Improving biosecurity in feed: taking responsibility and raising awareness

GMP+ International


The outbreak of African Swine Fever has led to questions about biosecurity in the worldwide feed sector. Are feed entrepreneurs doing enough? Are they prepared for future outbreaks? Johan den Hartog (GMP+ International), Victor Volkers (Q-Point), Hans van den Heuvel (Trouw Nutrition) and Lourens Heres (Sonac) share their thoughts on biosecurity measures and the challenges the sector faces.


'Efforts of the majority are undone by lack of effort from others'
Victor Volkers DVM, Senior Advisor, food safety management consultancy firm Q-Point


"Biosecurity works both ways. On the one hand, you have to make sure that you don't expose your company to external hazards. This means taking appropriate measures to prevent people, animals and vehicles from carrying diseases onto your property. On the other hand, as an entrepreneur in the feed chain it is your responsibility to ensure that your own processes do not endanger other companies in the chain. In practice, most companies tend to put more effort in the former. They are protective of their own company, yet devote less attention to the threat they potentially pose to others. A safe feed chain, by definition, requires looking beyond our own premises."


"I think entrepreneurs in the feed chain all need to take a critical look at their own role. In some regions we see that that the efforts of the majority of companies are being undone by the lack of awareness at small companies, often middlemen. This is unnecessary. You don't have to own a large business to make meaningful contributions to biosecurity. With some small investments you can abide by all laws and regulations. I see a bigger role here for the GMP+ Feed Certification scheme, like expanding the scope from safe production, sourcing, storage and transport to the complete company activities, including contingency preparedness regimes introducing extra 'wartime' measures on zoning. However, what is most needed everywhere is awareness and knowledge. Biosecurity has to become a second nature."


'Employees should know what is expected of them' 

Lourens Heres PhD DVM, Manager Global Technical Support, Sonac (Darling Ingredients)


"From what we know now, feed does not play a very significant role in the spreading of African Swine Fever. Although it is sensible to do more research, like the European Food Safety Authority is doing now, raw materials and animal by-products seem safe. It is the process that follows – the drying, transporting, and storing of feed materials – that poses the biggest risks. ASF mainly spreads through wild hog populations and small pig farms that lack even the most basic biosecurity measures."


"Entrepreneurs in the feed sector can help containing ASF by preventing direct and indirect contact between animals of different companies, as well as contact with wild hog populations. With good biosecurity measures it shouldn't be too hard to keep diseases out of the door. This means that all people working at a company should follow the rules and know what is expected of them. For delivering trucks arriving at pig farms it should be clear where the clean zone starts and ends. They should make sure materials do not come into contact with filthy truck wheels. With closed feed storage, clean trucks and hygienic behaviour from employees in and around the truck, most risks are controlled."


'Sharing best practices in biosecurity matters' 

Hans van den Heuvel, Quality Affairs Manager, Trouw Nutrition


"When it comes to biosecurity in feed, people are the weakest link. With people, I mean visitors, drivers, employees who do not follow the appropriate hygiene measures related to transport or clothing for instance. Only after people come the ingredients, for which we at Trouw Nutrition have monitoring and gatekeeping measures in place. It is important to realise companies in the feed sector do not necessarily have to reinvent the wheel, but we should consider improving the spokes! At Trouw Nutrition, for example, we gather the most prominent standards, rules, procedures and guidelines on biosecurity available around the globe in order to tailor them to the specific needs of our business, and efficiently implement them within our operating companies."


"Generally speaking, the higher the standard in farm management, the lower the risk of biosecurity hazards. A clean, closed, and well-conditioned environment is the best insurance against viruses' outbreak and spread. In addition, I believe as a sector we would all benefit from shared knowledge and increased awareness of biosecurity measures, so that every entrepreneur in feed could be better prepared for future outbreaks. In that regard, I see an increasing role for feed certification schemes like GMP+ International as well. In my opinion, the surest way to improving biosecurity doesn't lie in more rules or regulation, but simply in better awareness and access to knowledge."


'Working together as one chain is crucial'
Johan den Hartog, Managing Director, GMP+ International


"Diseases do not only spread through animals or farmer-farmer contacts. Cars and trucks entering your property, as well as their drivers, carry germs as well. Recent publications indicate that raw materials might be carrier of viruses too. Although more research is necessary, we should be alert and devote extra attention to our production process."


"As a sector we should be uncompromising when it comes to biosecurity. Business owners should think about who they allow on their premises, where they can go, and which hygiene measures are required. Perhaps it is necessary to rethink the truck cleaning and disinfecting procedures: should only the wheel wells be cleaned, or the entire vehicle? There are no ready-made answers and certain measures have a high impact on business operations. But the impact of viral diseases is immense."


"Companies that want to arm themselves against ASF and other viruses would do well to consult manuals of their sector organisations. Although our GMP+ Feed Certification scheme does not have biosafety in its scope, it does contain useful tools for risk assessments in accordance with HACCP and means for implementing precautionary and control measures. At the moment, we are thinking about extra measures and adjustments we can implement in the future. We'd like to involve certified companies in this. I challenge our community to think about how we could facilitate them with regard to biosecurity."
"Viruses and diseases can do great harm, as COVID-19 is showing the world right now. Unfortunately, they can never be completely eradicated. But as a chain we should work together to ensure that we are optimally prepared to prevent the spreading of viruses and minimise economic damage to all involved."


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Article made possible through the contribution of GMP+ International