Q&A: The rules about supplements

  • All types of animal feeds have definitions and rules that have to be followed by the manufacturer to fit the legislation laid down by the EU under the Feeding Stuffs Regulations. One of the rules is that all feeds have to be described as “complementary feeding stuffs”.

    What is a “complementary feeding stuff”?

    It is a feed formulated to have a high content of certain nutrients, in order to provide a balanced diet when combined with other feeds, such as forage. It is not formulated to be fed alone, and should always be given with a certain amount of forage. There is a subcategory of this, into which many supplements might fall, called a “mineral feeding stuff”.

    Supplements are not allowed to carry medicinal claims

    If a supplement claims to treat or prevent a disease, then it needs a marketing authorisation from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, which protects you from buying something that doesn’t really do what it claims. If a product makes a claim, the manufacturer has to provide good evidence that the claim is true before it gains authorisation. If manufacturers continue to make unproven claims, the products/nutrients will be banned. Packaging cannot give the impression that the product treats or prevents a disease.

    Words that cannot be used on ‘feed supplements’ without a licence

    Dose, treatment, remedy, prevents, dosage, cures, relieves, boosts, treats, heals, repairs, protects.

    How do supplements, feed balancers and feeds differ?

    All are formulated to balance forage deficiencies; the main difference is the quantities being fed.

  • A supplement is normally fed to horses that need a source of vitamins and minerals, but are obtaining sufficient energy from their forage and maintaining their weight, so do not need additional calories. Feeding rates are usually less than 150g daily.
  • A feed balancer is fed to horses who, while maintaining weight from their forage, might be deficient in quality protein as well as vitamins and minerals. Feeding rates are usually less than 1kg daily.
  • A feed is given to horses that are deficient in energy, protein and vitamins and minerals because they cannot obtain enough of these nutrients from their forage. Feeding rates are generally more than 1kg a day and up to 6kg a day.

    Did you know your favourite supplement may soon disappear?

    It is highly probable you will soon be unable to buy many of the vitamins, minerals and nutraceuticals you recognise as supplements because of a new ruling passed by the EU known as the Feeds Additive Directive. A similar type of Bill is being made law in August this year for human food supplements, although the Health Food Manufacturer’s Association has won a right to challenge it in the European Court of Justice.

    Two issues are at stake: one is the illegal claims made by many manufacturers, and the other is that the EU is seeking to remove from the market many of the “nutrients” contained in the supplements, unless they are accepted into a feed additives list.

    But, assuming you feel the supplements you buy are of benefit, we need to encourage certain manufacturers to stop breaking the law and, at the same time, lobby our MEPs to ensure we can still buy the products.

    Check the tub you are buying describes the product as a complementary feeding stuff or a mineral feeding stuff, and that it has similar information on the label as you find on the back of your feed bag — including a list of ingredients in descending order of volume.

  • You can read this feature in full in Horse & Hound (14 July, ’05)

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