The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is backing the National Pig Association’s call for a 10-year transition period, if zinc oxide is banned in piglet feed.
The EU Committee for Medicinal Products for Veterinary Use (CVMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently reviewing its position, after it recommended banning products containing zinc oxide that are administered orally to food-producing species in December.
The final revised CVMP opinion on the benefit-risk balance for these products is due on Thursday, March 16. The European Commission will then decide whether to adopt the CVMP opinion.
Zinc oxide is used widely across the EU to prevent and control post-weaning diarrhoea (PWD) and bowel oedema disease in young pigs. An estimated 70-90% of starter diets in the UK contain zinc oxide at therapeutic levels.
While organisations like NPA continue to oppose any ban outright, arguing that the benefits of zinc oxide to piglet health far outweigh any environmental risk, the CVMP’s justification for a ban, the industry accepts that a sensible contingency plan must be in place should the worst happen.
The European Commission has already consulted member states on a transition period, if the CVMP’s recommendation is accepted.
The VMD, which represents the UK on the CVMP, said on Monday: “The VMD has been in consultation with stakeholders to compile evidence to support a request for a 10-year transition period if the CVMP opinion remains negative and is adopted by the Commission. We have submitted this evidence to the Commission today.”
Negligible environmental impact
In its submission to the VMD, the NPA reiterated its stance that zinc oxide should not be banned in the first place but said a 10-year transition period would be needed if it is.
While the negative environmental impact over this period would be negligible, the NPA said it would take a decade to bring viable alternatives to market, deliver sustainable reductions in antibiotic use, achieve a stable outlook post-Brexit and for pig producers to invest in new, more hygienic buildings.
The VMD thanked the NPA for its ‘valuable input into this process’ and its contributions have been taken into consideration and the evidence collated to represent the UK pig industry. The NPA’s submission was appended to the VMD submission to the CVMP.
At a Brussels meeting of veterinary experts in January, most member states expressed concerns about the withdrawal of the zinc oxide products, which prompted the Commission to suggest the possibility of a transition period.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We are pleased the VMD is making the case for a 10-year transition period, which we feel would be needed given the potentially damaging impact on piglet health and farm profitability from banning zinc oxide, let alone the inevitable rise in antibiotic use.
“But we continue to oppose the recommendation for a ban full stop. It is simply not justified by the evidence and appears to be politically driven.”