Animal feed legislation and guidance

Legislation on animal feed is harmonised at European Union (EU) level. It applies principally to feed for farmed livestock, but also covers feed for horses, pets, farmed fish, zoo and circus animals, and creatures living freely in the wild.

Labelling and composition

Legislation on the labelling and composition of animal feed covers:

  • the information to be provided to purchasers on feed labels
  • the nutritional claims that can be made for certain feed products
  • the names and descriptions to be applied to various feed materials (that is, ingredients either fed singly or included in compound (manufactured) feeds)
  • the additives (including vitamins, colourants, flavourings, binders) authorised for use in animal feed
  • the maximum levels of various contaminants (e.g. arsenic, lead, dioxins and certain pesticides)
  • certain substances that must not be used in feed

These provisions are contained in a number of EU measures. The principal measures are:

  • Regulation 1831/2003 on additives for use in animal nutrition
  • Directive 2002/32 on undesirable substances in animal feed
  • Directive 2008/38 establishing a list of intended uses of animal feedingstuffs for particular nutritional purposes
  • Regulation 767/2009 on the placing on the market and the use of feed

These EU measures are given force in England by the Animal Feed (England) Regulations 2010. Separate but parallel legislation applies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Feed hygiene

EU Regulation 183/2005 on feed hygiene requires most feed businesses involved in making, marketing or using feed to be registered or approved. Feed businesses in this context include manufacturers selling by-products of food production into the feed chain, livestock farmers and arable farms growing crops for feed use. The regulation applies at all points in the supply and use of feed, and requires feed businesses to comply with standards in respect of facilities, storage, personnel and record-keeping.

The regulation is enforced in England through the Feed (Hygiene and Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2005. This legislation also covers the feed-related aspects of EU Regulation 178/2002 on the general principles of food law (which includes feed law), which prohibits the marketing of unsafe feed and requires feed business to have traceability procedures in place. Separate but parallel legislation applies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Other measures

EU Regulation 882/2004 on official food and feed controls lays down the principles to be followed in the enforcement of these controls and specifies the action to be taken both to check businesses’ compliance with the rules and when breaches are found. The regulation is enforced in England through the Official Feed and Food Controls (England) Regulations 2009. As before, separate but parallel legislation applies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

EU Regulation 152/2009 on sampling and analysis sets out the harmonised methods to be used for a range of analytes. For analytes for which there is no harmonised EU method, laboratories are free to use any procedure that will give a scientifically valid result. Provision for the administration of the Regulation in England is made by the Feed (Sampling and Analysis and Specified Undesirable Sustances) (England) Regulations 2010. The part of this measure that concerned undesirable substances has since been repealed. As before, separate but parallel legislation applies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Feed measures relating to the control of animal disease, including transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) and the use of animal by-products, are the responsibility of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). However, the Agency maintains a close watching brief.

Other information

Feed materials imported into the UK can include some genetically modified (GM) or GM-derived ingredients. Further details about the presence of GM material in animal feed can be found on the Agency’s website.

A background note for consumers who may be interested in what is fed to farmed livestock is available. This note summarises the categories of the most commonly used feeds and the typical diets of the main livestock species farmed in the UK (cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and fish).

The Agency consults with stakeholders while measures are under discussion at the European Commission and subsequently when providing for these measures in national law. A list of all the feed-related legislation for which the Agency is responsible, showing which EU measures they implement or enforce, can be found at the links below.

The Agency is advised by the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs (ACAF), an independent body that provides advice on the safety and use of animal feeds and feeding practices, with particular emphasis on the protection of human health. More information about the committee and its work can be found on the ACAF website.

Through its Food and Veterinary Office, the European Commission carries out inspections in member states to ensure that legislation is being correctly enforced. These inspections can include feed legislation.

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