News 222 views last update:6 Aug 2012

UK efforts in reducing nicarbazin residue

The British poultry industry has been actively working with the Food Standards Agency in identifying ways in which the sector can reduce the incidence and levels of nicarbazin residue in British chicken.

Nicarbazin is a feed additive used for the successful treatment of coccidiosis, a potentially fatal and debilitating disease for birds. However, testing of chicken livers as part of the National Surveillance Scheme occasionally finds traces of the additive.

The number of samples testing positive for nicarbazin has fallen substantially since 1998, from 25.5% in 1998 to 5.8% in 2007. However, while this reduction is welcome and levels are not a significant food safety risk to consumers, the Food Standards Agency said wants to reduce levels further.

"We want to see levels as low as possible and in particular, we would like to see a fall in numbers of samples testing 100ug/kg or more," a FSA spokeswoman said. National Surveillance Scheme samples testing over 200ug/kg are reported as positives while whose with a level over 1,000ug/kg will trigger an on-farm investigation by the Animal Medicines Inspectorate.

The British Poultry Council said that the poultry industry accepts that consumers require assurances that British chicken contains the lowest possible residues of feed additives. And there is a fear that if the industry does nothing, it risks losing nicarbazin in the longer term.

So this prompted a joint industry/government project, with the aim of identifying the causes of the contamination through a questionnaire of poultry producers. A high response rate of 86% meant the project could gain an accurate picture of practices on farms that both tested positive and negative.

Bin management
The key finding is that there were several likely causes; all relating to feed storage and handling, and that the higher residue levels of over 1,000ug/kg were maybe due to a breakdown in bin management systems. The study highlighted that although it is best practice to empty bulk bins between feed deliveries, it does not always happen in practice, probably because managers are reluctant to risk running out of feed. Therefore, producers are over ordering feed containing nicarbazin, which then complicates bin management.

On-farm testing
A key development which is set to help producers check whether their systems are working is the launch of a new on-farm test next year by Elanco. "We envisage producers using the device to check that the change from nicarbazin containing feed to non-nicarbazin containing feed has been properly implemented," Elanco said.

(Source: Farmers Weekly)

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