Process Management

Background last update:6 Aug 2012

Rapid risk analysis of contaminated feed

TNO in the Netherlands has developed a database that is able to quickly and realistically predict the consumer risks of contaminated feed. This will make it possible to prevent costly, drastic measures, like recalls of large quantities of various animal products.

By Emmy Koeleman

“The database was developed as a tool in case of emergencies (incidents) with feed to help managers make the right decisions. Furthermore, the database can be used pre-market to predict transfer of components that might be added for a particular purpose to the feed,” explains Ing Winfried Leeman of TNO.
Comparing figures
The database includes transfer factors for cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, pheasants, duck and quail. However, extrapolation to other types of feed can also be made. The first idea for developing the database was after the Belgian PCB/Dioxin crisis in 1999, says Leeman. We tried to include as many different kinds of chemicals as possible in the database to be able to predict the transfer of chemicals. This means that even in cases when we do not have chemical specific data available, we are still able to predict the transfer from food to animal products. The database contains scientific information regarding the extent to which chemical substances from animal feed get into animal products. By comparing the figures with the consumption figures for animal products and the maximum acceptable exposure to a substance, it can be established within a day which animal products, if any, need to be removed from the shelves following contamination.
Consumption figures are included for the European, Middle East, Far East, African and Latin American regions. High consumption figures are also included in case of possible acute effects. Health based exposure limits are not included in the database. However, TNO has access to the exposure limits applicable in the different EU countries.
More realistic
For contamination in animal feed, researchers and risk managers of national and international companies used to work with a 'worst case scenario' approach. Data on the transmission of chemical substances to animal products were only on hand after time-consuming lab and animal
studies. This approach is based on the animal fully absorbing the contamination in the animal feed rather than excreting it. It is also assumed that a harmful substance only reaches its maximum concentration in the organs a week after exposure. This approach leads to measures that may be more drastic and expensive than what is actually necessary. Risks may even be underestimated, for instance, if substances accumulate in certain organs. “Our database is
based on animal studies and transfer factors are calculated using the 95 percentile of the data set selected. The prediction of transfer is, therefore, to some extend conservative, but much more realistic than a worst case approach,” explains Leeman. “Furthermore, it should be noted that
the accuracy of the data used for the transfer calculations might highly affect the calculations. For example, if we estimate one week use of contaminated feed, whereas after some time it becomes apparent that the real period of feeding is over a year, this will give a complete other estimation of transfer factors in the case of an accumulating compound, whereas for non accumulation compounds the estimation might not be very different.”

In case a contaminant is found in the feed, most feed producers will opt for destruction of the contaminated batch. However, sometimes the feed is already on the market. The database can help predict consumer risks after consumption from animal products of animals that have eaten the contaminated feed and proper measures can be considered (ranging from no risk – do nothing, to high risk – track, trace and recall all relevant animal products). Conventional animal and lab studies might costs €25 - 500,000 depending on the time of feeding, analytical costs, type of animal(s) etc. In addition, in the case of an incident with a long time feeding of a contaminant, animal testing might take months before results are available. The decision for a recall of animal products, which are already on the market, cannot be postponed until analytical data of animalstudies becomes available. It has to be made as soon as possible after an incident is discovered. Using the database, TNO can predict the consumers risk within one day if needed. The costs include only consultancy hours of experts.
Source: Feed Mix Vol. 15 no.2

Editor AllAboutFeed

Or register to be able to comment.