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UK Government highlights 'significant negative impact' of zinc oxide ban

2nd Feb 2017 / By Alistair Driver

The UK Government has highlighted the 'significant negative impact on pig production' that would result from the removal of zinc oxide from piglet diets.

George EusticeFarming Minster George Eustice was questioned in the House of Commons on the Government's position on the recommendation by an EU committee to ban zinc oxide from piglet feed.

He said: “At a recent meeting of the EU Standing Committee for Veterinary Medicinal Products on 20 January, the UK presented the view that withdrawal of these products may have a significant negative impact on pig production." 

The scientific basis for the recommended ban is to be re-examined by the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Veterinary Use (CVMP), following appeals from across the EU, with NPA very much to the fore. This process is expected to take two months.

Mr Eustice added: "We will continue to engage with UK stakeholders and the Commission to ensure that the wider context of the impact of a withdrawal is fully considered, and to achieve the best outcome for all stakeholders, balancing availability of medicines with the need to manage all associated risks."

Vital role

Sir GregHe was responding to a question from East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight, who is pressing the Government to make the case against banning zinc in piglet feed. He stressed zinc has a 'vital role in piglet health'.

Sir Greg said: “Zinc Oxide is an important additive in piglet feed and it helps piglets thrive. However following pressure from the Governments of France and the Netherlands, bureaucrats in Europe now want to ban it.

“Zinc oxide's continued use is vital to the industry. I am pleased that UK Ministers recognise this and I hope common sense will prevail."

Strong case

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies welcomed Mr Eustice's comments and the pressure being exerted by Sir Greg. 

She said: "We have been making a strong case to retain zinc oxide and it is really important that we get the full backing of the Government and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) at EU level."

"We have always insisted the recommended is not justified by the evidence in front of us.

"We will continue to argue that the huge benefits of using zinc oxide in piglet feed far outweigh any environmental costs, which can be mitigated by either adopting a regional approach or reducing inclusion levels."

The NPA, as part of an an alliance with the Pig Veterinary Society, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) and AHDB Pork, has been lobbying hard at UK and EU level to fight the ban.

The association submitted a comprehensive briefing to the VMD outlining the impact of a zinc oxide ban on the pig industry.

The NPA estimates that 70-90 per cent of starter diets contain zinc oxide at therapeutic levels. A ban would therefore cause 'a widespread deterioration in pig health and welfare', as well as having a significant impact on farm productivity and compromising efforts to reduce antibiotic usage. 

The briefing also addressed the CVMP's environmental concerns about zinc oxide usage, pointing out that the environmental risk varies throughout the EU.

Application on soils in the UK remains well below limits set by Defra and is often mitigated by dilution when slurry from pigs treated with zinc oxide is mixed with slurry from untreated pigs.