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  • Daniela Battaglia
    Livestock Production
    Livestock Production Systems Branch FAO HQ,
    Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
    00153 Rome, Italy
  • [email protected]

  • Sarah Cahill
    Food safety and Quality Unit Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
    00153 Rome, Italy
  • [email protected]
A farmer feeding cows fresh fodder. ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano


Ensuring feed safety: a must for the entire food value chain

Animal feed safety has an impact on the safety of the human food supply, the livelihood of farmers, animal health and welfare, animal productivity, and the health of feed producers, handlers and users. Several experts from around the world gathered at FAO Headquarters to review the current knowledge on hazards related to animal feed, the aim of the meeting was to provide advice to FAO, WHO and their member countries on the most appropriate use of this information, to identify knowledge gaps and to prioritize future work.


The Expert Meeting was jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), with the overall aim of securing feed safety and ensuring fair trade practices in the feed and food trade. The objective was to provide an updated overview of the current state of knowledge on hazards associated with feed (including feed and products of feed production technologies of increasing relevance, such as insects, former food and food processing by-products and biofuels by-products). The meeting was meant also to provide guidance on the most appropriate use of this information for risk analyses purposes; to identify knowledge gaps and to prioritize future work on the identification of potential hazards of key global concern from the perspective of human and animal health.

The demand for animal feed, including aquafeed, is expected to continue to go up with an increase of the demand for foods of animal origin, both terrestrial and aquatic. The challenge is not only to meet the growing demand for feed but also to ensure its safety. Feed safety incorporates the impact on the human as well as animal health and welfare, which can also have an effect on productivity.

Work on the application of the risk analysis framework provided by Codex in the field of animal feed has facilitated the understanding of the role of animal feed safety on public health and of the importance of risk-based measures to prevent and control hazards. Hazards may be introduced through feed ingredients, as well as drinking water for animals, or via carryover or contamination during production, handling, storage, transportation and use of feed. The presence of a hazard may also result from accidental or deliberate (e.g. fraud) human intervention. Hazards associated with animal feed can be of a biological, chemical or physical nature and include pathogenic microorganisms, mycotoxins, heavy metals, dioxins, dibenzofurans and PCBs, residues of veterinary drugs and pesticides, and radionuclides. Previously unidentified hazards may be associated with new or increased use of certain feed or feed ingredients which are entering the production chain e.g. agro-industrial by-products (such as those of the biofuel industry), insects, food processing by-products, former food, or through new and developing feed production technologies.

The meeting participants coming from a wide range of countries as diverse as China and Benin, for instance, or Brazil and Norway, reviewed and discussed the following hazards of chemical, biological and physical origin: Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs); dioxins (PCDD and PCDFs) and dioxin-like PCBs (dl-PCBs); non dioxin-like PCBs (ndl-PCBs); veterinary drugs residues; organochlorine and other pesticides; Potentially Toxic Elements (PTEs), such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, selenium, copper, nickel and chromium; mycotoxins; plant toxins; bacteria, such as SalmonellaMycobacterium spp. , Brucella spp., Clostridium spp. , Escherichia coli, Listeria; parasites, prions; radionuclides, residues of nanomaterials and micro and nano plastics.  For each of the above, the hazards were described and the occurrence in feed, the transfer to from feed to food, the impact on animal heath, emerging issues and trends were addressed.

More specific consideration was given to those feed and feed production technologies of increasing relevance. Specific hazards and research requirements associated with the use as feed of insects, former food and food processing by-products and biofuels (bioethanol and biodiesel) by-products, aquatic plants and marine resources were highlighted.

Methods of analysis, including multi-analyte methods, and sampling were also addressed and for each of the potential hazards both screening and confirmatory methods were considered.

The report of the meeting with its conclusions and recommendations will be available soon, in the meanwhile, during the 38th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an FAO/WHO Side Event on Food Safety Hazards Associated with Animal Feed will take place in Geneva (Switzerland), on 9 July 2015 to present the conclusions and recommendations of the Expert Meeting and to make available to countries up to date information on the food safety hazards associated with feed.