and when it should be destroyed. Further, they must be able to address these and other issues resulting from emerging business trends at the strategic level as business relationships and processes are being developed. This requires skills, knowledge, and perspective that integrate the tactical and strategic aspects of information and records management, information technology, and executive management. Therefore, the essence of a successful information resource is the content, its architecture and its maintenance and management.

2 FAO information resources - world agricultural information centre (WAICENT)

WAICENT is FAO's strategic programme for improving access to essential documents, statistics, maps and multimedia resources to millions of users around the globe. WAICENT is established for agricultural information management and dissemination. WAICENT works with representatives from all of FAO’s departments. These representatives are the information management specialists and office technology co-ordinators (OTCs) from various divisions in each department. WAICENT has the capabilities to provide advice on computer hardware and software solutions as well as offer technical assistance to departmental websites. Similarly, within the Division, the OTC is in charge of solving the technical problems associated with hardware and software, while the information management specialist focuses on collecting, understanding and designing the content architecture and maintenance of the content to improve the profile of the Division.

This strategic programme and the structure facilitate the functioning of the FAO Virtual Library and bring a wealth of information to electronic desktops around the world. State-of the art technologies are used to manage and disseminate FAO documentation which offers a vast array of information that is organized and linked to facilitate user access. A point of entry to this information is the WAICENT Information Finder, an online search tool that allows the user to navigate through WAICENT according to several criteria. The Information

Finder is a key tool for managing and disseminating the organization's information. Recently a workshop, held in mid-May, brought together representatives from all of FAO’s departments in a series of brainstorming sessions that focused on ways of improving the Information Finder, as well as assessing its current effectiveness and scope. Workshop participants agreed to improve the Information Finder's free text capabilities and to work towards the goal of establishing minimum information management standards to make searching more efficient for users.

3 FAO information resource - routine protocol for processing and on-line publication

Recent FAO publications are processed as both printed books as well as electronic documents. However, the publications produced by the animal production and health division before 2000 were mostly hard copies. Some of these publications were scanned and posted as PDFs with the facilities that were available in the late 80s and early 90s. Later in 1999 and in the following years most of the old publications were converted into HTML format and made available on-line.

Recently an updated “FAO House Style” for FAO publications was announced. This on-line document provides guidelines for preparing FAO publication. An FAO Microsoft Word template is also available which allows easy conversion of the document into either a word document for printing or an HTML document for posting on-line (see fig.1).

Any document that is posted on-line has certain requirements to fulfil so that when posted it can be found by any one who searches for this document using either free text search or advanced search. A document should contain the key words and metadata by which a user can easily find the document.

Metadata consist of information that characterizes the data (document). Metadata are used to provide documentation for data products. In essence, metadata answer who, what, when, where, why, and how about every facet of the data that are being documented. Metadata is created by data managers who are either technically-literate scientists or scientifically-literate computer specialists.

Figure 1: “FAO House Style” regulations for FAO publications is available on-line at Below that is the MS Word template used as a standard for FAO publications. This template can directly be converted to either an HTML file or word doc file for posting on-line or printing.

Figure 2: EIMS electronic form: It has fields for the entry of details of a document or a web page for on-line posting. On the right is the book that contains AGROVOC terms. The information in this book is available on-line under this URL. for the person who processes the documents and web pages

Besides this there is another process that introduces the document to the FAO document repository that is called the “Electronic Information Management System” (EIMS) (see Fig.2).

EIMS is an electronic form that has fields for specific characteristics of a document or web page. These forms are customised to each divisional need to allow a process of approval from the initiator of the document to the departmental head before it is posted on-line. Information can be uploaded in this form in an automated fashion from an MS Excel file. Therefore, the information regarding the document such as title, author, date, abstract as well as the key words are logged in an MS Excel file and transferred to EIMS as well as is maintained as an archive of details posted. The keywords in this case are predefined terms called AGROVOC terms. AGROVOC is a multilingual thesaurus for indexing and retrieving data in agricultural information systems, specifically the international research systems: AGRIS (International Information System for the Agricultural Science and Technology) and CARIS (Current Agricultural Research Information System), managed by FAO. It covers all agricultural sectors, including plant and animal protection, primary agricultural products, forestry, fisheries, human nutrition, rural development and the effects of agriculture on the environment. Publications processed through this system can be retrieved from the FAO Information Finder or through a subject search as found in AGA, Fisheries and SD websites.

In order to retrieve information from the FAO website one can search using a popular search engine such as Google where one has to type the letters “FAO” with all the search terms used. On the other hand one could also search for FAO information using the FAO Information Finder which offers various means of searches (see Fig.3). One can search using a free text search that will retrieve all documents, web pages and images or perform a specific search for only documents, web pages, press releases or images. On the FAO website there is also an option to contact the sales Department on-line to request a specific publication. However, lately most of the publications are made available on-line and therefore be directly downloaded from the site.

Figure 3: FAO information finder: offers a choice of search mechanisms including (1) free text search. One can search for (2) books, papers, press releases, (3) web pages and photos using either free text search or advanced search where one will have to specify the title or author or volume number.

4 FAO information resources-languages

FAO publications, both hard copies as well as the on-line publications, should be published in 5 official languages (English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese). The FAO website is presented in 5 languages. However, depending on the availability of resources usually internal information is found mostly in the first three languages. Some AGA publications are available in five languages while some are available only in one of the five languages. However, effort is taken to make these publications available in desired language based on the demand.

5 FAO information resources - “organizational resources”

Most FAO information is available electronically (see Figs.8 & 13). Therefore this paper will focus on the electronic information available from FAO and how this is successfully disseminated to the users. Major information resource pages that are found on FAO website face page are (see Fig.4) the (1) FAO departments, (2) interdisciplinary activities, statistical database, legal documents, (3) key programmes, (4) special initiatives base on the critical situations that might affect food security and safety of people, (5) WAICENT Information Finder to search for information in FAO.

Figure 4: FAO website face page. (1) FAO departments, (2) Interdisciplinary activities, (3) key programmes, (4) emergency based special initiatives, (5) WAICENT and the “Information Finder” (Search).

6 FAO information resource-departmental information resources

FAO technical departments are agriculture, economics, fisheries and forestry, which have detailed information on specific activities of their divisions. Since for this workshop information from agriculture department is more relevant we will have a look at the information resources within this department. agriculture department has a face page that is called AG-21 representing 21st century information in agriculture. This site functions as an archive for information related to important activities of the department and the Divisions within. It also highlights the important activities of the divisions as they happen and provides direct links to the divisional sites (see fig.5).

The internal divisional sites are AGA, AGE, AGL, AGP and AGS. The expansions of these abbreviations are found on the site. AGA is “animal production and health division” and has its own site that provides past and present information and means to search these recorded information from AGA website. This includes publications as well as data from internal specialised information systems related to livestock development.

Figure 5: Agriculture department website face page. (1) Option to search for information from all divisions of agriculture department. (2) The leading links to its divisions as “gateways”.

7 FAO information resource - “divisional information resources”

Information in AGA website is organized based on a concept that works around the teams that work in groups based on the themes in livestock development related to the tasks involved (see fig.6). All the documents and the internal web pages are processed through EIMS and therefore can be retrieved in a search from AGA website. The information can be retrieved from any level by using a free text search or by using a selected theme based search or by directly accessing the internal sites of the teams.

The AGA website face page is structured in such a way that the options to access the various information along with the other calendar related information and AGA publication search will always be available on the face (see Fig.8). One would recognize their location within AGA website by seeing the highlighted subtitle. The features on the AGA website are the structure of the division, the staff, programme entities which provide an overview of AGA activities, subjects of interest which provide options to search on specific subject of common interest, facts for farmers which are picture oriented publications for farmers and other who may not be able to read detailed documents, events such as conferences and workshops, electronic conferences, publications and the options to choose to browse the AGA page in the other two languages such as French and Spanish. The AGA website will soon be made available in the other two FAO official languages, Chinese and Arabic.

Regional offices and other FAO sites are posted on the first page to provide easy access. However, the APHCA commission is also posted as one of the team pages, along with the other commission page which is EUFMD.

Figure 6: AGA website structure shown above. Below is the AGA website face page showing the architecture based on the tasks, themes and teams approach.

Figure 7: Commissions such as APHCA and EUFMD are placed on the face page to increase its visibility. Also websites of regional offices are placed under other FAO websites on the face page.

Figure 8: AGA face page and publications pages: On the AGA face page there is a link to (1) “publications” page. This publications page further takes the user into classified AGA publications.

The AGA website can be searched using free text or theme search or by exploring AGA publication pages for books. Subject based search or theme search will provide the users with more key words or AGROVOC terms to choose and search specifically for that term. Building this thematic search is an on-going process.

8 FAO information resources - “feed and food safety”

In order to retrieve information on feed and food safety one must search using a popular search engine such as Google or should search using FAO information finder. FAO information finder offers various means of search (see Fig. 3). One can search using free text that will retrieve all documents, WebPages and images or search only documents, WebPages, press releases or images.

In addition, there are Portals which are access point for official national and international information related to specific subject or topic. FAO feed and food safety gateway is one such portal for feed and food safety related information. The Portal contains official information of interest to all national and international agencies responsible for managing biosecurity risks, from trade or customs regulation at points of entry to a country to broadly-based multidisciplinary agencies with a remit to cover all aspects of potential risk. It is also used by producers, or companies trading agricultural or food products.

“FAO Feed and Food Safety Gateway” (FFFSG) is accessible though either the external search engine such as Google or from FAO search using Information finder or from within AGA search (see Fig.10).

Figure 10: When one searches for information regarding “feed and food safety” in (1) “Google” ( the very first hit is “FAO Feed and Food Safety Gateway” (FFFSG). Similarly, using (2) FAO “Info-Finder Website Search” one might find the FFFSG as the first hit. However, using (3) FAO “Info-Finder Document Search” one will find AGA programme entity (A6 - one of AGA activity) which is titled “Veterinary Public Health and Food and Feed Safety” and other related documents in FAO site.

FFFSG provides access to international organizational information related to feed and food safety. The site is designed based on a “matrix-bubble page” concept. In this type of website information from various sources related to one topic of interest for example “feed and food safety”) is collected and presented in one site. This page is a matrix, which has numerous points or bubbles each leading to a page with numerous links related to one subject from various organizations. This allows the user to get a comprehensive view of the available information from various organizations in one place. Also, functions like a reservoir for collecting legal and legislative information related to a “Hot topic” of that time which will be present and a future reference point. For example, FFFSG provides feed and food safety related information from all international organization as well as detailed information from FAO (see Fig.11).

Figure 11: The (1) international and (2) FAO information related to “feed and food safety” found in “FAO food and feed safety gateway”

The other important information resource in FAO website is the CODEX ALIMENTARIUS (see Fig.12). However, it is not easy to find this site from the face page of FAO. The code of practice and critical information related to various aspects under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standard Programme.

Figure 12: Codex alimentarius website where one can search for codes of practice (for example food hygiene) as well as follow the progress of the CODEX meetings.

Yet another sources of information related to animal feed and food safety can be retrieved from FAO statistical database (FAOSTAT) (fig.13) and FAO legal office (fig.14 A & B). FAOSTAT collects information (data) from official sources of different countries and this information is maintained in a database which allows the user to retrieve information based in the country/s or time or a duration. Searching FAOSTAT could be a difficult process for a new user. However, there is contact information on the website and appropriate instructions and help are available when contacted.

Figure 13: FAOSTAT home page: This is a database where country information on various aspects of agriculture, Trade, commodities, land etc. is maintained. This is a searchable database.

FAO legal office other than providing in-house council in accordance with the basic texts of the organization giving legal advisory service to FAO members and assisting in formulation of treaties on food and agriculture also publishes legal studies and maintains a database titled FAOLEX. FAOLEX maintains national legislations and international agreements concerning food and agriculture including fisheries, forestry and water. FAOLEX is a searchable database to retrieve information.

Figure 14: FAO legal office home page: (1) FAOLEX has an advanced search pagewhich can be used to selectively look at legal documents. (2) Relevant excerpts are regularly retrieved from this site and posted on a pre-searched link on “feed and food safety gateway”

Figure 15: Samples of publications retrieved for “feed and food safety” using “info-finder”

Food safety and security related information could be retrieved from many divisions when searched through the advanced search in information finder. This allows the user to search for specific publication from each department or even division. Or if the user prefers, ca search for publication on a specific topic published by various departments. This information will be retrieved from the document repository. This search will retrieve only publications. On the other hand if one desires to retrieve all types of publications, web pages and images one may use free text search. Few examples from such search are shown in Figure 15.

To conclude samples of information resources from FAO website, let us look at one more example. Information found in the commissions and regional offices can also be retrieved from an information finder search. These are sites maintained outside FAO and therefore there is a possibility that these documents are processed in a different way from those of FAO documents. These documents are still retrievable through free text search in information finder. However, the numbers of documents retrieved are so numerous that it is tiresome to sort them out.

Figure 16 shows the result for a search “APHCA”. Publications, documents, meeting reports and others can be retrieved when searched though free text search in information finder which brings about 291 results. However, to retrieve specific documents the documents must be processed with appropriate key words and meta-tags.

Figure 16: Information finder search for APHCA and a sample publication retrieved

Another upcoming FAO information resource is the “international portal for food safety, animal and plant health”(see Fig.17). This Portal is an access point for official national and international information relating to bioprotection, the risks associated with agriculture (including fisheries and forestry) and food production, whether these risks affect the safety or wholesomeness of food; arise from the introduction of new technologies; or are caused by plant and animal pests or diseases, or by zoonoses.

Figure17: International portal on food safety, animal and plant health.

9 Towards a virtual food standards agency

The production of animal feed is one of the most important sectors of activity in agriculture. Approximately 600 million tonnes of feeding stuffs are annually produced in the World. Initially, the rules on animal feed from the 1970's put the emphasis on furthering productivity of livestock farming, facilitating the free circulation of feeding stuffs in the internal market and providing information to the stock breeders on feeding stuffs' characteristics. Today emphasis has shifted more towards the protection of human and animal health and to some extent to environmental protection.

For consumers, safety is the most important ingredient of their food. Recent crises have undermined public confidence in the capacity of the food industry. Modernising legislation into a coherent and transparent set of rules, reinforcing controls from the farm to the table and increasing the capability of the scientific advice system, will guarantee a high level of human health and consumer protection.

One of the main problems in many countries concerning the issue of food safety is the fragmented institutional structure and the confusion of responsibilities. There are two options to overcome these problems. The first option is to restructure the total organisational framework in that country into a more effective one. This option is quite difficult to realise, due to the high costs and a probable lack of participation of government institutions, which are not willing to lose the mandate that was given to them in the past. The other option is to create a new virtual structure for A Virtual International Food Safety Agency (VIFSA) that is in consultation with but independent of governmental control that would allow quick yet efficient system of facing the problems, establishing new ways and practicing safety measures. A volunteer in FAO (Baastian Meerburg, Wageningen university) presented a concept of a VIFSA at the recent Pan-European Conference on Food Safety (Fig. 18).

Figure 18: A scheme explaining the structure of VIFSA

The concept of an international virtual food safety agency: The main objective of the VIFSA is to protect public health from risks which may arise in connection with the consumption of food (including risks caused by the way in which it is produced or supplied) and otherwise to protect the interests of consumers in relation to food.

The VFSA would combine all the data which is collected by existing control and inspection authorities. These authorities include for example the state veterinary service, border inspection posts etc. The VFSA would be enabled to perform checks on the performance of these control and inspection authorities. Complete transparency is assured and all data would be available to the different institutions, stakeholders and the general public. By maintaining a central data repository, linkages can be achieved which form the basis of an effective traceability system.

10 Conclusion

Finally, I would like to make a point about corporate appeal and efficiency. To maintain the corporate efficiency and appeal to satisfy the user, it is necessary to follow a standardized protocol which can be modified and updated according to the changing technology and users.

BSE surveillance in Malaysia

(by S.H. Sharifah, I. Azahar, M. Rohaizad, M. Rozanah, S. Chandrasegaram, B.L. Ong, J.A. Aziz, M. Aziz, and A.R. Matta, DVS, Malaysia)


The bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) epidemic and its implications for human health have drawn outstanding concern of the need for intensive surveillance of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in animals throughout Europe. This concern for BSE has also spilled over to the rest of the world where the risk of eventual BSE appearance is partially related to the exposure of humans and cattle to meat, meat bone meal (MBM) and live infected cattle and its products, exported from Britain and other Category III and IV countries; that is countries likely to present a low to high level of BSE risk. The UN, FAO has reported that more than 30 countries have improved surveillance and have banned the import of MBM and live cattle from Western European countries where the presence of BSE has been confirmed. Britain, however, stopped exporting MBM in 1996. In view of all these, the Government of Malaysia has undertaken a series of measures to prevent introduction of the disease into the country.

The need of a BSE surveillance programme in Malaysia

BSE can be introduced into and can occur in Malaysia in 3 ways:

From the importation of infected animal that die on the farm and are rendered for feeding local ruminant livestock. This is the greatest potential source of infectivity in the feed system

From exposure to spongiform encephalities in other domestic species (eg. scrapies in sheep).

From the importation of MBM and feeding of the infected feed to local ruminant livestock.

The possibilities of (1) (2) and (3) contributing to BSE in this country are very remote indeed, as Malaysia does not import and has banned importation of beef, live bovine and their products from BSE infected countries. Malaysia too, does not practise rendering cattle and sheep as feed for ruminants, however, regulations prohibiting rendering animal carcasses (even local animals) have been instituted. Malaysia is also free from scrapies, (although no studies on determining scrapie prevalence has been formally undertaken) as there have been no cases of scrapies ever reported in the country.

As for the importation of livestock feed, Malaysia has banned import and feeding of MBM to all domestic animals and has found alternative sources of MBM from certified BSE-free countries, such as Australia [geographical BSE risk: (GBR1)], New Zealand (GBR1) and USA (GBRII - unlikely, but a BSE risk cannot be excluded). Since 1996, Malaysia has outlined administrative procedures to prevent entry of MBM from Europe. In September 2000, a total ban on MBM from Europe was fully implemented. However, the effectiveness of the feed ban is somewhat uncertain because compliance rates are not precisely known.

Malaysia, therefore appears to be very resistant to BSE challenge, primarily because of the measures taken in prohibiting of imports, by the Government which greatly reduces the chances of transmission of infection into the local herd. Malaysia would therefore, like to declare herself as a country in the (GBR) level 1, where the GBR gives an indication on the level of infection in the country. A GBR 1 is classified as a country highly unlikely to have BSE infected cattle or to present a BSE risk. However, the International Animal Health Code of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) requires that countries claiming to be free of TSEs have in place a system to detect BSE and scrapie, should they occur.

Malaysia, therefore has undertaken surveillance programmes to substantiate claims of freedom of disease/infection and to maintain this Level 1 status. The information acquired from the surveillance system, will be new knowledge especially in the establishment of base line data for documenting freedom or presence of the disease in the country. At present, this means laboratory testing of samples from slaughtered cattle and fallen stock.

Approaches in the BSE surveillance programme

1 BSE as a notifiable disease

Mandatory reporting of BSE clinically suspected animals is currently the only method used by most countries to detect cases of BSE. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy has therefore been made a notifiable disease in Malaysia. Suspected cases of BSE either in farms, abattoirs or any cattle establishments shall be reported to the local Veterinary Station or administrations, Regional Veterinary Diagnostic laboratories or to the Veterinary Research Institute, which will then channel notification to the Division of Epidemiology, Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), Malaysia.

Cattle with the following conditions may be considered as suspected BSE cattle or high risk BSE-infected cattle:

Nervous signs that last for a long time i.e. at least 15 days and occur in animal over 1 year old

Dying animal without any apparent infection or trauma

Appearance of chronic or wasting disease

Animals that were imported from countries with BSE or BSE high risk countries

Animals that have been fed with feedstuffs potentially contaminated with BSE

A detailed examination of cattle and sheep for neurological diseases that could be mistaken for a TSE will be conducted. A pathologist shall humanely kill the animal, collect the brain and other samples for diagnosis of BSE and/or other neurological diseases. Currently, there is no compensation scheme for slaughtering BSE suspected animals in Malaysia, as it is foreseen that the number of cases will be very low. However, slaughter and compensation for ascertainment of cases will need to be undertaken. Until the compensation scheme is approved, BSE suspected animals will be purchased for diagnostic purposes.

2 Education and awareness programmes

The basis for sound BSE surveillance is in the understanding of the disease. The DVS at various levels has implemented appropriate BSE publicity and on-going educational programmes on clinical signs, pathology, diagnosis and sample submission for suspected BSE cases, to veterinary administrative staff, laboratory personnel, veterinarians, abattoir personnels and livestock farm staffs. Training of identified pathologists in UK and EU countries has also been undertaken. Education and training of abattoir personnels through courses and videos have also been organised. With the on-going educational programmes on BSE, it is hoped that, veterinarians and private veterinarians in farms, and abattoir personnels will be more aware, especially on the importance of having any fallen stock tested for BSE. Extensive publicity on the risk and hazards of BSE as public health concerns, however, need to be extended to the public and consumers.

3 Identification of abattoirs for collection of brain samples

Eight abattoirs have been identified for the collection of brain samples for the BSE surveillance programme. The selections are based on the large no of heads of cattle slaughtered daily at the abattoirs and also on their locations in various part of the country. Sampling is done on Malaysian cattle aged 1 year and above, although most cases of BSE occurred in cattle over 4 years and as young as 2 years. Identified and trained abattoir personnels are required to collect the samples using a spatula specially designed to collect the obex region of the brain where the prions protein are most concentrated. The obex is scooped out from the vertebral foramen, placed in special vials and kept in ice (4 to 8°C). The skull is then opened and the whole brain is removed and immersed in 10% phosphate buffered formalin. The vials containing the obex and the brain in formalin are then transported to the collecting Regional Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (RVDL). At the RVDL, the brains are processed for histopathological examinations by trained veterinarians especially in BSE testing and surveillance. The vials containing the obex samples are kept in -20°C freezers until they are collected by VRI, Ipoh for immediate testing at the centre.

Besides histopathology, confirmation by the Western blot technique will also be conducted.

Full information of each animal slaughtered, from which the brain is taken will be recorded at the abattoir and send with the attached specimens to the RVDL and the Division of Epidemiology in Kuala Lumpur. The information will include butchers names and addresses, species, breed, age, sex, local or imported, management system, feeding, origin of cattle (previous owner, village, district, state) and health status. The brain will be purchased from the butcher if necessary.

4 Laboratory-based surveillance

Brain samples of adult cattle for the BSE surveillance are obtained primarily from healthy cattle sent to the abattoirs for slaughter. Other samples included in the programme should come from field cases of cattle exhibiting signs of neurological disease, neurological cases submitted to the diagnostic laboratories and cattle condemned at slaughter for neurological reasons. In Europe, due to the prevalence of disease, surveillance has generally been based on post-mortem examination of the CNS of animals with clinical signs suggestive of BSE. BSE is typically diagnosed by histopathological examination of brain sections for spongiform changes and accumulation of abnormal PrPsc proteins by immunohistochemistry, by visualization of scrapie-associated fibrils (SAF) using electron microscopy or by detecting the presence of protease-resistant (PrPsc) protein in brain digestions either by Western blotting and other immunochemical methods. However, histological and immunohistochemical techniques as well as SAF isolation are labor intensive and require a relatively long time to obtain a diagnosis.

4.1 Histopathological examination of brain sections

DVS has initiated studies since the year 2000 on BSE testing using histopathology, the gold standard test for BSE, and work is still continuing. Histopathological examinations are conducted in all the identified RVDLs. Selected veterinarians in 5 regional diagnostic labs in the country have been trained in the collection of brain sections and histopathological examination of BSE. .

To date, 128 brains of cattle from abbatoirs and farms have been examined and found negative to the disease. The potential risk, difficulty and time consumed in removing the brain and sectioning for histopathological examinations have been a setback in the rapid diagnosis.

4.2 Sandwich ELISA (using 2 monoclonal antibodies) for detection of abnormal protein PrPsc in brain

Three tests by 3 companies i.e. the Prionics® - Check Western (Switzerland), Enfer Technology - ELISA (Ireland) and the Platelia ® CEA - sandwich ELISA (France) have been evaluated by the european commission in 1999. All these tests have been validated by the Veterinary Laboratory Agencies (VLA), Weybridge, UK and are able to detect low levels of PrPsc.

Malaysia has chosen to use the Platelia® CEA test, as the primary test for the detection of BSE agent in the country. Due to the high cost of testing per brain sample, it was decided that a total of 2000 brain samples from cattle sent for routine slaughtering at abattoirs would be tested, i.e. out of a total number of approximately 700,000 live cattle population in the country. The confirmation of any positive samples detected by this sandwich-ELISA - Platelia® CEA test, will be done using the Prionics®-Check Western. Positive samples will also be validated by the VLA in UK before they are officially announced positive. The Platelia® CEA test has been shown to be 100% specific and 100% sensitive by the VLA. It can detect abnormal prion proteins at more than 3000 times dilution and was proven to be able to detect quantities of PrPsc at least 1000 times lower than those observed at the clinical stage. The Prionics®-Check Western on the other hand, although not as sensitive as the sandwich-ELISA - Platelia® CEA test, guarantees high reliability of PrPsc detection, as besides being an immunological test using monoclonal antibody, the differences in the molecular weight in SDS-PAGE, between the control undigested protein (32-35kDa) and the BSE positive PrPsc resistant protein (27-30kDa) together with the glycosylation patterns comprising of 3 bands can be observed.

These tests augur well for very early detection of the disease (detect subclinical cases as animals are found normal in clinical tests) and detects BSE infections during routine slaughtering (even before occurrence and lesions could be detected by histopathology). These tests are very important in diagnosing a disease with very low incidence.

The Veterinary Research Institute (VRI), Ipoh is the laboratory conducting the ELISA for BSE detection as it has a BSL-3 containment unit. BSE is not contagious, however, proper laboratory handling of samples aims primarily to avoid accidental, iatrogenic, ocular or oronasal exposures. Results of testing are entered on a continuous basis into the National BSE database of the Division of Epidemiology, DVS, which includes all the data fed in the initial stage of sample collections at the abattoir.

Responsibilities, specimen and information flow in the programme are summarized in Diagram 1.

Control Measures and Actions to Be Taken, if Cattle Are Found Positive for BSE (after confirmation by VLA, Weybridge UK)

- Identification and tracing of cattle and quarantine of herd immediately after BSE is suspected

- Placing the farm under movement control

- Tracing of all animals that were kept with the infected cow

- Epidemiological investigation of the feed used on the farm for the possible source of infection

- Visit to all cattle farms in Malaysia for examination of cattle for clinical signs compatible with BSE

- Visit to all feed mills to collect information on the use of MBM and on measures taken for prevention of cross-contamination, and to take and analyze feed samples.

- Slaughter and compensation for herd destruction.

Diagram 1. BSE Surveillance Programme in Malaysia: Responsibilities, Specimen and Information Flow

The veterinary health mark scheme under the veterinary inspection and accreditation programme

(by Dr Kamalruzaman, Department of Veterinary Services, Malaysia)


This veterinary inspection and accreditation programme was developed in the 1980’s to facilitate veterinary certification of animal and poultry products meant for export. Under this programme accredited plants were awarded the Veterinary Health Mark logo (VHM). The implementation of the programme reduced significantly the processing period for applications of veterinary export permits from weeks to just a few days and achieved widespread local acceptance from both the livestock processing industry and consumers. Being pro-active in nature and a timesaving mechanism, the programme was nominated and won the innovation achievement award from the government of Malaysia in 1995.

The VHM scheme is regarded as an intellectual property of the government by definition in the Public Service Department Circular No.5 of 1999. Therefore, the government has the sole right over its use. By virtue of the authority bestowed by the government, the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) has been entrusted with the responsibility to regulate the commercial use and at the same time prevent any misuse of the logo by any commercial concern. The VHM logo has been classified as a certification trademark (class 16, 29 and 44) under the Trademarks Regulations 1997/Trademarks Act 1976.

Veterinary health mark logo

The Veterinary Health Mark Logo is a mark of quality given to plants processing livestock products, awarded under the Veterinary Inspection and Accreditation Programme of the Department of Veterinary Services, Ministry of Agriculture Malaysia. It also signifies the complete compliance by the plants to the minimal standards of hygiene and sanitation, quality assurance and food safety set by DVS. This is verified through the process of plant inspection, examination and auditing of the food safety system and good manufacturing practice programmes in place by the plant.

Accredited plants awarded with the VHM logo are allowed to imprint the logo on the label of approved products/packaging material, not only to gain public confidence on the safety of the product but also as a marketing tool. Being accredited under this programme brings other added benefits. At departmental level, applications for veterinary certificates from accredited establishments exporting products of animal origin are processed with minimal delay. This prompt issuance of veterinary certificates, governed by the Animal Rules 1962, allows processors to comply fully with the mandatory requirement imposed by importing countries and programme their exports more efficiently.

Criteria of participation

The programme is voluntary and is open for participation from all food processing plants of animal origin and abattoirs. However, the programme becomes compulsory for all livestock export food processing plants because importing countries impose mandatory Veterinary Certification of their products by a competent veterinary authority as one of the conditions to be fulfilled prior to their export.

Application procedure

All plants intending to participate in this programme are to apply using the relevant forms available at the headquarters of the department of veterinary services Malaysia or through the website. The application forms require the following information:

1. Plant establishment profile

2. Quality assurance programme (QAP)

2.1. Quality manual

- Quality policy
- Quality statement

2.2 Good manufacturing practices

- Premises and location
- Personnel and training
- Equipment and supplies
- Sanitary facilities
- Pest control
- Recall programme

2.3 Prerequisite programme

- Raw material control
- Sanitary control
- Standard operation procedures
- Transportation and storage
- Records and documentation
- Calibration procedure
- Laboratory procedures

3. HACCP plan

- Documentation
- Records

4. Audit report

- HACCP plant audit
- GMP audit

Services provided

Under this programme, DVS provides the following services to new and accredited establishments:

- Relevant guidelines and codes of veterinary practice;

- Advice on building guideline for processing plants;

- Advice on further remedial measures to improve and upgrade plants to meet new requirements from importing countries;

- Consultation and advice on the preparation of manuals for quality assurance and HACCP programmes.

- Continuous DVS monitoring and supervision in the form of surveillance audits (monthly) and a review yearly.

At the moment, the government does not levy any fees for the services. However the government reserves the right to charge reasonable and appropriate fees for all type of services rendered in future.

Approval procedures

All applications are scrutinised for their completeness-adequacy auditing. A complete application will initiate the following activities:

An initial inspection of the plant to evaluate and assess the status of the current quality assurance programme (Good Manufacturing Practice Programmes, other prerequisite programmes, Standard Operating Procedures, audit, etc.) and also its HACCP programme.

Follow-up audits will be carried out if deficiencies are observed during the initial inspection that warrants repairs and upgrading of facilities.

The final inspection report will be evaluated and the findings submitted to the Departmental Standing Committee for the Award of the VHM Logo for consideration.

On being award, the application will receive an official letter of approval, the VHM logo with the establishment number and all the conditions that must be abided strictly.

Conditions for use of VHM logo

All accredited plants are allowed to use the logo subjected to the following conditions:

- The logo can be imprinted on labels/packing of approved products only. Samples of logo-imprinted package either in photographic or normal-size form should be submitted to DVS as evidence of use.

- This logo is non-transferable to other products and premises of production.

- The management of approved establishments agree to give access to DVS staff for purposes of inspection, surveillance and review auditing and sample collected for laboratory testing.

- All changes in management, plant and processing operations have to be promptly notified to DVS but in any case not later than 30 days after such changes.

Condition for withdrawal of logo

The above award can be withdrawn on the following conditions:

- Non-compliance observed during surveillance and review audits.

- Change in the location of the premises used for normal operations.

- Change in the management of the company.

- Changes in the system of operation as compared to the one approved at the time of award.

- Voluntary request for withdrawal from the programme.

- Non-usage of logo for a continuous period of two (2) years.

Benefits of the scheme

To the producers (processing plants)

- The processing plants are under the continuous supervision of a competent authority, that is, the department of veterinary services, Malaysia.

- Products from accredited plants have considerable competitive edge in terms of market access and marketability.

- Higher degree of confidence on the hygiene and safety of the products produced.

- Reliable indicator of good plant management.

- Boosting buyer’s confidence towards products from accredited plants.

- Easier acceptance in applications for access to foreign markets.

- Faster export document processing at DVS (within three working days) after the receipt of application.

To the consumers

- Greater assurance of food safety to consumers.

- Significant contribution towards improved public health.

- Expansion in the range of products safe for human consumption.

- Constant protection of consumer’s health interest by the government.


The Veterinary Health Mark accreditation scheme vital components are focussed on compliance to Quality Assurance Programme (QAP), which is actually the combination of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and pre-requisite programme and an effective food safety programme (HACCP). The scheme is aimed at producing quality and safe animal products for public consumption in the country and also for export.

MS ISO 9000 on livestock farms

(by V. Ng I. Hooi, Department of Veterinary Services, Malaysia)


One of the main thrusts or activities of the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) Malaysia is the production of quality animals for the development of the livestock industry. This entails the process of selection, breeding and propagation of quality genetic materials for distribution to farmers and various stakeholders for livestock development program. The quality animals are sold at a premium price to existing markets and in new potential market areas by the breeders and farmers, which in turn will lead to the realization of better efficiencies through improved practices. Farms that achieved quality standards can be accredited and become standard benchmarks for other farms to follow. The production of animals with high genetic quality and their products from accredited farms will have potential for expansion in both the export and domestic markets.

In 1977, the Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) of the prime minister’s department issued a directive on the Malaysian standard international organisation for standardization 9000 (MS ISO 9000) implementation guideline in the civil service. The DVS adopted the MS ISO 9002: 1994 quality management system for its farms at the end of 1998, to enchance organizational efficiency and effectiveness, Three farms and one research institution participated in the first phase of implementation, namely Pusat Ternakan Haiwan (PTH) Air Hitam, PTH Padang Hijau, PTH Jelai Gemas and Institut Bioteknologi Haiwan Kebangsaan (IBHK). In March 2000, these centres successfully obtained the MS ISO 9002:1994 certification in production of ruminant genetic products from MAMPU.

This paper provides a brief report on the issues relating to the implementation of MS ISO 9002:1994 quality management systems in the production of ruminant genetic products for DVS farms.


The main objective of implementing MS ISO 9002:1994 in the DVS farms was to develop and maintain an efficient and effective quality management system in the production of quality genetic animals and materials in the ruminant livestock sector.

Implementation schedule

Three livestock production areas namely the dairy cattle, beef cattle and semen production were identified in the first phase of implementation of the MS ISO 9000 in the production of ruminant genetic products. The implementation stages of MS ISO 9000 consisted of an awareness training program, defining functions of project team, develop action plan, identification of core processes, documentation, trial run and certification.

Development of the quality manual, work procedures, work instructions, and supportive documents for the management of farms and the institute took 14 months to complete. Reviews and corrections of the documents were simultaneously carried out during a trial run that was carried out for a period of 6 months. The MAMPU carried out the adequacy audit for the final documents. The system was officially implemented only after passing adequacy audit test. The certification was only awarded after compliance audit and approval that took another 6 months.

The implementation of MS ISO 9000 in the farms has provided a tremendous learning experience that will assist us in expediting the establishment of ISO standards in other farms. The aim of the DVS is to implement MS ISO 9000 in all government farms for all types of animals. Three cattle farms, namely PTH Ulu Lepar, PTH Tanah Merah and PTH Tersat have finished the trial run and are in the final stage of preparation of documents for adequacy audit. The goat farms in PTH Kpg Pah, PTH Gajah Mati and PTH Chalok have just finished the final documentation and are ready for adequacy audit. Other centers such as Pusat Pembiakan Itik (PPI) Paya Jaras and Pusat Pembiakan Unggas (PPU) Bukit Tengah had been given awareness training and will be starting the documentation process, which is expected to complete by end of the year.

Problem and issues of implementation

The lack of guidelines and reference materials specific for the implementation of MS ISO 9000 in the farms presents an enormous challenge to the DVS. However, this has become a useful learning process for the DVS and MAMPU. The issues encountered in implementing the MS ISO 9000 certification for the farms are as follows:

1. Interpretations of the ISO 9000 series of quality management system models were varied. This is because of the generic nature of the MS ISO quality management system principles. Terminology and conceptual application requirements embodied in the 19 elements of ISO 9002 need to be interpreted in the context of the livestock farms.

2. The implementation is a lengthy process that requires training in the concept, application and documentation of MS ISO 9000. Adequate training of officers at the policy and implementation level is critical to ensure its successful implementation. Staff has to be exposed in all areas related to MS ISO 9000 including auditing.

3. Enormous effort and time were required in the initial development of MS ISO 9000 procedures and documentation. The management has to identify the core activities, relationship to other units, provide objective evidence that necessary actions have been implemented and coordinated, in line with the policy of the department. The Department has to identify implementation plan, schedule (chart), critical milestone, and review.

4. Absolute commitment of management and staff of the department is necessary for the successful implementation of MS ISO 9000 in any organization. It is necessary to change the mindset of staff towards quality and to support the creation of a quality culture. One has to “Do what you document and document what you do”. In this way we will be able to carry out transformation designed and institutionalize a culture of quality consciousness.

5. The existing management system has to be reorganized with the implementation of MS ISO 9000. This includes a system of reporting, recording and documentation of all activities carried out in accordance to the new MS ISO requirements. At the initial stage of implementation, it imposed extra cost on the farm. There was also a need to provide additional resources in terms of facility and infrastructure support as well as additional manpower for coordinating, monitoring and controlling the implementation activities.

6. Quality improvement is a continual process. There should be a constant review of critical processes, to take preventive and corrective actions in order to sustain the quality culture in line with the MS ISO 9000 standards. This requires conscientious effort by all levels of staff in the farms.


The implementation of MS ISO 9000 in the DVS farms has resulted in the improvements in the efficiency and productivity of animals. This has contributed to some significant progress made in the improvement of animal genetics in the livestock sector. In order to create awareness and sustain commitment among the staff, there is a need for continuous training especially with the transfer and retirement of staff each year. Since the MS ISO 9000: 1994 will soon become obsolete, the staff will have to orientate themselves towards the change to MS ISO 9000: 2000 in the next phase of development.

There are other benefits derived from the implementation namely strengthening team work, creation of mutual trust among the staff, greater transparency in administration, more systematic management of quality and development of excellent work culture. This will inevitably lead to competent decision-making, effective control of the Department’s suppliers, control on the cost and reduction in wastage.

Figure 1 Organization chart-quality implementation system

Figure 2 Beef cattle farm core process

Figure 3 Dairy cattle farm core process

Figure 4 Ruminant genetic product core process in IBHK (Frozen Semen)

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