ACAF open meeting minutes: 14 December 2011

Aviation House, London

Present

Chairman
Dr Ian Brown

Members
Dr Dozie Azubike
Ms Angela Booth
Mr Tim Brigstocke
Professor Stephen Forsythe
Professor Ian Givens
Professor Nigel Halford
Mrs Chris McAlinden
Ms Diane McCrea
Dr David Peers
Mr Richard Scales
Mr Edwin Snow
Mr Marcus Themans

Secretariat
Mr Keith Millar (Secretary) – Food Standards Agency
Miss Mandy Jumnoodoo – Food Standards Agency
Mr Raj Pal – Food Standards Agency
Dr Ray Smith – Food Standards Agency

Assessors
Mr Tim Franck – Food Standards Agency
Mr Simon Craig – Food Standards Agency, Scotland
Ms Hilary Neathey – Food Standards Agency, Wales
Mr Stephen Wyllie - Defra

Officials:
Mrs Janis McDonald - Veterinary Medicines Directorate

Speakers:
Mr Robin Fransella – Defra
Mr James Winpenny – Defra
Dr David Mortimer – Food Standards Agency
Mr Ron Cheesman – Food Standards Agency

1. The Chairman welcomed delegates to the ACAF meeting and reminded them that there would be an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the meeting.

2. Apologies for absence were received from, Mr Barrie Fleming, Dr Glenn Kennedy (Northern Ireland Assessor) and Mr Gerard Smyth (FSA Northern Ireland).

3. The Chairman welcomed Mrs Chris McAlinden and Dr David Peers to their first meeting. He invited Dr Peers to provide a short background on his career history to date. Dr Peers said that before joining ADAS, he had worked at the Scottish colleges as a nutritionist. He has wide experience of farm livestock consultancy across all species, specialising in livestock nutrition and forage production. He has carried out research and development work in livestock nutrition and production, forage production and evaluation.

4. The ACAF Chairman then provided some background on the career history of Mrs McAlinden. He noted that Mrs McAlinden is Associate Director with toXcel International Ltd and is a toxicologist with 20 years experience. She has a BSc (Honours) in Applied Biology from Nottingham Trent University and obtained certification as a Diplomate American Board of Toxicology. Mrs McAlinden has been on the UK and European Register of Toxicologists since 2001. Between 2003 and 2008, she served on the Education Sub-committee of the British Toxicology Society. She has been a member of the panel for the UK Register of Toxicologists since 2009.

5. The ACAF Chairman thanked Professor Ian Givens for agreeing to act as the Deputy Chairman of the Committee.

Agenda Item 1 – Declaration of Members’ Interests

6. Members of the Committee were asked to declare any relevant changes to their entries in the Register of Members’ Interests, or any specific interest in items on the agenda. Mr Snow confirmed that he worked for companies that manufacture organic feedstuffs. He also advises the British Egg Industry Council on organic issues and had corresponded with Defra regarding organic farming. Ms Angela Booth confirmed that the company she worked for (ABAgri) was involved in the manufacturer of organic feeds. Professor Givens noted that he had been awarded a research grant for a BBSRC PhD studentship which will be additionally funded by industry. The study will investigate the effects of milk proteins on vascular health and function.

Agenda Item 2 – Draft Minutes of the Fifty-fifth Meeting (MIN/11/03)

7. The minutes were adopted subject to five minor changes to paragraphs 11, 14, 34, 37 and 38.

Agenda Item 3 – Feed Safety-potential gaps

8. Mr Tim Franck (ACAF Assessor) introduced paper ACAF/11/19. He said that at the Committee’s meeting on 1 June 2011, the Committee considered a paper on possible gaps and weaknesses in the UK feed sector control. One of the issues raised was the extent to which all feed business establishments had been identified. Mr Franck said that most feed business operators (FeBO) are required to be approved or registered by enforcement authorities. It is important that businesses can be identified so they can be inspected to ensure that they comply with feed legislation, or are aware of their obligations under the legislation.

9. Mr Franck explained that in the paper he had tried to demonstrate the breadth and depth of feed businesses. These included not only those that were traditionally considered feed businesses (e.g. compound feed manufacturers, feed additive manufacturers and traders) but also businesses transporting and storing feed, food businesses selling material for feed, and farms. It was considered that most manufacturers of additives, pre-mixtures, compound feeds and major importers had been identified by the authorities as the approval/registration requirement was long standing and was a requirement of industry assurance schemes.

10. The paper provided information currently available to the Food Standards Agency on the identification of other types of establishments. It was probable that identification and registration may not have been completed by many food businesses supplying material for feed use, as well as numerous small traders and transporters involved in feed activities. Mr Franck explained that most farms should have been identified as enforcement authorities had been supplied with agricultural department registers, but the exact activities being carried out by such farms, e.g. using additives or premixtures and arable farming may not be known to established enforcement authorities.

11. On a positive note, the paper noted that the recent FVO audit of the UK’s feed law enforcement system had indicated that local authorities were making progress towards identifying feed business establishments. However, the paper outlined a number of additional initiatives that could be carried out to help ensure identification is complete. These include:

  • requiring local authorities to finalise the task of completing local registers, including identifying the activities of farms and food businesses
  • reinforcing the legislative requirement for feed businesses to be supplied only by businesses registered under Regulation 183/2005
  • asking compound feed manufacturers and feed traders to share their lists of suppliers, so that these may be shared with local authorities

12. Finally, Mr Franck invited Members to consider any further information they may have in relation to the identity of feed businesses, and propose any further steps that may be taken to improve identification.

Discussion
13. Following a question from the ACAF Chairman, Mr Franck said that there were no data on the approximate proportion of businesses that were not registered. There was discussion about the identification of food businesses providing products for feed use. Such businesses would be listed on the registers of local authorities as food businesses and Mr Cheesman said that there was scope to improve the transfer of intelligence between Environmental Health Departments of local authorities (which are mainly responsible for registering food establishments) and Trading Standards Departments (which are mainly responsible for registration of feed businesses). A Member said that it would be helpful if the application form for the registration of food business establishments included a section confirming whether they also put products into circulation for feed use. Another Member said that of most concern from a feed safety point of view were products that were supplied by food businesses directly to farm, and it was important that this trade was controlled. The Committee agreed with the ACAF Secretary’s suggestion that the issue of sharing information between Environmental Health and Trading Standards Departments should be referred to the Animal Feed Law Enforcement Liaison Group for further consideration.
Action: ACAF Secretariat

14. A Member enquired about the implementation of the memorandum of understanding between Local Government Regulators and Assured Food Standards (AFS) and it was noted that AFS continued to provide local authorities with updates of assured members, etc. Other establishments that had possibly not been identified included farms which were not part of industry assurance schemes and certain holdings whose owners were ineligible for grants and may therefore not be listed on agriculture departments’ registers. In addition, chemical manufacturers and limestone producers who supply the feed industry may not consider themselves feed businesses and they may not have applied for registration.

Agenda Item 4 – organic farming

15. Mr Robin Fransella (Defra) provided the Committee with a presentation on current issues affecting the organic feed sector and proposed changes to legislation. A requirement exists under Council Regulation 834/2007 for ‘organic’ feed to be 100% organic. However, Commission Regulation 889/2008 allows for monogastric animals to be given 5% non-organic feed and for non-organic pullets of up to 18 weeks to be brought onto an organic holding, but this derogation is due to expire on 31 December 2011.

16. Organic feed manufacturers are unable to use synthetic amino acids and very high protein source ingredients, such as prairie meal or potato protein, are not available in organic form. Three possible solutions exist; the first is to formulate 100% organic rations so as to provide suitable nutrition for monogastrics. Mr Fransella explained that some companies are already selling compound feed with 100% organic agricultural ingredients. But if all companies are required to operate to the same requirements, sourcing suitable organic ingredients may prove difficult.

17. The second option is to use permitted non-agricultural inputs and also fishmeal to enable correct formulation. Mr Fransella said that fishmeal will remain available for inclusion as part of monogastric diets. The current proposal was not to limit this in percentage terms as it is effectively self-limiting due to taste issues. However, legislation does not permit the use of fishmeal in all feed mills.

18. The final option was to allow a percentage of non-organic feed to be used. Mr Fransella explained that there was widespread support from UK organic producers for a review of the use of amino acids. However, not all Member States are in support and therefore the Commission is unlikely to consider having a review. However, only ‘synthetic’ amino acids are not permitted for use under the Council Regulation, so non-synthetic forms could be proposed for inclusion in the list of organic feed additives. On the use of non-agricultural inputs, Mr Fransella said that the UK was proposing that such inputs should not be included in the percentage calculations for organic feed labelling. This was to take account of high mineral inputs in monogastric feeds.

19. On the continued use of non-organic feed, Mr Fransella said that the Commission is to propose a new Regulation that will extend the 5% non-organic feed derogation and the derogation for non-organic pullets to 31 December 2014. Members noted that a vote by Member States on this new Regulation is expected to take place in early February 2012 at the Standing Committee on Organic Farming, and that the Regulation would probably not be published for some weeks after the vote. It is intended to apply retrospectively from 1 January 2012 with regard to the 5% feed and non-organic pullet use issues in order to ensure that organic operators and their products retain their status prior to the date of publication.

20. Finally, Mr Fransella noted that there was a need to recognise that although the Commission had listened to Member States concerns, they are not required to move, unless the Council Regulation is revised. Some Member States and the European Commission are concerned that the use of non-organic inputs will encourage more industrialised poultry production. However, the UK found this position difficult to understand as the existing organic legislation already has strong animal welfare requirements that should be similar across the European Union. The text of the proposed new regulation is awaited.

Discussion
21. Mr Fransella believed that objections raised by some Member States to the use of synthetic amino acids were that they feel their use in modern poultry diets would lead to more “industrial” production. Also these Member States may have different monogastric production systems to those employed in the UK.

22. One Member noted that it was getting more and more difficult to source organic materials and that the situation will not improve. Mr Fransella noted that the UK in comparison with some Member States had an extensive organic monogastric and poultry industry which could be the reason for other Member States’ resistance to reviewing the use of amino acids.

23. The Committee agreed that this was an important but complex issue and said it was keen to be kept abreast of future developments in this area.

Agenda Item 5 – Initial feedback from the Food and Veterinary Office audit (item was taken as the first substantive item)

24. Mr Ron Cheesman of the Agency’s Enforcement, Liaison and Delivery Division provided the Committee with an oral presentation on the initial findings of the Food and Veterinary (FVO) audit of the United Kingdom that took place in November 2011 to evaluate the implementation of official controls on feed. Members were informed that the audit was a follow-up from a visit made to the UK in 2009, and examined progress made on addressing the recommendations from that audit. For the 2011 audit the FVO had sent two teams of two inspectors who were accompanied by a national expert from Germany. The FVO spent most of their time with local authorities examining their planning and delivery of official controls. These visits were then followed up with detailed checks at various feed business operators to see how effective the official controls had been in ensuring that compliance with feed law was taking place, with particular reference to feed hygiene requirements. The FVO interviewed nine local authorities in England, three in Wales and one in Scotland. This included visits to three ports of entry in England. The FVO also interviewed two Agricultural Analysts.

25. Feedback on the audit was provided at a closing meeting held on 25 November 2011. A draft report of the 2011 audit is expected 20 working days after the end of the audit. Following the receipt of this draft report, Mr Cheesman said that the Agency would prepare an action plan to deal with the outstanding recommendations and would share any positive findings made by the FVO audit team with stakeholders. He noted that the FVO would be looking for updates on progress to implement the recommendations.

26. Mr Cheesman explained that in 2009 the FVO audit team had made 17 recommendations in total. The initial findings of the FVO as given during their closing meeting suggested that the number of outstanding recommendations could be reduced to 12. Overall, Mr Cheesman thought there appears to be substantial progress made in actioning the recommendations. The FVO indicated that six recommendations had been addressed, eight partially addressed and three that still required action. The FVO stated they regarded three of their previous recommendations as being key: provision of resources to local authorities for the undertaking of official controls; supervision and verification of official controls by the FSA and import controls at points of entry. The FVO considered that the first two items were completed and that substantial progress had been made on import controls. The FVO seemed particularly pleased with the work the Agency had carried out to verify the data it had received from local authorities in terms of their registers of feed business operators and enforcement data and the use the Agency had made of this information. In particular, the provision of funds to local authorities for them to undertake targeted controls.

27. Mr Cheesman then reviewed the recommendations and progress made:

  • the FVO indicated that competent authorities responsible for feed were seen to be working more closely with each other. However, work was still required on the exchange of information by these agencies on the feed business operators they are responsible for, with closer working between local authorities and Inspections and Investigations Team, (previously known as the Animal Medicines Inspectorate), on the issue of carry-over of specified materials into non-target species
  • the fact that the majority of official controls are carried out with prior notification is an issue which still requires addressing
  • a system of controls was in place which included all categories of FeBOs based on the work being funded by the FSA with local authorities
  • the UK has a central list of registered FeBOs, though work needs to be continued to ensure that the list is complete and accurate
  • work was still required to ensure that FeBOs had put in place and properly implemented HACCP-based procedures which follow all the relevant principles referred to in Art. 6 of Regulation (EC) No 183/2005. This seems to be based on findings at many FeBOs where problems with procedures were identified and local authorities had not taken sufficient corrective action
  • significant progress has been made on identification of feed entering ports. However, in the future the FVO will want to see how this translates into a programme of checks
  • the Commission noted that little improvement had been made on ensuring that food grade packaging material is removed from feed produced from surplus food. The legislation states that zero tolerance of such materials should be achieved

Discussion
28. Mr Cheesman advised Members that the 2011 audit covered Great Britain and that an audit to Northern Ireland was planned for May 2012, when the FVO team will be looking at controls on organic fertilisers and feed. The ACAF Secretary noted that the UK continued to make improvements aimed at minimising adventitious packaging material in feedingstuffs put on the market by human food recyclers. The alternative would be to send these materials to landfill, which is costly and not sustainable. The UK in discussions with the FVO team suggested a de facto tolerance of 0.15% be set which could possibly be enforced by assurance schemes. Lobbying in Brussels for a risk-based tolerance will continue.

29. One Member noted concerns raised by the Veterinary Residues Committee about imports (e.g. is there a scientific technical committee that advises the FVO on what to audit?). The ACAF Secretary agreed to share the formal report of the audit with the Committee with a possible discussion at the March 2012 meeting. Another Member of the Committee noted comments made on HACCP, including some criticism of assurance schemes. The Member said that industry does rely on assurance schemes for ensuring some elements of checking suppliers, for example, that they are registered or approved. The ACAF Secretary noted these comments and stated that during the FVO audit the team had noticed that some feed businesses had not fully demonstrated a proper understanding of HACCP principles. Also, in some cases it was unclear whether all members of assurance schemes were registered as feed business operators. In addition, the ACAF Secretary announced that he intended to hold a meeting early in the New Year, with stakeholders to discuss the findings of the FVO audit team and the way forward.

Action: ACAF Secretariat

Agenda Item 6 – Flame Retardants

30. Dr David Mortimer of the Agency’s Chemical Safety Division explained that the purpose of the paper (ACAF 11/21) was to provide Members with information on the presence of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in the food chain, related concerns for human health and to seek the Committee’s view on whether it is necessary and appropriate to investigate their presence in the feed chain.

31. Dr Mortimer stated that BFRs are a category of flame retardant used to delay the onset of fires. BFRs are incorporated, often at significant levels, into a very wide range of materials and products including furniture, textiles, electrical and electronic systems, building materials, etc. Within the BFR category are a number of sub-categories, notably polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDDs) and tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA). Some newer BFRs are being identified, such as tetrabromodiethylhexyl phthalate (TBDEHP).

32. Dr Mortimer described a chemical incident in Michigan in 1973 involving BFR contamination of animal feed. An unknown quantity (estimated to be approximately 0.5 tons) of PBB was added to animal feed instead of magnesium oxide. It caused adverse effects on animal health and productivity as well as illness in consumers. The source of the problem took almost a year to identify and eventually resulted in the culling of about30,000 cattle, 6,000 pigs and 1.5 million chickens. The estimated cost of the incident was $215 million, equivalent to around £500 million in today’s terms.

33. Concern about the use of BFRs is due to their long term impacts on health and the environment. The structure and toxicological similarities of PBBs to polychlorinated biphenyls were recognised and PBB manufacture and use ceased in the 1970s. PBBs were largely replaced by PBDEs but concerns were also raised about the persistence and toxicity of the latter, and their ability to bioaccumulate. The manufacture and use of PBDEs has been phased out over the last decade. In 2009, two classes of PBDEs were listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. HBCDDs are also under consideration for listing.

34. The Food Standards Agency has been investigating the presence of BFRs in food since being alerted by the Environment Agency in 2002 to high localised contamination of the Skerne-Tees river system downstream of a BFR production facility. This was followed by an investigation for the presence of brominated chemicals in wild and farmed fish and shellfish. BFR levels in farmed salmon appeared to be about twice those in wild (Atlantic) salmon although the Committee on Toxicology did not identify any significant health concerns. In response to a call from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for more data, the Food Standards Agency carried out a survey for brominated chemicals in a range of foods. Other than fish, the highest levels were found in samples of meat, liver, cheese and dairy products. The results of this survey are yet to be published. There are no published data on levels of BFRs in feed.

35. Finally, Dr Mortimer noted that, during 2011 EFSA had published a series of opinions on BFRs in food. In the case of PBBs, EFSA took the view that they were of no concern as levels of dietary exposure were already very low and background environmental concentrations were declining. PBDEs were generally considered to be of low concern, although EFSA did identify a possible risk associated with BDE-99 in the case of neurodevelopmental effects in young children. As many PBDE-containing products are still in use, EFSA has recommended that monitoring for PBDEs in food and diet should continue. EFSA made similar recommendations in the case of HBCDDs, noting that, although there was unlikely to be a health concern, manufacture and use of HBCDDs continued to be significant and was possibly increasing. An opinion on TBBPA was expected shortly and one on emerging BFRs was in progress.

Discussion
36. A Member of the Committee agreed with the conclusion that the toxicity of BFRs in food was low but that there was a potential for accumulation up the food chain. In addition, evaluation of those chemicals still in use should be undertaken under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals Regulations, (REACH). Levels in feed are not currently a recognised concern, although later problems could arise if it were found that these chemicals accumulated. Dr Mortimer noted the Member’s comments but said that REACH only applied within Europe; whereas, BFRs and BFR-containing products were shifted globally, so that consumers were not fully protected by the scheme. Dr Mortimer also mentioned that a number of NGOs were concerned about the use of BFRs, although there were other groups who supported and promoted their use. Following a comment from another Member, Dr Mortimer said he was not certain whether the Commission would want to propose limits on BFRs in food and feed.

37. Dr Mortimer advised Members that a proposal had been made in response to the EFSA opinions to investigate levels of BFR contamination in food further, and that this could potentially be extended to cover feed. Following a question from a Member of the Committee, Dr Mortimer said that there were insufficient data available to determine whether the metabolites of BFRs were more dangerous than the original products. In addition, Dr Mortimer was unaware if this issue had been considered by Codex, but doubted it. Following a question from a Member on a comparison between the property similarities of BFR, and dioxins, Dr Mortimer stated that it was difficult to say whether BFRs posed a greater risk than dioxins. Dr Mortimer said that little work to determine the environmental impact of these chemicals was being carried out by either the Environment Agency or Defra. However, internationally a lot of investigations and research projects were being undertaken.

38. Members agreed to recommend that, with respect to further work the Agency proposes to undertake on this subject, various areas should be considered. This included investigating where the entry points for contamination might be for foods that previously showed higher BFR levels in surveys, notably farmed fish and dairy products, and that these investigations should be extended to consider feed.

Agenda Item 7 – Forward Work Programme

39. Miss Jumnoodoo introduced paper ACAF/11/22 on horizon scanning and future work for ACAF. She asked the Committee to agree to the following suggestions to items currently on its forward work plan:

  • Item 1 – manipulation of animal feed to enhance the nutritional value of food – move from high to medium priority
  • Item 3 – biofuels – move from high to low priority as the Committee’s review of this subject has been completed
  • Item 4 – updates on BSE and TSE developments –move from high to medium as updates were presented to the Committee during 2011
  • Items 9 and 10 – climate change and the impact on feed production’ and ‘global demand for livestock and prices from primary production’ – move to low priority
  • Item 14 – animal production including feeding systems and the effect on the environment – move to low priority

40. With respect to new work Miss Jumnoodoo noted that the following items had been suggested:

  • feed safety – potential gaps (work on this item had already started)
  • responses to the recommendations on feed law enforcement from the Food and Veterinary Office audit mission to the UK in November 2011
  • microbiological issues
  • handling of feed incidents

41. Additionally, Miss Jumnoodoo, noting the Committee’s earlier discussions on organic farming and brominated flame retardants, suggested that these items are also placed on the Committee’s forward work plan under high priority.

Discussion
42. One Member suggested that items 1, 9, 10 and 14 relate to food security and as such could be merged into one main item on food security with sub-topics. However, another Member suggested that only items 9, 10 and 14 should be merged as they were similar topics. However, item 1 should remain separate albeit in a lower priority. The ACAF Secretary said that Members should not feel constrained in highlighting issues that should be included in the forward work plan at anytime.

43. Members agreed that the suggested new items should be included on the forward work plan. However, further amendments were required before it could be formally adopted by the Committee. The Secretariat agreed to circulate a revised version for comment.

Action: ACAF Secretariat

Agenda Item 8 - Matters arising from the minutes of previous meetings

44. Miss Jumnoodoo updated Members on the following actions from previous meetings :

Animal By-products Update

45. At the September 2011 meeting, the Defra Assessor (Stephen Wyllie) agreed to provide Members with an EFSA opinion on the inclusion of gelatine in feed. On 18 October 2011, the ACAF Secretariat provided Members with links to the EFSA Opinion. Also included was a copy of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1243/2007 of 24 October 2007 amending Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 of the European Parliament and the Council laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin.

Salmonella

46. At the September 2011 meeting, the ACAF Secretary agreed to report back to the Committee on discussions with BPEX (which represents pig levy payers in England) following a Member’s comment that the BPEX had held a meeting on the Salmonella control plan up and down the feed chain, which may be useful to ACAF’s discussions. On the 2 November 2011 the ACAF Secretariat sent an email to Members attaching a link to details of some of the work done by BPEX to investigate the effect of feeding pigs different diets.

Presentation on copper supplementation in animal feed

47. At the 28 September 2011 ACAF meeting, Members noted that the list of endorsements on the copper guidance note were notably fewer than originally intended. The ACAF Secretary agreed to liaise with the authors of the document to ascertain how other organisations had advertised the document. On the 3 November 2011 the ACAF Secretariat sent Members an email providing details of the publicity arrangements for the copper guidance note carried out by the authors of the document.

48. Mr Steve Wyllie (Defra Assessor) agreed, following a request from a Member, to find out from Defra colleagues whether there had been any results from research being undertaken by FERA which was mentioned at the September 2011 meeting.

Action: Stephen Wyllie

Agenda Item 9 - Any other business

General Advisory Committee on Science

49. The ACAF Chairman reported that he had been interviewed as part of the quinquennial review of the General Advisory Committee on Science (GACS). He then went on to outline discussions that GACS had had at its meeting held on 9 November 2011, these included:

  • reviews of ACMSF and COT (GACS noted the outcomes and endorsed the proposed responses from the FSA)
  • report from the Strategic Evidence Working Group (GACS agreed the proposals from the WG)
  • framework for sharing data and funding with industry and NGO partners (GACS agreed its response to the comments received in the public consultation on the draft framework, including some revisions to the draft)
  • plans for a review by the FSA Chief Scientist of Science Governance in the FSA
  • science in the SACs (standing item), including on this occasion a presentation on the work of ACMSF, from the ACMSF Chair, Professor Sarah O’Brien
  • evaluation in the FSA

Date of the next meeting

50. The ACAF Secretary noted that due to the financial climate during 2012 there would only be three meetings of ACAF, these would take place on:

  • 7 March in Aviation House
  • 14-15 June in Belfast
  • 19 September in Aviation House

51. Subsequent meetings in 2013 would be held in January, May and October. The ACAF Secretary agreed to contact Members shortly, to confirm the dates for the 2013 meetings.

Action: ACAF Secretariat
Information Papers

52. The ACAF Chairman drew the Committee’s attention to the following information papers:

  • EU Developments (ACAF/11/23)
  • update on the work of other advisory committees (ACAF/11/24)