Feed contamination update: more major companies affected

Major feed companies that distribute in the UK have confirmed a number of their products have been affected by contamination with the banned substance zilpaterol.

Yesterday (21 October) British Equestrian (BEF) said it had been made aware that “several” feed companies may have products contaminated with banned substance zilpaterol, which was in a shipment of molasses used in the manufacturing process.

The news comes after Gain horse feeds’ announcement at the beginning of the month on suspected zilpaterol contamination of some of its products. Zilpaterol is used as a feed additive in the USA and other countries to promote weight gain, mainly in cattle. It is not approved for use in Europe.

Today (22 October) the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) said it wanted to clarify the situation on behalf of its horse feed manufacturing members.

BETA said the companies affected by the contamination that have been confirmed to date are Allen & Page, Baileys Horse Feeds, Hilight Horse Feeds, Honeychop Horse Feeds, Saracen Horse Feeds, and Spillers, Winergy and Pegasus.

A spokesman for BETA said unless horses are participating in affiliated competitions and could be subject to dope tests, these feeds are safe to use.

“It has very recently been confirmed that the cane molasses containing zilpaterol hydrochloride supplied by ED&F Man Ltd into Ireland did then enter the UK some months ago and was supplied to a few equine feed companies. In that period there have only been positives detected under the rules of racing in France from feed originating from one Irish company,” read the BETA statement.

“In the absence of any confirmatory analysis from ED&F Man Ltd as to whether and/or what levels of zilpaterol were in any molasses supplied into companies, once aware that the contamination may have affected the UK supply, all companies took precautionary measures and stopped using the shipment of molasses in question and replaced it with an alternative source or another raw material.”

The spokesman said BETA has been working with its members in their efforts to identify the nature and scale of the contamination, that has been “beyond their control”.

“All have tried to act in the best interests of their customers to deal with an impossible situation. A number of these companies are in direct contact with their known clients to advise on the situation and provide any advice and instructions they can,” he said. 

“ED&F contacted companies to confirm the material was contaminated but at lower levels than was the case in Ireland.”

 The spokesman added that BETA had received confirmation from the UK’s Food Standards Agency that it was taking no further action due to the very low concentrations in the feed, which are not considered significant in terms of feed safety and are not a risk to equine health.  

“The level of zilpaterol which has been found in feed was less than one part per billion, well below the level which would trigger food or feed safety considerations,” he said.”  

The statement said the racing and sporting regulatory bodies have “different priorities” from BETA’s feed regulators and so while posing no health risks to horses, it is prohibited for horses competing under rules.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has offered a seven-day moratorium in racing during which any horse that returns a positive result for zilpaterol through raceday, out-of-racing or elective testing will not be subject to BHA regulatory action, provided the positive sample is consistent with the feed contamination.

“Elective testing undertaken through the BHA has indicated that zilpaterol is not present in horses that had contaminated feed withdrawn for four clear days. Investigations are ongoing, so this is not yet considered a confirmed withdrawal period for the substance.”

In a statement on 11 October Gain Equine Nutrition said that ED&F had issued an “urgent action and recall notice” recalling products suspected of containing “minute traces” of zilpaterol. The notice added that although initial levels detected are extremely low, the substance in question is banned in the EU.

The BEF said as a banned substance, zilpaterol may be detected in samples taken from horses competing under FEI discipline member body rules, where the FEI and/or BEF anti-doping rules will apply, and subsequent penalties could be imposed in the case of any positive samples.

“Riders of horses who are liable to be tested, and have not been contacted by their feed manufacturer already, should contact them immediately for any update the manufacturer may be able to offer on the status of their products,” said the BEF spokesman.

The spokesman added BEF is in “constant contact” with the FEI for further guidance.

In a statement today, the FEI said it understands the companies in question are contacting customers directly to advise on batches that may have been affected and to replace the contaminated feed.

“Anyone contacted by their supplier should follow their advice and, if required, stop feeding any potentially affected product immediately. They should also ensure that all feed equipment (bowls, scoops, bins etc.) that may have contained any contaminated product is cleaned thoroughly with detergent and plenty of water.”

Article continued below…

The spokesman added that in line with the FEI’s previous advice, it is strongly advised horses that may have inadvertently ingested zilpaterol are withdrawn from competition.

H&H has contacted ED&F for comment.

The products affected are:

Allen & Page products made up to 10 October:

  • Stud & young stock mix
  • Quiet mix
  • Herbal quiet mix
  • Old Faithfuls special
  • Quiet cubes & Sustain

The Allen & Page manufacturing date can be found on the white sewn in label and is shown after batch number in the bottom right-hand corner.

Baileys Horse Feeds range of cubes, primarily:

  • No.2 Working Cubes
  • No.4 Top Line Conditioning Cubes
  • No.11 Racehorse Cubes
  • No.23 Racing Light Cubes
  • No.24 Ease & Excel Cubes

Of these, only those with batches dated prior to 8 October 2020, which will appear as 08102020 printed on the bottom of the bag, are affected.

Hilight Horse Feeds:

Range of cubes with batches manufactured prior to 8 October 2020

Honeychop Horse Feeds:

A limited number of their fibre range up to manufacturing week (41) which can be found on the label on the front of bags.

Saracen Horse Feeds

Range of mixes (not the cube range)

Mixes with a best-before date prior to 8 April 2021 may be affected.

The dedicated Saracen line 01622 713 887 should be contacted with any questions.

Spillers, Winergy and Pegasus:

Mixes and fibres manufactured before 10 October 2020. All cubes and balancers are unaffected.

Mixes with best before date 9 February 2021 or before

Spillers Happy Hoof with best before date 9 April 2021 or before

All other chopped fibres with best before date 9 February or before

Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.

You may like...