Potential ZnO ban leads to protest in EU pig countries

23-12-2016 | | |
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.

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.

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.

ter Beek
Vincent ter Beek Editor of Pig Progress / Topic: Pigs around the world