EFSA publishes advice on salmonella and other biological hazards in animal feed

The Biological Hazards Panel (BIOHAZ) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked by the European Commission to deliver a scientific opinion on microbiological risk assessment in feedingstuffs for food-producing animals. According to the Panel, Salmonella is the major biological hazard for animal feed, with other bacteria such as Listeria (Listeria monocytogenes), E. coli (Escherichia coli O157 : H7) and Clostridium spp. having less importance. Salmonella-contaminated animal feed can be a source of infection for food-producing animals and derived food products. The most common types of Salmonella occurring in humans are seldom found in animal feed. However, some types of Salmonella found in feed are also found in humans.

EFSA’s BIOHAZ Panel Chair, Dan Collins, said, “Animal feed can be a source of several types of Salmonella. Eliminating Salmonella in animal feed even before it gets to the farm will make a contribution to reducing Salmonella in our food. EFSA with its comprehensive risk assessment mandate, from animal health and welfare, to food and feed safety is uniquely placed to provide a comprehensive risk assessment view on Salmonella and other microbiological risks. This opinion is a good example of how EFSA is moving towards an integrated approach in its risk assessment work.”

The Panel concentrated on industrially-produced feed in its evaluation, as this type of feed is most at risk from Salmonella contamination. Presently, there is limited information available on the occurrence of Salmonella in “home” mixed feed, and the Panel recommended that more information be gathered. Oil seed meal and animal derived protein are the main type of feed materials introducing Salmonella into industrially-produced feed. Although industrially-produced feed is generally heat treated during the production process to kill Salmonella and other bacteria, it can become recontaminated following the industrial process during cooling and further handling. Heat treatment is generally recognised as the most effective decontamination method. However, chemical treatment may offer an alternative means of protection from Salmonella and other microbiological risks. The Panel called for more research on the efficiency of chemical feed decontaminants in combating Salmonella.

In its opinion, EFSA’s BIOHAZ Panel made a series of conclusions and recommendations:

  • Feed manufacturers should aim to continuously reduce the occurrence of Salmonella in animal feed.
  • A baseline survey on the testing of Salmonella in feed across the European Union should be considered in order to ensure comparable data between Member States, and to inform decisions to improve the control of Salmonella in feed production.
  • There should be effective implementation of Good Manufacturing (GMP[1]) and Good Hygiene (GHP[2]) practices, and HACCP[3] principles throughout the feed chain. Proper control of recontamination, and effective heat treatment at feed production plants should be ensured.
  • Feed safety criteria based only on testing of the end product would not be an effective way to ensure absence of Salmonella contamination. There is a need to establish one or more process hygiene criteria along the feed production chain (testing for Salmonella at key sampling points at crushing plants, rendering plants and feed mills, as well as on the end product).
  • A common EU standard method for monitoring Salmonella in animal feed should urgently be validated for use in feed.

[1] Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) - the combination of manufacturing and quality control procedures aimed at ensuring that products are consistently manufactured to their specifications.
[2] Good Hygiene Practice (GHP) - all practices regarding the conditions and measures necessary to ensure the safety and suitability of food at all stages of the food chain.
[3] Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a system which identifies, evaluates and controls hazards which are significant for food safety.

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