An independent ring test of European laboratories has confirmed that microscopic analysis of animal feed samples is effective in
distinguishing between fishmeal and other animal proteins. The results,presented to European Commission officials today, have been welcomed by pro-fishmeal groups seeking an end to current EU-wide restrictions on fishmeal use.
A temporary EU-wide ban on the use of fishmeal in ruminant feed has been in place since 2001. The ban was introduced as part of emergency BSE control measures. While it has always been accepted that fish itself has no role or implication in the transmission of BSE, one of the reasons
cited for this precautionary restriction on fishmeal was the lack of an approved testing method to distinguish between fishmeal and other animal material. The European Commission has indicated that any decision to
lift the temporary ban on fishmeal will depend on the availability of such a test.
Last year, the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO)
commissioned the RIKILT Institute of Food Safety at Wageningen in the Netherlands to co-ordinate an independent ring test of feed microscopy across nine different laboratories in eight European countries.
Feed microscopy is currently the only method officially endorsed by the European Commission to test for the presence of animal protein in feeds. To date, however, the method has not been widely accepted as a satisfactory test for distinguishing between fishmeal and other animal material. The objective of this ring test was to evaluate the
effectiveness of microscopic analysis in detecting the trace presence of terrestrial animal material (0.1%) in feed samples containing fishmeal.
Nine different feed samples were analysed in duplicate by all nine participating laboratories, producing a combined total of 162 results.
Eight of the laboratories used a modification of the official method (98/88/EC). The feed samples were spiked at 0.1% with two types of meat and bone meal (pure ruminant MBM and mixed species MBM) and used two types of fishmeal (trimmings and whole fish) at 5%, included in every possible combination including blanks.
In summary, the study found that MBM of terrestrial animals can be reliably detected at a level of 0.1% in the presence of fishmeal, even where the MBM contains a relatively low proportion of bones (13%). This study concluded that microscopic detection, with slight modification of the official method, is effective in distinguishing between fishmeal and other terrestrial animal material, and can therefore be applied to support legislation on the use of different types of animal proteins.
Welcoming the study's findings, FIN Chairman David Stringer said:
"The current EU ban on fishmeal in ruminant feed is doing serious damage to the use and reputation of a natural, high quality feed ingredient.
This research, together with this month's introduction of new EU-wide rules on animal by-products, satisfy the conditions specified for reviewing the temporary ban on fishmeal. We now call on the European Commission to honour its promise and put an end to these unnecessary and discriminatory restrictions."