Animal feed and the concept of "technical zero”
Since the "mad cow disease" crisis, the CRA-W laboratories have been heavily involved in the development of methods for detecting and identifying processed animal proteins in food for farm animals. On 1 January, 2001, the European Union banned the use of animal protein in feed for animals intended for food production.
In 2006, the CRA-W became the designated Reference Laboratory of the European Union for the detection of Animal Proteins in animal feed (EURL-AP).
At the request of the DG-SANTE service of the European Commission, a EURL-AP report was drafted on the concept of technical zero. It had two objectives:
- To find out how a tolerance threshold (called "technical zero") for the occurrence of ruminant DNA can be implemented in practice, in the knowledge that, currently, even small traces are effectively prohibited;
- To provide information to facilitate the work of EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) in its review of the risk analysis for bovine spongiform encephalopathy induced by processed animal proteins. However, this review of the EFSA will already have to incorporate the concept of technical zero, in the way the EURL-AP report defines its application (mission of the first objective).
The EURL-AP report was completed in July 2017 and is now available to the public on (http://eurl.craw.eu/img/page/publication/Technical_zero-final_version.pdf). It includes various possible thresholds to be submitted for risk analysis. One of the difficulties was to convert two types of units that were, at first glance, rather incompatible. To be specific, the tolerance threshold is defined in terms of the number of copies of the PCR target of the official "ruminant" method, whereas the risk analysis requires a mass content of processed ruminant animal proteins.
Meanwhile, the EFSA risk analysis update report was issued in July 2018 (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/5314) and refers to the EURL-AP report.
In due course, the data included in these reports will enable adaptation of European legislation while ensuring that the safety of the food chain is maintained.