In this article, animal scientist, Dr. Tim Potter, discusses issues related to the contamination of animal feeds. Topics of discussion include the causes and consequences of contaminations, and how feed manufacturers should respond in these situations.
Feed Formulation & Contamination Issues in Feed Mills
Quality assurance and control in feed formulation is very important. Not only is it important to prevent contamination from external sources, but it is also vital to avoid cross contamination across product lines because ingredients and additives intended for one animal may be toxic to another.
One recent example involved the contamination of horse feed with ionophore, a supplement that is often used in cattle feed to help limit bacterial growth. Unfortunately, horses are extremely sensitive to ionophore and exposures frequently result in the death of a horse if not detected and treated early. In this particular instance several horses died before the contamination was detected and the recall was put in place.
Feed manufacturers generally do a sufficient job with quality assurance, but a review of animal feed recalls on the FDA website demonstrates that recalls are not uncommon.
Quality Assurance & Managing Recalls
From a regulatory standpoint, feed companies are held to very high standards with regards to meeting specifications as indicated by tag guarantees. Further, companies which formulate products for multiple species should take additional precautionary measures.
The way in which contamination is dealt with depends on the feed manufacturer. Some of the larger companies produce horse feed only in “dedicated lines” in the mill, meaning that only horse feed is produced in that section of the mill, and other areas of the mill are used to produce other products, such as those with the inclusion of ionophores.
Companies that lack the resources and space required for dedicated lines must use a flushing procedure to remove contamination prior to producing horse feed. In this method, the formulating equipment is usually flushed with a run of ingredients that will absorb the contaminants. Occasionally multiple flushing runs are required to eliminate the contaminants.
Each batch of feed produced is numbered and identified for tracking purposes. Methods of identification include a batch number, date, and shift that are stamped on the bag. In addition, companies will retain samples for each batch produced in the event that testing is needed.
When feed is determined to be contaminated, the normal protocol is the issuance of a feed recall. All dealers and end users in the distribution channel which received the identified contaminated product are alerted and the non-consumed feed is returned to the manufacturer.
Depending on the quality, quantity, and role of the animals affected, feed contamination cases can be extremely contentious. Our experts in animal science and industrial processes have investigated these issues and are available to assist in a multitude of roles, ranging from manufacturing processes, to animal care or valuation.
Dr. Potter is an Equine Scientist with experience in both the academic and corporate sectors. He provides technical investigations, analysis, reports, and testimony toward the resolution of commercial and personal injury litigation involving areas of equine science, including nutrition, reproduction, behavior and training, safety issues, facility design and construction. Safety work includes evaluation of factors and scenarios that are related to safety, including lesson barns, safety issues at horse shows and at private facilities, and determining on-site person(s) of knowledge.