Emergency authorization for cobalt salts in feed in Scotland

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/simonkr
© GettyImages/simonkr

Related tags cobalt AIC British Association of Feed Supplement and Additive Manufacturers FSA Animal welfare

Legislation for the emergency authorization of the use of four cobalt salts in livestock feed has been laid in Scotland following an intervention by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC).

The AIC and the British Association of Feed Supplement and Additive Manufacturers (BAFSAM) provided Foods Standards Scotland (FSS) animal welfare and economic impact data to help it make an informed decision.

AIC maintains that its input assisted FSS in understanding the impact of those cobalt salts not being available once the existing authorization expired, including the risks to animal health.

Last week, a Statutory Instrument was laid in the Scottish Parliament which is set to come into force on the 30 June, with the emergency approval period commencing on July 15 and expiring in July 2026.

Cobalt supplementation

Cobalt is an essential trace element that is used to meet the nutritional demands for ruminants, horses and to a lesser extent other animal species due its association with vitamin B12 for which there is no alternative. Most forages and feedstuffs fed to ruminants do not contain adequate quantities of cobalt to support the ruminant’s nutritional requirements without the use of cobalt as an additive, stated the FSA in its consultation briefing.

Differing characteristics of the cobalt compounds are required to meet the formulation criteria for various feed types, from standard rations through to specialized supplements.

A report from the UK’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) on disease surveillance from Q4, 2021 noted cobalt deficiency in 7.8% of animals submitted for post-mortem despite widespread use of cobalt supplementation. Removal is likely to exponentially increase the number of animals affected and negatively impact the national herd and flock, reported the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

FSA consultation

The AIC is encouraging members in the feed sector to respond to a Food Standards Agency (FSA) consultation​ on a proposed emergency authorization for the same four cobalt salts in England and Wales.

James McCulloch, AIC's head of feed, said: "We hope that a similar decision will soon be taken by the FSA so that these important feed additives remain available to livestock farmers in England and Wales too. We are working closely with members and BAFSAM to respond to the FSA consultation."

There are five cobalt compounds, currently permitted to be used in GB under Retained Regulation (EC) 601/2013. The FSA said it received an application for renewal of coated granulated cobalt (II) carbonate in July 2022. "Accordingly, this feed additive will remain on the GB market under its existing authorization until a decision is made on the renewal application."

A feed additive can only remain on the UK market after its initial authorization expired if a renewal request is submitted at least 12 months prior to its expiry date.

The supplier of cobalt (II) acetate tetrahydrate, cobalt (II) carbonate, cobalt (II) carbonate hydroxide (2:3) monohydrate and cobalt (II) sulphate heptahydrate sought new approvals in November 2022, continued the agency. "This was less than 12 months before their initial authorization expired and so authorization of these four feed additives will expire on 15 July 2023."

Once the approval has expired, products containing the additive cannot lawfully be placed on the market, processed, or used.

Stakeholder feedback urged 

“We have shortened the normal public consultation period to allow the new provisions to apply before existing authorizations expire. We are asking for stakeholders’ views on the FSA’s opinion and the other legitimate factors related to the provisional authorization of these feed additives: this could include animal health concerns, consumer interests and technical feasibility.

“Subject to the outcome of this consultation, FSA will ask ministers to decide on authorization of these additives for five years in accordance with Article 15 of Retained Regulation (EU) 1831/2003," outlined the agency.

Just one cobalt salt additive out of a potential five sources is going through the reauthorization process​ in the EU.

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