13 October 2000

Feed label listings edict soon

By Philip Clarke

OPEN declaration of all animal feed ingredients throughout the EU is expected before the end of the year under compulsory new legislation being considered in Brussels.

The requirement is contained in a commission proposal, designed to tighten up on food safety following the BSE crisis and last years dioxin scare.

MEPs had their first reading last week, offering their full support to the idea. Labels should give details of the components, percentage quantities and origins of all ingredients in compound feed, they said. Currently only the category of raw material, such as "oils and fats", has to be mentioned, listed in descending weight order.

As far as the UK is concerned, about 95% of feeds already have ingredients listed – in part due to the farmers weekly 1996 "Whats in the Bag" campaign.

But merchant body UKASTA has grave reservations about extending this to include the actual amounts used, as recommended by the European parliament and commission. "Forcing manufacturers to reveal precise percentages will discourage them from further investment in research and development," it says. "Their new formulations would be copied and they would lose competitive edge."

But the NFU has welcomed the Brussels move, predicting it should come into force by the end of the year. "This is a very positive step for UK farmers," said feeds adviser, Stuart Thomson. "For the first time, all farmers will have the opportunity to know exactly what they are feeding.

"There are still arguments about what exactly the label should say, but at least the principle is now accepted in Brussels."

The MEPs also called for feed manufacturers to submit documentary proof of their ingredients to the authorities upon request, and the introduction of a so-called "positive list" of products that can be used.

EU consumer affairs commissioner, David Byrne, said he could accept the first of these amendments, but warned it would not be possible to bring forward a proposal for a positive list, (as opposed to the current list of banned substances), before the end of 2002.

The proposal now has to go to the farm council under the co-decision procedure, though observers are hopeful of a speedy decision.

* Commission plans to tighten the restrictions on undesirable substances, such as toxins, cadmium, mercury and lead, in animal feed were approved by MEPs last week. The measures, which still need council approval, will introduce spot checks on manufacturers.