EU Agrees on New Animal By-products Rules

By Bruce Ross, Ross Gordon Consultants SPRL

European Union (EU) rules govern what EU renderers can and cannot do with their products. Indeed, these rules can influence well beyond Europe’s borders as many countries take a lead from the EU and sometimes literally copy and paste the European rulebook into their own. Thus, North American renderers can come up against EU rules and standards whether trying to trade with Europe or elsewhere.

So when there are changes to EU rules, this is important for renderers around the globe.

There have been many interesting developments in the last year or two, including some adjustments to the EU’s transmissible spongiform encephalopathy rules, plus major new initiatives that could boost the renewable energy sector, particularly biodiesel. There is even discussion of the possibility of the EU authorizing the use once more of swine and poultry proteins in fish feeds against a backdrop of falling incidence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) (e.g., only seven cases in the United Kingdom in the first nine months of 2009), and the need to increase sources of protein for the EU livestock sector.

But the major focus of interest over the last couple of years has been on a review of the EU’s animal by-products regulation (ABPR). Agreement has been reached between government ministers of the 27 EU member states, the European Parliament, and the European Commission to amend the current regulation (known by its number, Regulation 1774/2002).

First, a bit of background.

Approximately 15.5 million tons of materials of animal origin not intended for human consumption are produced in the EU each year. Some of these materials are transformed into inter alia animal feed, cosmetics, medicinal products, medical devices, and other technical products (fertilizers, soil improvers, oleochemical products, photographic paper coating, etc.), and some are disposed of as waste by incineration or co-incineration treatment. According to the commission, “More and more materials are being imported from third countries for similar uses into the EU.”

As animal by-products can pose a threat to animal and human health via the environment if not properly disposed of, the EU regulates these materials from “farm to fork” to ensure traceability and a high level of health protection. The ABPR lays down health rules for animal by-products not intended for human consumption and is billed as “a major component of the commission strategy to combat and eradicate feed-borne crises such as BSE, foot and mouth disease, swine fever, and dioxin contamination.” It is aimed at excluding dead animals and other condemned materials from the feed chain and to the safe processing and disposal of animal by-products. It also bans intra-species recycling.

To give one example, the regulation sets out clear rules on what may be done with excluded animal materials, imposing a strict identification and traceability system requiring certain products such as meat and bone meal and fats destined for destruction to be permanently marked to avoid possible fraud and risk of diversion of unauthorized products into food and feed.

The new regulation is aimed at introducing more risk-proportionate rules and clarifying the rules on animal by-products, as well as the interaction of those rules with other EU legislation. This is EU code meaning the amount of red tape is being reduced, some additional uses for animal by-products are being allowed, and confusion with overlapping legislation is being clarified (as much as possible). For example, some animal by-products currently considered high risk are to be re-classified thus enabling a wider set of uses, e.g., certain feeding purposes, thus adding to their value.

The additional uses portion is interesting as the new ABPR introduces the concept of an “end point” in animal by-product production, after which processed materials are no longer subject to the ABPR as potential risks have been removed by treatment or are deemed insignificant.

Under the new ABPR, animal fats destined as fuel for combustion or for biodiesel production will no longer be considered as waste material. The regulation contains the phrase “the use of animal by-products or derived products as a fuel in the combustion process should be authorized and should not be considered as a waste disposal operation.” The new regulation acknowledges that “the disposal of all animal by-products is not a realistic option, as it would lead to unsustainable costs and risks for the environment…there is a clear interest for all citizens that, provided the health risks are minimized, a wide range of animal by-products are safely used for various applications in a sustainable manner.”

Importantly for North American renderers, the ABPR (old and new) lays down the requirements for the importation and transit from non-EU member countries of certain animal by-products and derived products. The new ABPR states that “a simplified set of import rules should be applicable to products which are destined for uses outside the feed chain.” U.S. animal fats may be allowed to enter the EU without further treatment, though detailed rules for this have not yet been worked out. Similarly, U.S. animal fats for other technical uses, such as in the oleochemicals industry, might be facilitated.

As far as permitting animal fats to be used as a fuel in industrial facilities, or as a biodiesel feedstock, concerned EU renderers have been seeking clarification on which EU regulations should apply. For years there has been confusion over whether the Waste Framework Directive, Waste Incineration Directive, Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (also recently reviewed), or the ABPR should define what is and is not a waste, and therefore what can be done with some animal by-products. It is clearly not in the rendering industry’s interests for animal fats to be considered as waste when they have a valuable use, for example as a replacement for heavy fuel oil for combustion in industrial plants.

Don’t think the EU has abandoned its tough regulatory stance as important provisions from the existing ABPR remain, such as:

• classification of animal by-products into three categories according to the degree of risk involved;

• exclusion from the feed chain of animal by-products that are unfit for human consumption;

• the intra-species recycling ban;

• the rule that only material from animals having undergone veterinary inspection at the slaughterhouse may enter the feed chain for farmed animals;

• the ban on feeding of catering waste to farmed animals, in particular to pigs. This includes used cooking oils, which also must be kept out of the feed chain (though they may be used as a biofuel feedstock).

This new regulation is important in economic terms and is equally important for the image of rendered products. The rendering industry needs to get across the message that it provides a vital service by taking what could otherwise be waste products and converting them into valuable by-products. Protein feed ingredients are in short supply in the EU, for example for fish feed, and processed animal proteins could help meet growing demand. The EU wants to lead the world in renewable energy – already 36 percent of its animal proteins and fats go into the energy sector (up to five percent into biodiesel). The new ABPR goes in the right direction.

It was mentioned there are gradual moves towards further relaxation of EU restrictions on the use of animal proteins as well as by-products, but this is also happening at the national level. (Some member states had previously imposed restrictions that went beyond the EU’s.)

One example of national relaxation of such rules is in Germany, which re-authorized the inclusion of all animal fats in non-ruminant feeds. The new rule went into effect July 4, 2009, and means that around 400,000 tons of animal fats per year will have a potential new market. In addition, the German ban on animal fats in all feed had applied to fats destined for export – Germany will now allow its fats to be exported to other EU markets.

Before getting too excited about the new ABPR, bear in mind it won’t go into effect until early 2011. And the new ABPR isn’t the end of the story; detailed implementing regulations must be enacted before the system can be altered.

The commission intends those rules to be agreed on in the next few months in order that the whole new animal by-product rulebook can come into play in the first weeks of 2011.

International Report – December 2009 RENDER | back