In earlier blogs, I have mentioned having horses and other animals while growing up on a small farm. Even now, to my husband’s dismay, I have never outgrown being “horse crazy.” But during all this time, I never remember being concerned about the animal feed I have purchased or used. I do qualify this statement in that I knew certain things could not be fed to horses and that you better know where your sawdust was coming from to ensure it did not include black walnut. But as to the commercial feed I purchased – I never gave it a thought.
Recently, the FDA issued a draft guidance entitled “Ensuring Safety of Animal Feed Maintained and Fed On-Farm.” Comments on the draft are due by June 3, 2015.
This guidance is intended to help animal producers – those who feed animals, including horses – in developing and implementing on-farm practices to ensure animal feed is maintained and fed in a safe manner. It provides good information for not only those feeding animals commercially, but for those who have one or two animals in the backyard they are raising for personal use.
In general, the guidance encourages people feeding animals to consider and apply the following principals:
- Know what feed contaminants may be present in your animals’ feed and the measures known to prevent such contaminants from becoming unacceptable feed risks;
- Obtain feed from safe and reliable sources;
- Recognize unexpected changes in the feed at your farm (e.g., changes in color, smell, texture, or appearance);
- Know where in your production system unacceptable feed risks may occur;
- Monitor animal feed products for contaminants during receiving, holding, and handling; and
- Be aware that other actions, such as limiting access to the premises to authorized personnel, following feed labeling directions, proper personnel training, and sampling and testing of feed, can help ensure feed safety.
The definition of “feed contaminants” are “any biological, chemical, physical, or radiological agent that if present in feed has the potential to cause illness or injury to animals or humans.” Appendix A to the draft guidance lists examples to be considered. When a contaminant rises to the level that is “reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in animals or humans,” this is considered an “unacceptable feed risk.” Appendix A also lists examples of these.
The guidance provides a number of sources for review that identify feed contaminants that can be associated with particular types of farms and feed activities. These include:
- FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Animal Feed Safety System articles on feed contaminants, including this “Draft List of Potentially Hazardous Contaminants in Animal Feed and Feed Ingredients,” and FDA’s Food Protection Plan articles on food safety; and
- Land-grant university websites and publications.
The guidance also has recommendations for safe feeding practices that farms should consider adopting such as knowing the requirements for animal feed in your state, and taking steps to prevent or significantly minimize the occurrence of feed contaminants in feed (e.g., pest control measures, regular and adequate cleaning of animal feeding areas and equipment, good storage practices) among others. Information is even provided regarding your pastures and bedding – think my comment on sawdust!
Many considerations relate to how you store feed, such as the need to ensure use of oldest first, and that the correct feed is used for each animal. The guidance also has recommendations for farms with intensive animal feeding operations. Other information includes safe use of pesticides, fertilizers, and other agricultural chemicals, personnel training and sampling and analyzing feed.
Finally, FDA provides information on steps to take if you have a concern about feed safety. These include:
- Take immediate measures to ensure the product is not fed to animals;
- Review the FDA website about reporting problems to the agency;
- Promptly consult a veterinarian if feed may cause or has caused a negative effect on animal health; and
- If you suspect there could be a negative effect on human health from ingestion of food products derived from animals that ate contaminated feed, promptly contact local and state health departments.
The guidance provides thoughtful advice on what should be considered when feeding animals on small or large farms and should be reviewed by anyone with a few animals to many animals.
At minimum, after you dump that bag of feed into your grain bin, cut off the label with the lot number and maintain it in a plastic bag! Always keep the current feed’s label(s) in the plastic bag. This way, if something does go wrong, you have the information on what you last fed your animal/s. This goes for whatever type of animal you are feeding, including your dogs and cats. With this information, you won’t be trying to figure out whether or not what you have in that storage container is part of the most recently-announced recall!