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NPA welcomes VMD decision on future use of Zinc Oxide

12th Jan 2022 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has welcomed an announcement by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) that will, hopefully, give pig producers access to Zinc Oxide for longer than currently expected.

piglet feed 33However, the association has stressed that the industry must continue preparations for a future where the current products are no longer permitted in piglet feed.

On June 26, 2022, the marketing authorisations (MAs) of veterinary medicines containing Zinc Oxide for oral administration to food-producing animals will be withdrawn at EU level. The VMD said the European Commission’s Implementing Decision on Zinc Oxide in 2017 forms part of retained EU law and is therefore part of UK law.

However, following discussions with representatives from across the UK pig industry, the VMD has agreed that Zinc Oxide products that are QP (Qualified Person) released, and therefore in the supply chain, by June 26, 2022, can continue to be used until their end of shelf life.

“This is in accordance with established practice when MAs expire and product is no longer being placed on the market,” the VMD said.

In the UK, there are two veterinary medicines containing Zinc Oxide authorised for oral administration to food-producing animals.

The VMD said: “Together with the pig sector, we have been working to explore how withdrawal of these MAs can be implemented in a way that does not lead to an increase in antibiotic use or a decrease in the health and welfare of weaned piglets.

“We recognise the hard work and progress the pig sector has already made to prepare for the withdrawal of the MAs.”

The Allied Industries Confederation (AIC) welcomed the statement and said that this effectively means pig producers can continue to use Zinc Oxide for ‘up to two years beyond June 2022’ subject to availability.

“This means that Zinc Oxide veterinary products that are QP released by June 26, 2022, and therefore in the supply chain and available for sale to feed compounders, can continue to be used until their end of shelf life,” it said.

AIC has asked its members that the distribution of available stocks of Zinc Oxide is carried out ‘in a fair and equitable manner in order to best serve the interests of the wider industry’.

“AIC will continue to encourage members and their FAR registered feed advisers to work with their pig producer customers and prescribing vets to help the transition away from Zinc Oxide at the earliest opportunity so that diminishing supplies remain available for those pig producers where the use of Zinc Oxide remains essential for a slightly longer period,” it said.

NPA reaction

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies welcomed the VMD’s statement, which she said will give the pig sector much-needed breathing space beyond June 2022. She highlighted the 'incredible effort' put in behind the scenes with the VMD, particularly by Grace Webster and Paul Thompson, of the Pig Veterinary Society and Paul Toplis from the AIC in helping to secure this agreement.

“This is good news for the pig sector and will help some businesses that might struggle to cope without Zinc Oxide in piglet feed,” Zoe said.

“The key point is that the VMD have stressed that there is no blanket ban on Zinc Oxide – but a withdrawal of the market authorisation for existing products containing it, which is a very subtle but important shift in interpretation of the rules."

But she said there was no guarantee at this stage over how much Zinc Oxide would be available to pig producers post-June 2022.

“The full impact of this will depend on the volume of orders feed companies put in over the next few weeks - there is no guarantee at this stage that there will be enough for all producers in stock until 2024," Zoe added.

“The VMD has made it clear, however, that the industry should only use Zinc Oxide where current tools have not been sufficient to control Post Weaning Diarrhoea on farm, so our advice is very much for all parts of the supply chain to continue preparing for life beyond Zinc where possible.”

The VMD did leave the door open to new products containing Zinc Oxide to be authorised provided they meet the criteria and pass the environmental impact modelling - however, this concept still needs to be explored with manufacturers. 

PVS reaction 

The PVS welcomed the 'pragmatic approach' the VMD is taking to the withdrawal of the
marketing authorisations for Zinc Oxide. 

Senior vice-president Paul Thompson said: "PVS recognises that while some farms have been successful in trials to remove zinc from their rations there are others where dietary and hygiene interventions have been ineffective which compromises pig welfare and risks use of more therapeutic antibiotic treatment.

"PVS would strongly encourage its members to use this run-out period to continue to explore
alternative options. While it is possible that a new MA could be applied for this is by no means a
given particularly if the market for the product is limited.

"In the immediate term there is now a very narrow window to bring product into the UK and clear quality control as lead times on the product are considerable. Feed companies are going to have to commit to a quantity and agree commercial terms for payment by end of January."

He urged vets to respond 'rapidly' when asked by mills or clients as to how they see their
prescribing pattern for next two years.