'Genetically modified (GM) animal feed and the use of fishmeal are two important issues ACAF has examined since its establishment,' says Dr Brown.
'Substantial equivalence is one tool we use in assessing the safety of GM animal feed or feed ingredients,' says Dr Brown. Substantial equivalence is a process whereby GM food, for example, is compared to non-GM food. In comparing the two, the Committee looks at the intentional effects of the genetic modification and at any possible unintended side effects. ACAF also uses the data from animal feeding studies where this is appropriate. These generally concentrate on nutritional aspects but can also be used to identify animal health problems.
In May 2001, ACAF concluded that fishmeal and fish oil in animal feed did not in itself represent a threat to human or animal health and that it was safe to feed to livestock. However, because of the potential risk of meat and bonemeal (MBM) contaminating fishmeal and fish oil (a feed manufacturer may legally produce both types of feed), feeding these products to ruminants has been banned in the EU. The Committee believed that contamination was unlikely in the UK as MBM has been banned since 1996 for all animal feeding purposes.
'Fishmeal was an important part of the diet of certain animals such as pregnant and lactating hill ewes,' says Dr Brown. 'It provides important nutrients to the animal and this has a knock-on effect for human health, because the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fishmeal are beneficial to humans.'
ACAF is urging more research into methods for detecting MBM in fishmeal in order to relax the ban in the future for the UK. 'In the UK, there is little risk of contaminating fishmeal with MBM but we can't be so confident that European fishmeal is not contaminated.' As the UK does not allow the feeding of MBM to any livestock, ACAF felt the ban on fishmeal was unnecessary here.
ACAF's future plans include the consideration of topics suggested by stakeholders who attended the Committee's first open forum last summer. On-farm good practice, GM issues, EC developments and traceability are just a few of the issues ACAF will address.