High standards of safety and manufacturing integrity are a feature of Feed businesses in Northern Ireland and the success of the industry assurance schemes in delivering these standards has been formally acknowledged by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) with the adoption of the concept of “Earned Recognition”.
The Department is implementing revisions to the Feed Enforcement Guidance, published by the Food Standards Agency which brings Northern Ireland guidance into line with the Code of Practice operating in England and Wales.
This will include a modified risk assessment scheme with a greater weighting toward voluntary membership of approved quality assurance schemes.
“This is welcome news and means feed businesses in Northern Ireland can enjoy the benefits of earned recognition,” said Keith Agnew, President of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association. “Feed business operators are legally responsible for compliance with feed safety legislation and DAERA have officially recognised that the trade takes these responsibilities very seriously and often exceed the legal requirements.”
John Kelley, Managing Director of AIC Services which operates the AIC assurance schemes explained that the move follows a thorough assessment of the key industry schemes - the Universal Feed Assurance Scheme (UFAS), the Feed Materials Assurance Scheme (FEMAS) and the Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops (TASCC).
“The regulators have ruled that businesses which participate and comply with these schemes are demonstrating best practice in feed production and can be viewed as lower risk,” said John. “As well as reducing the burden on compliant businesses this approach allows regulators to redirect resources to areas of higher risk – including work to improve standards in businesses which do not have such a good history of compliance.”
DAERA have also confirmed their ongoing commitment to working with the Food Fortress network in Northern Ireland and have already modified their feed sampling programmes to reflect the information shared though this programme. The Food Fortress programme is unique to Ireland having been developed originally by the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association in partnership with the Institute of Global Food Security at Queens University.
Over 80 companies involved in the import and manufacture of animal feeds contribute to a programme of sampling and testing to protect the Feed and Food Chain from contamination. Test results are shared with the regulators and are factored in to the official risk assessments. This is a significant advance in terms of feed safety according to Food Fortress director, Robin Irvine: “The industry working closely with government agencies can ensure a much more effective response to the challenges of managing risk within the food chain.”