Authorisation for the antioxidant ethoxyquin (EQ) as a feed additive was formally suspended by the European Commission on 28 June 2017 with the publication of Regulation (EU) 2017/962 in the Official Journal of the EU.
Consequently, the use of EQ as a feed additive could be banned throughout the bloc from 31 December 2020, or earlier if the outcomes of ongoing toxicity studies have negative connotations. Alternatively, authorisation could still be upheld if satisfactory evidence and data is supplied to the relevant authorities.
Concerns have been expressed about EQ use in recent years, as it hasn’t been established that the feed additive has no adverse effects on animal health, human health, or the environment. As a feed additive, EQ is subject to a reauthorisation procedure. As part of this process the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a report in November 2015 saying there were two key data gaps with regards to ethoxyquin which meant that it could not conduct a full risk evaluation. As such, EFSA gave an inconclusive safety assessment for EQ as a feed additive.
Industry was subsequently tasked by the European Commission to fill these data gaps. Once all the required information is made available, EFSA will review it and determine under which conditions the use of EQ would be safe. Then in April 2017, a meeting of the Animal Nutrition & Veterinary Medicines Section of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) debated the issue and voted in favour of a suspension but not a ban of EQ use in feeds for animal species and categories in the EU.
The formal suspension, therefore, does not change a great deal about the reauthorisation process – what it does is provide the time frame to inform EFSA’s final opinion and whether to proceed with the ban on EQ or uphold its authorisation.
WHAT EQ DOES
EQ (E324) has been a licensed feed antioxidant in the EU since 1970. For many years, it has been regarded as the most effective antioxidant for preventing the polyunsaturated fat in fishmeal from self-heating and spontaneously combusting during storage and transportation. Specifically, it is a legal requirement of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to use an antioxidant such as EQ for the marine transportation of fishmeal.
In addition to transportation requirements, fishmeal and fish oil are ingredients of significant nutritional value and contain high levels of polyunsaturated fat, which are recognised to provide health benefits to livestock and to the consumers of animal products. To help maintain the nutritional value of the ingredients, EQ is added to protect these nutrients from oxidation.
The suspension of EQ requires the aquaculture feed industry to source ingredients, such as fishmeal, that does not contain EQ. However, the substitution of EQ by other suitable alternative antioxidants will require sufficient transition time, as currently authorised alternative antioxidants don’t possess the same characteristics as EQ, particularly in regards to effectiveness, the concentration of active substances needed, and the duration of action and behaviour.
It is widely felt by the aquaculture sector that due to the extensive use of EQ, an immediate withdrawal from the market would negatively impact fish health and welfare, as a result of a lack of essential micronutrients in the feed. This would lead to lower animal production performances and an inability to produce aquaculture species meeting specific market specifications related to nutritional benefits. Furthermore, meeting the IMO’s requirements would be particularly problematic for aquaculture and feed producers should the ban be implemented. There is, therefore, a lot of uncertainty in the sector at present.
In addition to ensuring the amount of EQ present in the salmon sourced from Norway, Chile and the Faroe Islands by Pittman Seafoods are well within current mandated limits, third-party laboratory analysis of the additive’s levels continues to be a key part of our overall monitoring programme. At the same time, we are working closely with our suppliers in order to meet any new EU regulations and developments.
It should also be noted that EQ is not approved for, nor added to, any of the feeds given to the organic salmon that we supply.