China’s Pathto Banning In-feed Antibiotics: Learning from the EU Experience

23 March 2016

China’s Pathto Banning In-feed Antibiotics: Learning from the EU Experience

—An interview with Selko’s Global Product Manager, Ms. Evelien van Donselaar

The European Union (EU) was the first region in the world to implement a full ban on in-feed antibiotics as early as 2006. What preparations were made in the EU prior to the ban? What were the post-ban impacts on the EU’s animal husbandry and feed industries? What were the highlights of the EU’s solutions for in-feed antibiotic alternatives? With these questions in mind, we took the opportunity during the 2016 Longchang Cup Panel Discussion on the Path to Antibiotic-Free Feed to interview Ms. Evelien van Donselaar, a Global Product Manager at Selko Feed Additives, about the development of and changes in the industry before and after the EU ban.

Reporters from China Feed Industry Information Network interview

Selko’s Global Product Manager, Ms. Evelien van Donselaar and Regional Technical Manager for China, Mr. Xiangdong Kuang

◎ EU preparations prior to the comprehensive ban in 2006

Global data indicate that antibiotic abuse has resulted in serious resistance, and animal deaths due to antibiotic resistance are estimated to reach 10 million by 2050. China, in particular, as a major consumer of antibiotics, faces higher potential risks. The orientation and path to banning in-feed antibiotics are of paramount importance to China. A model integrating precise feed nutrition, improved comprehensive solutions for in-feed antibiotic alternatives, and excellent farm management is indispensable to achieving a ban on antibiotics in animal feed.

Before the EU’s comprehensive ban on in-feed antibiotics came into effect in 2006, when EU-based companies within the industry learned of the impending ban, they took the initiative to start reducing the use of antibiotic feed additives for growth promotion and [disease] prevention purposes, whereas the animal husbandry sector discontinued the use of in-feed antibiotics in phases, starting with adult animals followed by juveniles. From Western to Eastern Europe, the EU’s approach to banning in-feed antibiotics was not a single stroke but steadily progressive.

◎ Impacts on the industry following the comprehensive ban in 2006

After the EU’s comprehensive ban on in-feed antibiotics came into effect in 2006, animal husbandry companies of different sizes and management capabilities were variably affected. Those withadequate management and hygiene were not affected significantly by the ban. On the other hand, the ban on antibiotics reduced animal productivity in farms with poor animal population health and poor environmental sanitation. In some countries, there was asurge in the use of antibiotics for treatment purposes during the initial period of the ban.

◎ EU response to the comprehensive ban in 2006

For public health reasons, many countries in Europe began to take measures to reduce the use of antibiotics for treatment of animals.

First of all, government departments increased their oversight of the use of antibiotics for treatment by imposing strict requirements on animal farms to purchase and use antibiotics by prescription under the oversight of veterinarians. Moreover, all EU members are required to monitor antibiotic residue levels in animal products.

In addition, some of the countries in Europe also established a regulatory procedure to begin collecting data from farms to allow for more targeted treatment of animal diseases while at the same time improving the feeding practices, rearing management, and sanitary conditions in farms,as well as the R&D of antibiotic alternatives in order to minimise the use of antibiotics for treatment.

After much effort, the EU began to see a significant decline in the post-ban use of antibiotics for treatment. For instance, in the Netherlands, the animal husbandry sector’s use of antibiotics for treatment fell from about 500 tonnes in 2006 to around 200tonnes in 2014, a reduction of as much as 58%.

Selko’s Global Product Manager Ms. Evelien van Donselaar signs the guest book for the 2016 Longchang Cup Panel Discussion on the Path to Antibiotic-Free Feed

◎ EU’s integrated measures for in-feed antibiotic alternatives

The EU experience indicates that it is very hard for a single product to entirely replace antibiotics. By integrating the excellent farm practices and cutting-edge research from research institutions, many high-tech comprehensive alternatives have been developed in Europe to maintain animal health and to replace the antibiotics previously used in animal feed. For instance, Selko provides its customers with state-of-the-art products while also providing solutions encompassing the entire supply chain from farm management to animal feed and food products.

Currently in Europe, products such as organic acids, medium chain fatty acids, plant extracts and yeast extracts are the antibiotic alternatives most frequently chosen by animal feed and husbandry companies in the EU. The objectives of using functional feed additives are to ensure feed safety, improve digestibility, improve animal intestinal health, improve intestinal wall integrity, promote balanced intestinal flora, boost the development of the immune system and enhance animal productivity.

Adding antibiotic alternatives to animal drinking water instead of feedyields better outcomes in certain situations. For instance, when an animal is in a state of suboptimal health, feed intake may decrease, but the intake of drinking water will probably not decrease but rather increase. As such, supplementing animals with these beneficial substances in drinking water can better restore their health while cutting down on the use of antibiotics. The simultaneous addition of antibiotic alternatives to both animal feed and drinking water is one of the most valuable lessons learned from the success of the EU’s ban of in-feed antibiotics.

◎ Maintaining intestinal health and microbiota diversity: key to resolving piglet diarrhoea

Piglet diarrhoea is one of the critical challenges plaguing the pork industry, as well as one of the main reasons for extensive use of antibiotics in piglets. This problem is widespread across both China andthe EU’s pork industries. So how did our EU counterparts cope with the problem?

The piglet diarrhoea problem needs to be addressed through comprehensivemeasures, including sanitary management of nurseries, biosecurity, rearing management, feed digestibility, feed hygiene (minimising microbial contamination) and maintaining piglets’ intestinal microbiota balance and mucosal cell integrity. After discontinuing antibiotic additives in piglet feed, only via these measures can we continue to ensure the health and productivity of piglets.

To come up with solutions to combat piglet diarrhoea, Selko carried out extensive research into two primary areas: management of piglet intestinal microbiota balance and the barrier function of their intestinal mucosal epithelial cells. It has come up with a comprehensive solution combining the drinking water acidifier Selko-pH and the intestinal health promoter Presan to improve intestinal health efficiently and increase piglet productivity. Tests conducted in Europe and China indicate that the combined use of Selko-pH and Presan can entirely replace antibiotics for growth promotion in pigsand chickens.


Selko’s Global Product Manager Ms Evelien van Donselaar poses for a photo with the reporter

◎ Increased feed costs post-ban offset by increasing value for customers through comprehensive solutions

The increased feed costs from using alternatives to antibiotics as in-feed additives can be offset entirely by increasing value for customers through comprehensive technical services and solutions. Additive and feed companies enable animal husbandry companies to profit by helping them increase their productivity; improve their management standards; strengthen their monitoring of farm animal health, feed hygiene, and safety; and reduce animal mortality rates. Animal husbandry companies, on the other hand, cannot just focus on feed costs; they must also focus on maximising the economic benefits and improvements in farm conditions that they can obtain from collaboration with various suppliers.

There is a Chinese expression, “Stones from other hills may serve to polish the jade of this one.” The EU’s success in banning in-feed antibiotics is of immense significance to China for guidance and reference purposes.Although the local circumstances are different, learning from the EU experience enables us to avoid wrong turns and find a path “with Chinese characteristics” to eliminate the use of in-feed antibiotics.