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Animal Feed: Declaration Of Ingredients

Volume 588: debated on Monday 30 March 1998

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2.51 p.m.

What plans they have to make the declaration of ingredients in animal feed mandatory.

My Lords, the declaration of compound feed ingredients, either by specific ingredient or category of ingredient, has been an EC requirement since 1991. The Commission is currently considering whether to remove the category option altogether, a proposal which the Government would support. This change would require amendments to a directive at Council level. Pending this development, we welcome the moves already being made by feed compounders towards listing ingredients and away from listing categories. In 90 per cent. of compound feeds the ingredients are declared in full.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. It is satisfactory that so much progress has been made since the late 1980s, when the listing of ingredients in animal feedstuffs was extremely vague and mainly done by groups. The Minister said that in 90 per cent. of cases listing is now done ingredient by ingredient. That still leaves 10 per cent. Can the Minister tell us when he expects the new directive from Brussels which will make the individual listing of ingredients mandatory? Will that listing include a declaration of whether the feedstuffs have been genetically modified? If there is not an early decision by Brussels, do the Government have any plans for making that mandatory?

My Lords, regarding how soon we can expect the directive, the proposal is unlikely to emerge before the end of July. As a draft Council directive, it will not be agreed until next year. In the meantime, on the majority of feeds the ingredients are declared in full.

Regarding the disclosure of GM ingredients, any such labelling will be subject to separate rules—to use the jargon—on novel feed materials. This is a controversial area and will take some time to resolve. The Government will therefore consider whether to press for earlier labelling of animal feed once it is clear what rules will apply to GMOs and indeed all novel foods.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the report by the expert group led by Professor Lamming which recommended the setting up of an advisory committee on animal feedstuffs? Can he say what happened following that recommendation of the committee?

My Lords, my noble friend is correct that a committee chaired by Professor Lamming reported to the previous government in July 1992. Its main recommendation was that an independent animal feedstuffs advisory committee should be established to take an overview of all feedstuffs issues in relation to human and animal health. The government response accepted the recommendation, but they then decided that it should not be implemented, I imagine because of their attitude at the time to deregulation. I understand that Professor Lamming pressed the previous government again in June 1996, but there was still no response. I am pleased to say that we have accepted the recommendation and the committee is now in the process of appointment.

Sadly, the decision of the previous government not to implement the Lamming recommendation undoubtedly contributed to the feeding of infected meal after it was banned, with the result we all know of the incidence and severity of the BSE outbreak.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the previous government should have responded to my Parliamentary Questions and pressure in 1987 and 1988, which came from farmers themselves, requiring declaration of ingredients in animal feedstuffs to be mandatory on labelling, and that the fact that they did not do so was a tragic error which may have had bad consequences for human health?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right. For a long time the agricultural industry pressed for the full declaration of ingredients. This was resisted by manufacturers at the time, and the Government, with their view about deregulation, agreed with them. Sadly, it was the BSE crisis which led to the change within the past two years—which we had been told by the industry and manufacturers was not possible—so that on 90 per cent. of feedstuffs the ingredients are now declared in full.