The animal feed trade throughout Ireland is making enormous strides in developing a unique sampling and testing scheme which will underpin the food industry throughout the island.

Northern Ireland Grain Trade members Mark Simpson and Garth Boyd chat at the NIGTA quarterly meeting.
Northern Ireland Grain Trade members Mark Simpson and Garth Boyd chat at the NIGTA quarterly meeting.

Commenting on the scheme at a recent Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association lunch, Professor Patrick Wall , of University College, Dublin who chairs the technical committee responsible for the scheme told NIGTA members “The food industry is now a global market with more opportunity than ever coming from an increasing world population and higher demand for food. The feed industry is the first step in the Food Chain and has become more and more complex with raw materials coming from all over the world. If anything goes wrong in this chain it has wide ranging ramifications for everyone involved in the agri-food industry. It can lead to product recalls which can be both costly and challenging due to the complexity of the food chain. For example, a pizza made in Northern Ireland could be made up of ingredients from 32 countries. Facts like these give an indication of how a product recall on one ingredient could be like looking for ‘a needle in a haystack’”

Pat Wall went on to point out that like the foundation of a house, the feed supply industry supplies the first building blocks of a successful agri-food industry. There needs to be good traceability systems, risk management and a due diligence approach to build consumer confidence. Collaboration with the Regulators, whose role is to monitor and verify that the feed sector has appropriate controls in place, is vital. We are also dependent on controls in other jurisdictions for preventing risks coming into Northern Ireland. There is an increasing risk from co-products, by-products from ethanol production, raw materials coming from outside the EU and potentially criminal activity.

Professor Patrick Wall, centre, UCD was the guest speaker at the recent NIGTA quarterly meeting and he is pictured talking to Owen Brennan, right, President, NIGTA and Robin Irvine, NIGTA. Picture: Columba O'Hare
Professor Patrick Wall, centre, UCD was the guest speaker at the recent NIGTA quarterly meeting and he is pictured talking to Owen Brennan, right, President, NIGTA and Robin Irvine, NIGTA. Picture: Columba O'Hare

If there is a food scare, the whole industry suffers and it can have wide reaching effects especially when Ireland’s dependance on exports is considered. Risk management has a key part to play and the feed trade North and South are working on several fronts to manage the risk and protect the feed and food industries. Through UFAS (Universal Feed Assurance Scheme) a more strategic approach to analytical testing is being devised so that tests are carried out in a more uniform pattern to ensure even distribution of analysis over the year. The trade is working with Queens University on a project to analyse when companies are carrying out their testing and which tests they are doing to see if this could be better organised to ensure a full 12 months coverage of due diligence testing at no extra cost.

Professor Wall finished by posing the question “What business are you in? Is it the feed business, food business, or food safety business. I would suggest you are in the Human Health business. Consumer confidence in food safety and human health is key to a successful industry for everyone.”