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New research project evaluates salmonella risk in animal feed production

Yearlong project aimed at helping animal feed industry better understand if salmonella is prevalent at feed manufacturing facilities.

The Institute for Feed Education & Research (IFEEDER), along with several partners — including the American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA), National Pork Board, National Renderers Assn., Poultry Protein & Fat Council, U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. and U.S. Soybean Board — has launched a new research project with the University of Arkansas to analyze whether animal feed contains any of the salmonella serotypes that could pose a health threat to livestock.

The yearlong project is aimed at helping the animal feed industry better understand if the bacteria is prevalent at manufacturing facilities so it can make more informed decisions on what additional safety measures, if any, should be taken to promote feed safety and protect animal health, IFEEDER said.

"As an industry, we have long believed that salmonella is not a threat in food for animals as it is for people due to the types of grains and ingredients used and the stringent regulatory procedures and processes in place to avoid contamination," said Dr. Preston Buff, AFIA director of regulatory affairs. "This research will test that hypothesis so that we have the data and scientific analysis we need to continue making safe animal feed for America's 9.6 billion food-producing animals a year."

More than 2,500 strains, or serotypes, of naturally occurring salmonella are present in the environment and in animals. Although people who consume contaminated food or practice poor food handling can sometimes contract salmonellosis — a foodborne illness that is estimated to cost more than $2.3 billion annually in medical care expenses and productivity losses — it is rare for animals to elicit the same response. The biology of many animals typically shields them from most strains of the bacteria. However, the Food & Drug Administration considers eight specific salmonella serotypes to be "hazardous" to five animal species: poultry, swine, sheep, horses and dairy and beef cattle.

To prevent the serotypes from posing a risk to these animals, AFIA and its partners formed a Salmonella in Feed Coalition, which provided a $50,000 grant to the University of Arkansas to conduct a thorough research analysis. The project will invite 250 U.S. animal food mills that produce livestock feed to voluntarily send samples of their commercial feed to the university for analysis.

Kansas State University, another partner in the project, is developing guidance materials for the volunteers to explain how to collect the samples and will be providing sampling kits. The facilities will take the samples in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018 from their bulk feed shipments. In all, 500 samples will be collected and analyzed.

Once the samples are received, Dr. Steven Ricke, the University of Arkansas' principal investigator for the project, will test to see if salmonella are present. If the sample contains the bacteria, it will be further analyzed to determine the specific serotype. The university will provide a full report to the coalition at the end of the project, which it anticipates to be at the end of summer in 2018.

Animal feed mills that are interested in providing samples for the research project should contact AFIA's Preston Buff at [email protected].

Founded in 2009 by AFIA, IFEEDER is a 501 (c)(3) charitable foundation that supports critical education and research initiatives that assure consumers a safe, healthy and sustainable food supply.

IFEEDER has two primary focuses: (1) fund critical animal feed and pet food research to support AFIA's legislative and regulatory positions, and (2) develop appropriate messaging to policy-makers, consumer influencers and stakeholders detailing the industry's very positive contributions to the availability of safe, wholesome and affordable food and preservation of natural resources.

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