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Horse feed manufacturers are self-imposing tough new regulations in a bid to give horse owners more confidence in the quality of their products.

Members of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) meet next month to sign a new voluntary code of practice to eradicate naturally-occurring prohibited substances (NOPS) from UK horse feed.

The code of practice is based on the UK’s Universal Feed Assurance Scheme (UFAS), which was set up for feed for animals destined for human consumption in the wake of BSE.

The BETA/UFAS NOPS manufacturers’ code will be signed on 14 May and lead to stricter procedures to ensure substances like morphine, nicotine and tea do not contaminate feed destined for British race and competition horses.

How soon the horse feed ends up on the market will depend on individual manufacturers.

Between 2002 and 2007, 45 racehorses in the UK and nine in Ireland returned positive dope tests for morphine. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) linked the instances to feed from manufacturers Dodson & Horrell and Connolly’s Red Mills (news, 15 November 2007).

Chris Gordon, technical director of Dodson & Horrell and chairman of the BETA feed committee, told H&H: “BETA set up a working party in 2004 to investigate the problem. Before 2002, cases of morphine contamination were very rare but have increased since opium poppies started being farmed in the UK.”

Full information about what the code will entail has not yet been released, but it will include in-house testing of raw materials for a number of substances (see list, below) and annual spot checks by independent inspectors.

“It will not be easy to administer as it is a very rigorous code, but it will prove that we as an industry have taken every precaution to try to eliminate NOPS,” said Mr Gordon.

Feed will be tested for

  • Caffeine (cacao)
  • Theobromide (cacao)
  • Hyoscine (from nightshade — datura)
  • Hordenine (from germinating barley)
  • Morphine (opium poppy — papaver somniferum)
  • Atropine (from nightshade — atropa belladonna)
  • Nicotine (tobacco)
  • Theophylline (tea)
  • Gamma oryzanol (rice bran)

Read this news story in full in the current issue of Horse & Hound (9 April, ’08)