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Fundamentals of Feed Safety

Feed safety is one of the fundamental links of food supply chain. There is irrefutable evidence and case studies that indicate the presence of feed safety hazards in feed ingredients, animal feed and pet food directly impacts human food safety and human health. Thus, feed security is crucial for animal welfare and human health. 


Elaine VANIER – Animal Welfare and Animal Feed Program Lead
NSF International

To ensure the supply of animal feed, pet food and human food is safe, the entire food supply chain must be aware and accept responsibility for risk management. Risk management should first focus on preparedness, prevention and reducing the hazard.

Let’s start by looking at the feed ingredient manufacturing industry, which has an increasing degree of complexity due to the following contributing factors:
• Increased global trade in feed and its ingredients
• Novel ingredients
• Natural evolution of biological hazards
• New technology

To be prepared, we work first to identify the hazards in feed safety, understanding hazard characteristics, their specific sources, and their relevance to animal and human health is required. Feed safety hazards associated with animal feed can be biological, chemical or physical. When assessing the hazards, the possible contamination, exposure pathways, severity of the illness or injury (if the hazard occurs) are all considered. The next step works at eliminating the hazard from the food supply chain after detection of the problem. Risk management includes identification of points of control to prevent, reduce or eliminate the hazard, and the tools to detect and confirm effectiveness of those controls.

There is irrefutable evidence and case studies that indicate the presence of feed safety hazards in feed ingredients, animal feed and pet food directly impacts human food safety and human health. Some examples include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease), dioxin contamination, food-borne bacterial infections, and antimicrobial resistance.

There is potential that a hazard can adversely affect:
• Animal health after consumption
• Human health through exposure while handling feed ingredient or feed
• Human health after consumption of food derived from the animal such as, acute or chronic illness or ineffectiveness of antibiotic treatment due to veterinary drug residues
• Human health through cross-contamination while storing animal feed or pet food(e.g. dry pet food or chews in pantry)
• Consumer trust and economic viability of the individual producer
• Domestic and international market share and trade

The commercial feed manufacturers’ responsibilities include:
• Awareness of potential hazards (biological, chemical, physical)
• Comprehensive and robust hazard analysis
• Meeting requirements of internationally accepted feed and feed ingredient manufacturing standards. Note: NSF International provides certification to these standards for commercial feed manufactures such as SQF, FSSC 22000 and Safe Feed/Safe Food, ISO 22000 and Non-GMO Transparency.
• Fundamental requirements, preventive measures in place which covers: design, maintenance and calibration of facilities and equipment; water and sewage controls; sanitation and pest control; feed ingredient supplier management; receiving, storage and transportation; personnel training; best practices; manufacturing controls and prevention of cross-contamination;
• Good Manufacturing Practices; sample collection and analysis as required by legislation and certification; product traceability and recall procedures; record keeping

The producers’ responsibilities include:
• Awareness of potential hazards (biological, chemical, physical) and impacts of animal, plant and environmental health and management
• On-farm cropping strategies; cultivation; crop site selection; use of fertilizers and pesticides; harvest, transport and storage (if growing crops for use in animal feeds)
• Feed ingredient supply; storage; on-farm feed manufacture best practices; feed formulation and mixing (if mixing and/or manufacturing feed on-farm)
• Feeding practices; environment and pasture management; pasture rotation, water source management; intensive feeding practices; sanitation
• Good Agricultural Practices; sample collection and analysis as required; record keeping. Note: NSF International also certifies to GLOBALG.A.P. Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA), a globally recognized food safety standard.

NSF International also provides lab and testing services to evaluate ingredients, materials and products for antimicrobial agents, industrial chemicals, food additives, source water contamination. This service can be viable for farmers looking to ensure feed safety.

*NSF International (nsf.org) is a global independent organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products for the water, food, health sciences and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment.

For more information on NSF International and its Animal Feed and Welfare division, please visit:

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