Animal by-products from slaughter: risk or primary product?

As part of the slaughter of cattle, pigs and poultry in food production, by-products are obtained which are not intended for human consumption. Apart from certain organs and body parts, such by-products also include bones, skin, feathers and fat. Parts of these animal by-products can be utilised for further processing in the production of cosmetics, pet food, drugs or leather. “Slaughter by-products should only be used in further manufacture, if they do not pose any risk to human and animal health nor the environment”, says Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). In particular, the safety of feed for animal production must be guaranteed to ensure that foods such as meat and milk do not pose a risk to consumers. As part of a BfR symposium to be held on 27 June 2014, representatives from the areas of veterinary and food safety authorities, the food industry, and processors of animal by-products will discuss the risks of using and disposing of by-products obtained during slaughter of animals.

The term “animal by-products” is defined in EU law and denotes products which are obtained during the slaughter, the manufacture of products, for example milk and meat, during the disposal of dead animals or as part of measures to control animal disease. By-products also include animal carcasses and products derived from animals which are not intended for consumption.

Some by-products are suitable as raw materials for the production of animal feed, drugs and cosmetics. However, neither the use of the by-products nor their disposal must pose a risk to humans, animals or the environment. Crises such as the spread of the BSE pathogen through animal feed, outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, and the contamination of animal feed with dioxin show that by-products must only be used under strictly defined and controlled conditions.

Accordingly, EU law classifies by-products derived from animals into three categories based on their risk potential for human and animal health. Feed for animal production may, subject to restrictions, only be produced from Category 3 material which comprises products with a low health risk. By-products in this category include, for example, edible meat which is not used as food because marketing it is not profitable for commercial reasons. Category 1 material comprises by-products posing the highest health risk. EU law specifies how products of this category must be safely disposed of. These materials include, for example, animals with suspicion of BSE / TSE and so-called specific risk material such as spinal cord and brain tissue of cattle older than 12 months.

The first part of the BfR symposium on the subject “Animal Slaughter By-Products” will discuss the assessment and official control of by-products which are obtained during the slaughter of pigs, cattle and poultry. The second part will focus on quality-assured processing of raw material,aspects of the use of such raw materials for products, especially pet food, and the global trade of animal by-products.

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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