The European Commission (EC) has approved the use of pork and poultry meal for fish feed, flying in the face of UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommendations.
The decision was announced on February 14 as expected, after the use of animal meal for farm animal and fish food was banned in 2001 following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis.
According to official terminology, flour from ‘monogastric’ animals (animals with one stomach) may be reintroduced into the diet of farmed fish and other aquaculture animals from June 1.
However, this contradicts the FSA's stance. In advice to the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), issued in September 2011, the agency's board stated: "Although the board accepted that the available risk assessments showed that the proposed changes would give rise to a negligible risk, they were concerned that this relied on effective enforcement of controls.
'Highly precautionary approach'
"The board also believed a highly precautionary approach to transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases continues to be justified. Having carefully considered the responses to the stakeholder engagement process, it could identify no real benefit from the change that would justify putting consumers at any additional risk, however tiny."
As a consequence it advised against supporting EFSA's position, although it said the final decision for the UK would rest with government ministers.
Relaxation of the rules began in 2008, when fish meal was allowed in pig, poultry and fish food.
Constance Hervieu, food consultant for the food industry and agri-business of consultancy Alcimed, told FoodProductionDaily.com that with animal protein in short supply, fish meal had commanded a high price for feed.
The introduction of pork and poultry meal would shake up the supply chain, said Hervieu. “People won’t be prepared to pay the same as for fishmeal, because that’s rarer, but I think they would be prepared to pay a good price. The main reason the EC authorised this is the scarcity of protein.
“This [pork and poultry meal] will be more cost-effective than fish meal and will be helpful for the disposal of waste products. Manufacturers might get more money from the waste.
She added that pork and poultry meal is used in pet food too, so the approval of its use as fish feed could spark a tussle between pet food processors and fish farmers.
The National Council of Food and the European Food Safety Authority have found no public health risk associated with reintroducing animal meal to the supply chain.
Alcimed now expects the EC to ratify the use of poultry meat in pig feed and pork in poultry feed, although not before 2014.
There is no change to laws banning animal meal for cattle feed and preventing animals being fed meal from creatures of their own species.