UK pig sector looks to zinc oxide options post-Brexit

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© istock
© istock
The UK’s national pig association (NPA) said it would continue to explore options for using zinc oxide in piglet diets after the UK leaves the European Union.

It and other stakeholders met with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) last week to discuss the implementation of the withdrawal of licenses for high-level zinc oxide in the UK.

Member states have five years to phase out its use at therapeutic levels in piglet diets, following a decision by the European Commission in June​ to ban the product for use in pig diets over environmental concerns.

Zinc oxide is used widely across the EU to prevent and control post-weaning diarrhea in young pigs, with 70-90% of starter diets in the UK containing it at therapeutic levels.

The ban will necessitate the introduction of alternative products to aid in the control of diarrhea in piglets. 

Following the meeting, the NPA’s senior policy advisor, Georgina Crayford, said:

“There was some discussion around the potential to obtain a local (UK) license for the products once we have fully left the EU, although the uncertainty around Brexit means VMD could not provide any clear answers at this stage. A lot depends, for example, on the transition period and whether 2019 or 2021 is considered the date we leave.

“My understanding is that although the VMD wouldn’t automatically reverse the Commission's decision – it might be open to exploring options for authorizing products in the UK. NPA will continue to explore this and support efforts to gather the necessary environmental data.”

She reiterated the challenges facing the UK pig industry when it comes to successfully removing medicinal zinc oxide, saying there is a lack of viable alternatives, coupled with potential disease challenges and pressure to further reduce industry antibiotic usage.   

Environmental concerns

Danish research on the subject​ led to the decision to phase out the use of medicinal zinc oxide by the European Commission.

The authors of that paper found the use of pig slurry on soils has led to a significant increase in soil concentrations of zinc, with fears there could be leaching of zinc from fields fertilized with pig slurry into the water compartments, in concentrations posing a risk to aquatic species.

Related topics: Sustainability, Poultry, Europe, Regulation

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