By Peter Fidder, director of Quality Affairs, Trouw Nutrition
Walk around any hog show or pork event and you can tell a lot about the state of the industry by asking attendees one simple question: “What issue is keeping you awake at night?” From disease threats to trade and regulatory policies, there are many issues contributing to lost sleep in 2019.
Among hog farmers in North America, foreign animal disease and biosecurity measures to prevent such disease from infiltrating herds is a leading concern. Anxiety is particularly high about the damage that could be inflicted if African swine fever finds its way to North America’s shores. The cancellation of a signature pork event — World Pork Expo — signified the abundance of caution organizations such as the National Pork Producers Council are undertaking to prevent an outbreak of ASF in the Americas. Such a high level of concern is understandable given the potential risk a disease outbreak poses from an animal health and producer economics perspective.
With each report of a new outbreak — primarily in China and other parts of Asia — my colleagues at Trouw Nutrition, a Nutreco company, receive questions from customers about the security of feed ingredients. The number of inquiries received from North American producers about ASF has been particularly high. From questions about biosecurity practices on the farm to the traceability of ingredients used in feed, hog farmers want to know how industry partners in the supply chain can help prevent the disease from reaching America’s swine herds.
These questions reflect the extraordinary efforts North American hog farmers are taking to safeguard their operations, care for their herds and ultimately protect their businesses. While there is no guarantee that ASF will be curtailed from spreading and many experts predict outbreaks may continue for some time to come, precaution must be an essential element in the prevention strategy. The saying that “knowledge is power” is particularly true when dealing with the threat of disease outbreak. In the spirit of sharing knowledge, following are several questions that hog farmers are asking related to ASF and some information on how Trouw Nutrition is working to protect the security of swine herds at a pivotal moment in livestock production.
What information should hog farmers know about the origins of animal feed?
Start with the source of origin. Researchers are still striving to understand the routes and processes that facilitate the transmission of AFS virus. But given a nearly 100% fatality rate depending on the serotype of the virus, every component involved in swine production must be evaluated — including feed. As reported incidents of ASF have largely been focused on Asia, particularly China, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that feed ingredients should not be sourced from these areas. However, many ingredients such as vitamins included in feed, are almost exclusively produced in this region.
The good news is that much has been gleaned about how to manage feed safety in the past 20-25 years, including ingredients produced in China. Global food safety scares, including dioxin and melamine in milk, have helped improve traceability technologies. It is not enough to know simply the manufacturer of the feed product; the origin of raw ingredients is also critical as the safety of a feed formulation is contingent upon the integrity of every ingredient that goes into it.
What measures are feed manufacturers undertaking to ensure ingredient safety?
To evaluate the safety of ingredients used in feed, Trouw Nutrition requires ingredient suppliers to maintain a feed safety and quality certification providing a third-party verification that an ingredient meets quality standards. The audited third-party certification ensures the process to produce safe and high-quality feed is secured, through a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point program, good manufacturing practices and biosecurity.
Trouw Nutrition has also developed a feed-to-food safety and quality program, Nutrace that supports a commitment to international quality standards across all parts of the supply chain.
- Certified quality
- Ingredient and supplier assessment and management
- Monitoring and control measures, including harmonized sampling and analysis, rapid alert systems, control of non-conformities and clear procedures for internal measures and external notification in the event a concern is detected.
- Risk management
- Tracking and tracing
What ingredients present significant risk when it comes to ingredients used in feed?
Beyond ingredients sourced from highly suspect locations in parts of Asia, the nature of the feedstuff product should also be considered when assessing risk. For example, any products exposed to nature — such as crops, hay or straw — present a risk of exposure to wild boars or other suspect carriers. Any practice such as feeding human food or restaurant waste that could allow contaminated feedstuffs to be transmitted between animals could present a potential disease risk.
High-risk ingredients include grains, vegetable carriers and ingredients like vitamins or pigments on vegetable carriers. For that reason, Trouw Nutrition does not source such ingredients from suppliers located in China for global use. Other ingredients used in animal feed — vitamins A and D, for example — could present a moderate risk for disease contamination due to animal origin carriers like gelatin.
How is disease risk management approached when it comes to ingredients used in the manufacture of swine feed?
Establishing and consistently implementing best practices can safeguard against risk of transmission of ASF due to animal origin carriers such as gelatin. For example, a risk mitigation program in place by Trouw Nutrition includes the following measures.
- Risk management will always need to address the unique legislative and environmental factors in play as well as farm management concerns unique to the region. For example, as Trouw Nutrition operating procedures in Canada require that vitamins A and D are stored at 20 degrees C for 30 days before they are used in the manufacturing of animal feed. This unique hold and release program is carried out in a temperature-regulated facility and governed by a series of standardized operating procedures designed to ensure consistent holding temperatures across the duration of an ingredient’s storage.
- At the global level, a monitoring program tests for the presence of ASF, foot-and-mouth disease and porcine epidemic virus in feedstuffs such as vitamins A and D and amino acids. An approved laboratory in the Netherlands coordinates polymerase chain reaction testing, which measures DNA. A negative test indicates these viruses have not been identified in the ingredients. A review of all ingredients tested to date shows consistently negative results for the presence of ASF, FMD and PED.
- Finally, there is a role for the ingredient supplier to play. Trouw Nutrition requires statements from various suppliers of feed ingredients to ensure healthy animals are used in the manufacture of this feedstuff. In addition, it’s important to remember that the gelatin manufacturing process is sufficient to eliminate a contamination with ASFV.
What measures are in place to safeguard the integrity of ingredients sourced from high-risk regions, particularly China?
Supplier auditing is an all-important first step to protect ingredient quality and also assess the overall quality of suppliers. For example, every Chinese manufacturer of globally sourced ingredients is audited by Trouw Nutrition prior to first delivery of product. Elements of the audit include biosecurity assessments, traceability and production processes. Specific additional checks are implemented for ingredients derived from a fermentation process as well as the use of organic carriers. Suppliers are also required to submit documentation that complies with an ingredient supplier assessment and management protocol. The protocol sets forth common standards for the assessment and management of ingredients across suppliers and manufacturers. Every new supplier or manufacturer must be evaluated and approved via the Nutreco-wide ingredient supplier assessment and management system prior to their ingredient and feed manufacturing facilities being approved.
To date, suppliers have been especially responsive to requests for data and submission of checklists. More than 80% of suppliers contacted in China completed documentation and responded to a checklist survey in just a few weeks. Of course, successful measures are about people even more than paperwork. Trouw Nutrition has developed a Supplier Development Program, where local auditors help suppliers to bring their quality to the next level.
How is the quality of animal feed manufactured in the feed mill ensured?
A feed provider should be able to tell not only where ingredients are sourced from, but what testing protocols are implemented, particularly for ingredients sourced from “high suspect” areas. In today’s increasingly global trade environment, quality analysis cannot be a one-and-done process. Trouw Nutrition conducts quality control checks when ingredients arrive at the feed mill level and follows a receiver training protocol to ensure feed mill staff support biosecurity measures. Beyond guarding against the risk of ASF, technologies employed at the feed mill can also support other hygiene and feed-to-food safety measures. For example, in-line moisture analysis optimizes moisture levels in feed and adjusts dosing based on real-time data to support nutritional quality and feed safety. In general, moisture optimization during processing has been shown to reduce pelletizer energy consumption by about 10%.
How does traceability play a role in protecting ingredients used in feed?
Technology plays a critical role in ensuring timely detection, traceability and notification in the event a concern arises. For example, the Nutrace program includes a Graphical Lot Tracker tracking and tracing system that can trace batches of feed back to the raw materials, allowing for rapid upstream and downstream information should a recall be necessary. As it creates and stores a record of every input and process from feed ingredient to finished product delivery at the storehouse, an efficient record of information is established to support both supplier and customer. Being able to trace an ingredient across its journey into the finished feed is essential for timely response should a crisis occur.
At the end of the day, a guiding philosophy to support feed-to-food safety can be summed up as, “Quality feeds value.” The world’s most valuable animal feed brands realize that quality products drive producer economics. Accordingly, supply chain security — from ingredients in the field to products in the warehouse — must deliver the highest level of quality.
Through rigorous attention to quality control and uncompromising safeguards, ingredient suppliers and feed manufacturers can play a role in protecting the health of North America’s swine herds and the security of hog farmers’ operations. Such attention might even help them sleep a bit easier at night.