Commission reviewing beta-carotene usage in milk replacers fed to calves: Fefana wants removal of EFSA limits

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

Commission reviewing beta-carotene usage in milk replacers fed to calves: Fefana wants removal of EFSA limits
No maximum limit should be set for the use of beta-carotene in milk replacers, says the EU feed additive lobby as an EC review on the use of the additive in animal feeds gets underway.

Trade body, Fefana, the voice of the EU specialty feed ingredients industry, has been pushing home sector opposition to an EFSA proposed limit on the use of beta-carotene in milk replacers, arguing that the measure could negatively impact animal health and welfare.

Beta-carotene, an isoprenoid compound, is synthesised by plants and microorganisms. It is used in animal nutrition mainly as provitamin A. 

The authorisation of beta carotene as feed additive was one of the main topics under discussion at the March (20 to 21) meeting of the Commission's Standing Committee on Animal Nutrition (SCFCAH).

A spokesperson for Fefana told FeedNavigator.com that the trade group is optimistic the committee will seriously consider a revision of the limits proposed by EFSA nearly two years ago.

In its safety opinion on beta-carotene in June 2012, the FEEDAP panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that consumption of liver from pre-ruminant calves treated with beta-carotene could lead to a significant additional exposure of the consumer to beta-carotene and it proposed a limit of 50mg of the additive per kilogram of milk replacer. 

Scientific research dismissed

But Fefana claims the scientific research that EFSA and the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) based their safety review of beta-carotene on was flawed.

“The scientific article used by EFSA to define the levels of beta-carotene in veal calves liver is not representative of sound animal production and nutrition practices with calves.

In fact, the study reported was performed to assess if calves could serve as a model for beta-carotene in human studies, as rats and mice do not behave similarly.  

For this purpose, milk replacer used in the study was intentionally deficient in vitamin A in order to stimulate vitamin A formation from beta-carotene,”​ reports Fefana in its position paper. 

Proportionality of EFSA findings questioned  ​ 

And the trade group added that the risk assessment from the Parma-based agency, in capping the use of the additive in milk replacers, only focuses on a small portion of the population - heavy smokers eating 60g of liver per day.

The feed additives lobbyists therefore “question the proportionality of the measure proposed, knowing that beta-carotene has shown benefits for animal health and welfare, when used at concentration of 100 mg and above on farms.” 

Fefana said that if a maximum use level for beta-carotene has to be imposed then it proposes a limit of 150 mg beta-carotene per kilogram of milk replacer. 

This would be “a proportionate risk management measure that would be in agreement with industry practice and would not undermine consumer safety.”​ 

Beta-carotene review

The Commission's health and consumer protection directorate, DG SANCO, told this publication today that all is still up for grabs in terms of beta-carotene regulation, as the SCFCAH members were unable to fully assess the issue in the given time-frame.

“Nothing was concluded as the delegations need more time to examine the Fefana paper,”​ said Aikaterini Apostola, a communications spokesperson for that directorate.

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