Dutch firm link to unapproved GM bacterial strain seen in feed tested by Belgian officials

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages
© GettyImages
The Belgian authorities recently notified the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) over their identification of the presence of an unauthorized genetically modified strain of bacteria - Bacillus subtilis KCCM-10445 - in vitamin B2 (80% feed grade) in feed.

Trouw Nutrition, Nutreco's animal nutrition arm, said one of its products was identified as containing traces of the unauthorized ingredient during the testing by the Belgian officials.

Commenting on the incident, a spokesperson for Trouw Nutrition told FeedNavigator:

“As part of our resale activities, months ago and within the legal timeframe, we sold a small part of our vitamin B2 stock. The product tested by Belgian authorities included this vitamin B2 and found weak signals of traces of the source microorganism.

“Due to the inconclusive nature of this finding, the EU Commission has decided that, in the absence of a detailed evaluation of the risk of the product, it [the risk] is currently being assessed as ‘undecided’ [as of 2 December 2018​].”

Resistance to antimicrobials

Riboflavin or vitamin B2 is an essential vitamin in animal nutrition. Riboflavin supplements used to be chemically synthesized, but now, are often produced by commercial fermentation using overproducing strains of genetically engineered (GE) bacteria.

For vitamin B2 or riboflavin, GM Bacillus subtilis​ production strains have been developed and are often used. The presence of neither the GM strain nor its recombinant DNA is allowed for fermentation products placed on the EU market as food or feed additive.  This is to avoid the product posing a risk for the spread of viable cells and DNA of a genetically modified strain-harboring genes coding for resistance to antimicrobials.

A spokesperson for the Commission told us the Belgian authorities notified RASFF on October 2 2018 about their findings.

The Commission confirmed that analysis made by Belgian's authorities revealed the presence of Bacillus subtilis​ KCCM-10445, including some traces (at very low levels) of recombinant DNA, which triggered the alert notification under the RASFF.

The spokesperson said that significant quantities of the relevant products have already been withdrawn from the market or blocked by the competent authorities since that alert notification. 

Member State representatives will discuss the issue at the next PAFF meeting - 3 and 17-18 December - so as to ensure the legislation in question is being implemented in an harmonized manner, continued the spokesperson.

She also stressed that the Commission has, since 2015, kept the competent authorities of the Member States informed of any relevant information concerning this vitamin B2 and has called on the EU-28 to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance with the rules.

Trouw Nutrition said the safety of its products for humans and animals is key for the company.

“Our ambition is to achieve a higher standard for food safety and animal health together with our suppliers and customers, and always in compliance with the law.

“The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) expressed concern about a source of vitamin B2 and we withdrew ingredients containing this source well before the deadline required, although it is worth noting that animal feed containing this vitamin B2 source is still permitted for use until April 2019.” 

The company said it has extensive processes in place to ensure the safety of its products and keeps this issue under continuous and ongoing review. “We also work closely with the relevant authorities.” 

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