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Potential ZnO ban leads to protest in EU pig countries

A potential ban on zinc oxide (ZnO) in the European Union is likely to meet a lot of opposition from countries like e.g. the United Kingdom and Denmark.

Zinc oxide in pigs is often used in feed to combat post-weaning diarrhoea. The additive however may be on its way out in the European Union after an EU advisory body recommended to withdraw the permission to use the feed additive.

Denmark: ZnO helps to reduce antibiotics

Various organisations and associations in the European swine business have indicated they will launch a protest against a future ban on ZnO in animal feed. For many, it is considered an essential tool in controlling post-weaning diarrhoea. Especially in Denmark, where antibiotics usage is tightly monitored, it is used as a solution.

Pig organisation Danish Pig Producers (DSP) fears that a ban will stimulate higher antibiotics usage – thus admitting that the success of Danish antibiotics reduction is partly related to applying zinc oxide, chairman Henrik Mortensen told Boerderij.

Chief consultant Poul Baekbo, of Danish agricultural research organisation SEGES VSP, told the Dutch agricultural newspaper that he hopes for a transition period, which would allow to search for alternatives. Never before has the EU has applied such a period.

Zinc oxide received a negative recommendation by the CVMP earlier this month. Photo iStock.
Zinc oxide received a negative recommendation by the CVMP earlier this month. Photo iStock.

UK: Hampering the pig sector’s drive

The UK’s National Pig Association already announced that it will fight a ZnO ban if indeed the European Commission will go on to accept the EMA recommendation. “It would also significantly hamper the pig sector’s drive to reduce antibiotic usage.”

In addition, the association will meet with the country’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) to discuss the potential outcomes – equally concerned are the Pig Veterinary Society (PVS), the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) and the Pig Health and Welfare Council.

Most unfortunate for the majority of pig producers

Regular Pig Progress expert contributor David Burch already described the CVMP’s decision as ‘most unfortunate for the majority of pig producers in the EU’, summing up 4 reasons why it would be good if the decision would not be converted into legislation.

Potentially harmful for the environment

The Committee for Medicinal Products for Veterinary Use (CVMP), part of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), scrutinised the feed additive earlier this month after it had been pointed out by countries like France and the Netherlands that ZnO could potentially harm the environment.

The committee concluded that ‘overall the benefit-risk balance for the product’ is negative, “as the benefits of zinc oxide for the prevention of diarrhoea in pigs do not outweigh the risks for the environment.”

ZnO and antibiotic-resistance

In addition, the use of ZnO is also said to be related to the increase of prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The committee estimated that ‘at the present time, that risk is not quantifiable’.

Currently, the CVMP’s conclusion is only a recommendation and will take some time to take effect. The European Commission will have to make a final decision and prior to doing so, many stakeholders will be heard.


  • Comment deleted by a moderator


    Why should a Vet Med Prod (VMP)based on ZnO escape a complete registration process as any other VMP? Based on existing rules any VMP needs to be proven to be save also for the environment; As Zn does not degrade but just accumulate, the fist step (Phase I) for Env Imp assesment( EIA) concludes that Phase II studies are requested before an EIA can be evaluated. Such studies have not yet be performed. In addition for some bacteria,as for some antibiotics, resitance occurs against Zn. Therefore the only alternative is the prudent use of antibiotics as recommended by the European Veterinary Association ( FVE) and the use of vaccines: two new efficacious vaccines against E.Coli in piglets have been approved recently. Dr Bill VANDAELE,Bill SUPPORT(B), consultant in European Regulatry Affairs and author of a monograph on the EIA for ZnO performed as "case study" for his degree in Env and Animal Production( E.P.A) at the Vet school of Toulouse.

  • David Burch

    In one respect you are right, Bill, that the EU is trying to harmonise medicines as old national registrations are rather mixed and their assessments are mixed over time. However, you are wrong in that Zinc Oxide is not an antibiotic. Its mode of action in post-weaning diarrhoea appears to be unrelated to direct action on E. coli but more on the physiological effects in the gut. Studies have shown that there is not reduction in E. coli, quite the opposite (Hojberg and others, 2005) but it is likely to prevent active colonisation and invasion of the gut (Roselli and others, 2003). In the UK, pig dense areas (East Anglia) have the lowest zinc concentration in soil in spite of muck spreading for decades.

  • Chen Gareth Gang

    ZnO is a irreplaceable in piglet feed, it place a improtatnt in growth , what we can do now is reduce the dosage of ZnO in feed, and realize same or similar effect, some feed additves could be a good chice, such as microbial lysozyme, it could reduce the dosage from 3KG/TON to 2KG/TON, more information , please contact us at aegis_lysozyme@hotmail.com

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