The UK’s Advisory Committee on Animal Feedstuffs (ACAF) brought its summer meeting to Queen’s University Belfast.
Normally meeting in London this prestigious group was set up in 1999 to advise on the safety and use of animal feeds, with particular emphasis on protecting human health but also covering new developments and a wide range of contemporary issues.
It is a UK-wide committee made up of independent experts who were appointed by UK agriculture ministers and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and their visit to Belfast was recognition of the leading position of the feed trade in Northern Ireland in pioneering new standards of food safety and nutrition.
The group had requested a report on the Food Fortress project developed by the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association and this was presented by NIGTA chief executive, Robin Irvine.
He outlined the program of surveillance and testing which helps safeguard the food chain and now covers all the compound feed produced in Northern Ireland.
A centrally controlled program of testing for contaminants has massively increased the level of surveillance for dioxins, heavy metals, mycotoxins and pesticides.
Results are shared by the membership and key stakeholders including DARD and the Food Standards Agency.
ACAF chairman, Dr Ian Brown was impressed by the coverage of the scheme and its success in earning a world leading position for the local agri-food sector.
He asked that the committee be kept informed on the ongoing development of the Food Fortress.
The committee also heard a presentation provided by Dr Jean Kennedy (Devenish Nutrition) on the potential for enhanced feeds to influence the quality of food and deliver health benefits to the consumer.
The case of BSE which was recently confirmed in County Louth brought a cautionary reminder of the challenges which have threatened the health of livestock produced on the island of Ireland in recent years.
Happily the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in their epidemiological investigation report showed this to be an isolated case of “classical” BSE in a single animal and stated that: “No concerns arise regarding the integrity of the commercial feed supply chain or the effectiveness of the feed control systems.
“The report recognises the robust control systems which identified this once-off case and which will continue to underpin the safe trade in products from Ireland.
“The control system that has brought BSE under control is still in place to protect human and animal health and is deemed to be effective.”