An ongoing lawsuit brought against Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) focuses on its manufacture of horse feed in facilities that also made medicated cattle feed with monensin – a product toxic to horses, according to case documents. ADM reported that its multi-species plant has been investigated and cleared by the FDA.
Cassandra Jones, assistant professor in grain science and industry with Kansas State University, told us it is possible to keep a feed ingredient like monensin in a facility, use it to generate feed and have that facility also manufacture monensin-free feed that would be safe for other species.
“Studies have demonstrated that drugs can be flushed through the system, and [facilities] can typically control any carryover in a pretty diligent manner,” she added.
Her research facility explores feed safety and biological hazards in feed facilities.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established rules regarding best practices for manufacturing medicated feeds in 1976, she said.
The feed industry has a good record of following the established rules in changing between one feed formulation to another, said Jones.
“Many multi-species facilities manufacture medicated feed, and I think [they] do an excellent job, as an industry, complying with those rules to ensure safe feed is manufactured.”
The lawsuit against ADM, brought earlier this year by Beth Berarov and Annelisa Bindra, alleges that the company takes an unnecessary risk in manufacturing horse feed in a facility that also produces cattle feed with monensin, and that the risk is not disclosed to those buying horse feed.
The group that filed the lawsuit had horses who died or had to be put down, allegedly after eating products contaminated with monensin that were produced by ADM, the group’s lawyer said in case documents.
ADM has challenged the lawsuit and said that it follows the FDA’s carryover regulations, according to court documents.
Feed safety and regulation
“Whenever there is feed sold that may cause serious harm to an animal or human, facilities are required to report that incident to the FDA,” said Jones.
From 2009 to 2013 there were 96 total reports to the registry for such hazards and, of those, about 12 were from unapproved drug carryover, she said. During the same period, there were more than 3,900 outbreaks reported from human food.
Another 18 instances were reported in the account for 2014, two of which were for drug contamination, added the FDA.
“We really do have an incredibly safe food supply for animal feed, but, occasionally, there are instances where something went wrong in manufacturing,” said Jones. “We continue to work as an industry to reduce that number even further.”
Potential of cross-contamination
Research has been done on ways to flush an ingredient, like a medication, out of a feed mill, said Jones. “It really does depend on what diet was manufactured, what drug was there, what feed is going to be next, the manufacturing equipment and the ingredients themselves,” she added.
“All facilities that manufacture mediated feeds are required to follow manufacturing requirements according to the FDA,” she said. “Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) are basic requirements to manufacture mediated feed to prevent unintentional carryover from one batch to the next or to prevent inclusion of the incorrect type or quantity of drug in a diet.”
However, there can be instances where cross-contamination occurs from one batch of feed to another, she said.
An ingredient like monensin could be passed through the feed if there were inadequate sequencing of feed or product flushing, she said. This is in contrast to something like a biological hazard, which also could cling to dust particles within the facility.
What it takes to clean an ingredient out of a feed mill can differ for various ingredients, said Jones.
“It’s difficult to remove 100% of any feed from a manufacturing system,” she said.
Monensin is a drug that is has a high toxicity for some species like horses, she said. “That’s why some facilities have chosen to not manufacture horse feed in the same facility as those that use monensin,” she added.
An event where established procedure was not followed, or where environmental conditions allowed for additional medicated feed buildup in a bin once the feed was produced might lead to residue being present in the storage bin, once a different batch of completed feed was generated, she said.
“Feed is manufactured in a dry bulk system, so we don’t have the capability to take apart equipment and wash it between each batch,” said Jones. “Systems were not designed that way, and doing so may introduce more hazards.”