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Zinc oxide - update on future of piglet feed product

6th Mar 2017 / By Alistair Driver

Pig producers have been reminded that zinc oxide is still permitted at therapeutic doses in piglet feed, despite the uncertainty over its future.

young pigsThe product, which is used widely to prevent and control post-weaning diarrhoea (PWD) and bowel oedema disease in young pigs, is currently facing a ban at EU level. The Committee for Veterinary Medicinal Products (CVMP) that recommended a ban on zinc oxide at therapeutic levels in piglet feed in December is currently re-evaluating its opinion, following an appeal from a number of pharmaceutical companies.

The CVMP is expected to make its final recommendation on March 16, after which the European Commission is expected to vote on its final decision in mid-April.

It has emerged that some producers believe the product is already banned.

NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford stressed that the product was very much still available and, even if the Commission does decide to ban it, the industry is pushing for a long transition period before it finally goes.

Georgina said: “Zinc oxide is still available in piglet feed and we, along with other industry bodies, are lobbying very hard to keep it that way.

“An estimated 70-90% of starter diets in the UK contain zinc oxide at therapeutic levels. We are making the case that a ban would cause a widespread deterioration in pig health and welfare and have a big impact on her productivity. We would also expect to see increased use of antibiotics, which may result in further development of bacterial resistance.”

“Even though our ultimate aim continues to be to prevent a ban, the Commission has consulted on a transition period, if zinc oxide is banned.

"In our submission, NPA argued for a 10-year transition period. While the negative environmental impact over this period would be negligible, we believe it will take a decade to bring viable alternatives to market, deliver sustainable reductions in antibiotic use, achieve a stable outlook post-Brexit and for pig producers to invest in new, more hygienic, buildings.”

See Pig World for analysis on the politics and evidence behind the decision, and the efforts of a coalition of industry organisations to find compromise solutions.

The UK industry has been making the case for either a regionalised approach that would reflect the lower environmental risk in countries like the UK or a compromise that would permit lower doses for therapeutic use.

However, at a recent meeting to discuss zinc oxide, the Commission rejected calls by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, representing the UK, raised to consider a regionalised policy.

Most member states expressed concern about the negative impact of a ban on the pig sector, but, rather than opposing a ban, called for a transition period before a ban is introduced.

With the Commission consulting on the length of transition period needed, most industry insiders believe it is now more a question of when, not if a ban comes in.

But for now and hopefully for some time to come, zinc remains available.