FAO and IFIF 'on the same page' on how to enhance feed safety and boost sustainability

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Feed is seen as part of the solution to sustainable livestock production, says IFIF
Feed is seen as part of the solution to sustainable livestock production, says IFIF

Related tags Feed safety Feed industry Livestock Agriculture

Feed safety and antimicrobial resistance were two subjects grabbing the headlines at the annual meeting between long-time bedfellows, the UN’s FAO and the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF), in Rome last week.

“While there were no major steps forward, there was real engagement and commitment on both sides,”​ said Daniela Battaglia, livestock production officer in the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and one of the organizers of the event that took place on 2-3 October. 

Discussions over the two days, she said, showed both organizations are “on the same page”​ in terms of how to lessen the environmental impact of livestock production through life cycle analysis, or bring new initiatives to the fore including a program to boost feed safety globally. 

The FAO is collaborating with many industrial sectors to exchange information and foster cooperation on themes of common interest, with Battaglia saying the UN agency’s engagement with the IFIF is one of the more successful partnerships in this regard.

“We have had concrete achievements in our 13 years of working together on food and feed chain challenges,”​ she told feednavigator.

And she said a sign of maturity on the part of the feed industry is its increasing willingness to take on sensitive topics. 

“Apparent at the event was the sector’s recognition of the importance of addressing societal concerns over the ethics and welfare of animal husbandry, while still acknowledging the importance of a science-based approach to meat production,” ​said Battaglia. 

‘We are all in this together’

Alexandra de Athayde, executive director of the IFIF, said feed industry members in attendance were “greatly encouraged”​ by the number of FAO divisions, from agriculture to aquaculture to statistics, represented at last’s week’s forum, with José Graziano da Silva, FAO director general, also providing the opening remarks

“There was a sense that we are all in this together, and that feed is seen as part of the solution to sustainable livestock production, and not the contrary.

We had a terrific showing, with members from Chinese, Australian, and South African feed associations present, and insightful input from representatives of the aquaculture and meat production sectors – all focused on how to make the supply chain from feed to food more sustainable,”​ she said.

Monica Fanti, global regulatory affairs officer at feed nutrition supplier, Alltech, told us the meeting underscored how there is a much “deeper level of collaboration” ​between the FAO and the feed sector now. 

The discussions were really practical, and the dialogue around aquaculture sustainability also showed that feed manufacturers, through developing viable fishmeal substitutes, will play a critical role in improving the environmental profile of that sector. All delegates pressed home the point that feeding fish to grow fish is clearly not a model that can endure,” ​she said. 

Antibiotic resistance debated

The subject of how to reduce antibiotic usage on farms was also tackled head on – the first time this topic has been brought to the table in this particular forum, said Battaglia. 

All parties support the responsible use of antimicrobials in livestock production and feel that it is something that needs to be stressed in this debate. We have to work together to determine the best husbandry and hygiene practices and viable alternatives, to support a migration away from overuse of antibiotics in farming,”​ said the FAO representative. 

Fanti said she felt there was a certain reticence among the feed sector delegates in relation to that debate. “The feed industry believes it has been at the forefront of developing innovative approaches to better boost gut health, thereby contributing to the antibiotic reduction drive in livestock.  

What was particularly welcome in this respect, though, was a mapping of the reality of antibiotic reduction drives in countries like Denmark and how they are used in the treatment of sick animals​." 

However, for de Athayde, the IFIF members really “got on board”​ with the subject of antimicrobial resistance, and are supportive of continuing this discussion. “A workshop on the topic is slated for our international regulators meeting in Atlanta in January,”​ she added.

Feed safety

The FAO and the IFIF note that in many countries adequate know-how and sufficient awareness are lacking to ensure feed safety among all operators along the whole value chain.

They say that even in markets where more knowledge is available and control systems are in place, new and unconventional feed ingredients like insects and agro-industrial by-products are entering the chain and might also bring new safety risks with them.

Moreover, many countries still lack feed regulatory frameworks and fail to implement feed regulations in harmony with the Codex Alimentarius and other international standards, they add.

“So, in this context, we are rolling out projects at international, regional and national level under a multi-stakeholder initiative from the start of next year - Capacity Development for Feed Safety - in a bid to plug those gaps. The Rome meeting gave us a chance to fine tune the governance and structure of the program,”​ said de Athayde.

She said it is hoped the initiative will address safety in the context of the whole feed chain including feed, feed ingredients, feed inputs, feeding practices, feed handling, packaging, transportation, storage and manufacturing processes. 

The feed safety program, said the partners, also intends to instigate twinning initiatives between countries to disseminate experiences and lessons learnt.

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