The National Pig Association (NPA) will continue to explore the options for using zinc oxide in piglet diets in the UK after we leave the EU, according to the association’s senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford.
Dr Crayford and other industry stakeholders, including the Pig Veterinary Society, the Agricultural Industries Confederation and AHDB, met with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) last week to discuss the EU zinc oxide ban.
Member states have five years to phase out zinc oxide at therapeutic levels in piglet diets, following a decision by the European Commission in June.
Dr Crayford said: “We had a useful meeting with the VMD to discuss implementation of the withdrawal of licenses for high level zinc oxide in the UK.
“There was some discussion around the potential to obtain a local (UK) license for the products once we have fully left the EU, although the uncertainty around Brexit means VMD could not provide any clear answers at this stage. A lot depends, for example, on the transition period and whether 2019 or 2021 is considered the date we leave.
“My understanding is that although the VMD wouldn’t automatically reverse the Commission’s decision – it might be open to exploring options for authorising products in the UK. NPA will continue to explore this and support efforts to gather the necessary environmental data.”
She also reiterated the challenges facing the pig industry when it comes to successfully removing medicinal zinc oxide. The product currently plays a key role in maintaining gut health in post-weaning piglets, with an estimated 70-90% of starter diets in the UK containing zinc oxide at therapeutic levels.
She added: “The issues that we raised when we originally opposed the ban have not changed – for example, the lack of viable alternatives, the disease challenges facing the UK pig herd and the age of our buildings due to a lack of industry investment. All of this will be compounded by the need the industry to reduce our antibiotic usage at the same time as phasing out zinc oxide.
“The Commission rarely gives any flexibility in these types of decision, so we are relieved that we managed to secure a five-year phase out period, every minute of which will be needed to give the industry time to adapt.”