“Northern Ireland’s feed businesses have the world’s leading program for the management of risks to the feed and food chain and the Food Fortress network is the envy of every other region. It is increasingly recognised in the marketplace and gives a competitive advantage to the product of Northern Ireland,” said Professor Chris Elliot, who was speaking at the Food Fortress members meeting in Armagh earlier this week.
“The local feed trade is to be congratulated for what has been achieved through the collaborative approach to feed surveillance. The sharing of information with the authorities is also a first, and has created a positive relationship between industry and the regulators with the common aim of protecting the food chain.”
Food Fortress Director, Robin Irvine told members that the sampling program now covers 79 compound feed manufacturers – including 16 in the Republic of Ireland and seven on the UK mainland.
Mr Irvine reported that the program was now self-financing and acknowledged the assistance of InvestNI who had helped to fund the network through the start-up period.
“We have five million tonnes of compound feed production covered by our surveillance and with around 80 samples passing through our system every month we have amassed a substantial database of results and a clear understanding of the contamination risks facing the industry. The fact that the principal importing companies are also contributing their test results on imported feed materials adds another dimension to the program and allows us to identify the challenges coming from other parts of the world.”
Current results are indicating that the risks from Dioxins, Heavy Metals, Aflatoxins and Pesticides residues are well under control.
“We are detecting increased levels of some mycotoxins however – and while these toxins pose no threat to human consumers they have the potential to impact on animal health and performance. Measurement and mitigation is the key to driving livestock performance and guidance on the safe inclusion rates for different raw materials, the susceptibility of different species and ages of livestock and the use of binding agents which neutralise the anti-nutrient activity are provided on the members website,” said Robin
Climate change is contributing to this increase and mycotoxins are now ubiquitous across a range of feed materials.
“The search for more advanced analytical techniques to meet this challenge has led to an agreement with the University of Vienna where new methodologies have been developed which will widen the scope of our testing and help identify the most effective mitigation. This new methodology will be employed at the Queens University laboratory in Belfast and will improve our ability to manage these toxins - with the potential to drive improvements in feed efficiency and more profitable production, particularly in the intensive sector,” added Robin.