Victam preview

by Emily Wilson
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Victam, the largest event worldwide for the animal feed industry, will take place Nov. 6-9 in its regular venue at the Jaarbeurs exhibition halls in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Originally slated to take place earlier this spring, Victam was postponed as a precautionary measure due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Europe. What at first looked like a potential disaster for the event has turned into an advantage as the show will now run concurrently with VIV, the animal husbandry show, thus providing visitors with double the reason to make the trip.

Victam has traditionally centered around feed processing technology, despite efforts by the organizers to broaden the appeal of the show. This year the exhibits have been divided into four distinct areas: feed ingredients, feed production, aquaculture and grain processing.

While suppliers to all these industries will be well represented among the 200-plus exhibitors, the emphasis of the show will be overwhelmingly on animal feed processing and bulk handling equipment. Those interested in ingredient suppliers will find them distributed between the two shows, and a single ticket will gain entry to both events.

Since the last Victam meeting in 1998, the European feed industry has endured the most challenging period in its history. Every country and every sector has been sent reeling by at least one, if not a whole series of blows: spreading BSE, devastating foot and mouth disease, swine fever, Avian flu, dioxin levels in fishmeal and a consumer backlash against GMOs. And yet, while there have been individual casualties, the industry has come through surprisingly well, and in the long run it will be stronger.

Forced to come to grips with a barrage of food safety issues and consumer concerns, the industry has had to take a hard look at how it produces feed, where it sources its ingredients, what ingredients it uses and how it communicates with its suppliers and customers — in short, it is being propelled into a new level of sophistication for the 21st century.

There has been talk about the feed industry as a link in the food chain, food grade feed mills and total accountability since the salmonella crisis of the mid-1980s. These latest events have actuated regulation and policy at E.U., country and company level and focused attention on building confidence in the consumer marketplace through transparency, traceability and total supply chain management.

Regulation and Codes of Practice. Brussels has produced a white paper action plan on food safety, defining the feed chain as an integral part of the food chain and has set up a European Food Authority to implement a harmonized food safety standard. Pending the adoption of the new legal framework, European feed manufacturers have decided to take a proactive approach.

At its June 2001 Congress in Helsinki, FEFAC, the European compound feed manufacturers’ federation, announced a revision of its guidelines for the implementation of national codes of practice for its 15 member countries, requiring them to identify the critical points at supplier level and in the manufacturing process in order to improve HACCP monitoring and control for all animal feed related hazards to both animal and human health.

In conjunction with E.U. and international feed supply associations, an action plan has been established to develop feed assurance schemes from primary crop production to livestock holdings. It has also reinforced the need to keep pathogens and contaminants out of the feed/food chain and is promoting the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principal as recognized and used by the FAO/WHO CODEX Alimentarius Commission.

The E.U. is developing a negative list of undesirable substances in animal feed, such as mycotoxins and toxic minerals, which will ultimately become a positive list of permitted feed ingredients. The federation has also accepted political demand for feed ingredients to not only be declared on the label but to be listed in descending order, as it is for food products and possibly even with percentages.

GMOs. Labelling also is a key issue in proposed E.U. legislation for GMOs. The E.U. Commission has sought to define traceability in its proposed horizontal legislation on the principles of food law. The current definition boils down to "knowing who you bought from and then sold to."

On the basis of that definition, the Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA) said the requirements of traceability have been met for many decades by the grain and feed materials trade through the use of standard contract terms. However, the GM traceability proposal goes beyond this over-simplified definition and seeks far more information. The labelling does not apply to everyone in the E.U. supply chain — only the last seller is legally required to label the GM status of the food or feed.

GM "unique event codes" relate to transformation events where a conventional organism is "transformed" through the introduction of modified DNA sequences to form the GMO. As it currently stands today in the commercial marketplace, an E.U. feed compounder will only seek information from their E.U. supplier on whether the product contains GM material or not. They have no requirement for any additional information such as the proposed listing of unique event codes that may be within a bulk consignment.

The problems center on the listing of unique event codes as there are currently no internationally standardized codes. For example, Canada and the United States have different event codes for the same genetic modification. The actual need for such codes can only be equated to environmental damage assessment.

For GAFTA members trading in E.U. markets, the import declaration would show the imported products are not destined for E.U. cultivation, the only place where environmental damage could occur.

"The claim that the codes would help human health monitoring is also groundless, since the traceability stops at the food retailer," GAFTA told World Grain.

Knowing precisely who the buyer is in every case may prove unachievable for food retailers. Therefore, the unique codes listings on bulk imports which may be contained within the consignment has no actual function. It would be information held for retroactive actions that would prove unachievable in reality.

Human health monitoring can’t be achieved, while environmental damage can only equate to seed imports that will be cultivated in the E.U. The most that the European Commission could require would be to label relevant items as "does contain genetically modified organisms" when above a threshold level.

GAFTA argues that the GM traceability rules covering imports into the E.U. can only be viewed as a technical barrier, as the rules have no scientific basis since they do not address environmental damage or human health. The GM traceability proposal with regard to imports therefore merely offers the consumer  a choice that has no scientific validity. It is simply in effect a barrier to trade under WTO rules and would thus be open to a challenge under the WTO dispute procedures.

Innovations. So what does this all mean for suppliers to the European feed industry, and what can one expect to see at Victam? In marketing year 2000-01, an estimated 113 million tonnes of grains were fed to livestock. The European feed industry has as good as lost animal proteins from its repertoire, including fishmeal for ruminants.

In 2000, the industry used about 2.4 million tonnes of meat and bonemeal — the equivalent of 3 million tonnes of high-pro (48%) soymeal or 14.2 million tonnes of wheat. So, it might reasonably be expected that grains will have an increasingly important place in European feed, particularly non-GMO grains, given the present market environment. That will mean a corresponding increase in feed enzymes.

Demand for non-chemical, non-medicated feeds will mean further development of neutraceuticals, plant extracts, probiotics and natural additives and ingredients such as binders, colorants, palatants, and feed preservatives. An increasing number of these will be available in liquid form, so expect to see innovations in micro-ingredient dosing equipment and post-pelleting liquid application systems.

Feed formulation will become tighter and more precise as feeds continue to be developed for specific purposes, to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous, to manipulate meat quality and flavor, to enhance animal health and the nutritional and neutraceutical value of meat, milk and eggs to the end consumer. Look for even more sophisticated ingredients and also feed formulation software.

Feed safety and quality assurance will be at the heart of all technology development, with the prevention of cross contamination being a major consideration. Mills will become more and more specialized, requiring dedicated lines for different animal species, for different medicated feed treatments, for GMOs and to meet the growing demand for organic feeds. The emphasis will be on flexibility and hygiene.

In bulk handling, dedicated ingredient bins and silos will insure that first in, first out principals apply, and discharge systems will be designed for specific ingredients to prevent mixing and mass flow. Watch for designs and devices that encourage complete emptying of processing machinery, pneumatic conveyors and elevator buckets and improved access to equipment and removability of parts for cleaning.

Environmental impact is a continuous challenge, so expect to see innovative odor, dust and noise abatement solutions.

The requirement for traceability will mean that there will be greater emphasis on integration and sophistication of process and machine control systems to record parameters for consistent quality and accountability. The industry also should see a commensurate increase in the sophistication of integrated office, mill management and process control software.

The now well-established advantages of extruder and expander technology as a means of sterilization will bring out most of the major players in this important and highly competitive sector; expect to see refinements to machines and control systems. At least one company is now advocating sterilization of mash as well as through the pelleting process, so anticipate many alternative sterilization approaches.