Organisations such as the Foodchain & Biomass Renewable Association (FABRA) are lobbying to convince legislators that, with hygienic handling, some animal by-products (ABP) that are not intended for human consumption can be safely used in areas such as fish food.
At a conference organised by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, on the 'fifth quarter' (offal, bone hide, blood, which is often wasted), FABRA chief executive Stephen Woodgate argued for changing the rules on the basis of sustainability.
Separately, Marcus Themans, a pig and sheep farmer on the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedstuffs (ACAF), said: "It is essential that poultry proteins become a part of the future protein source for monogastrics [eg pigs]." And former chairman of the European Food Safety Authority, professor Patrick Wall, is also known to favour change.
However, others, such as EBLEX head of trade development Peter Hardwick, believe change is unlikely given consumer and retailer resistance. "In the UK, it will ultimately be the retailers who decide," he said. He suggested the proponents for change were underestimating the obstacles they were likely to encounter.
Although not directly responsible for ABP (which properly comes under the remit of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee), Keith Millar from the secretariat of ACAF also doubted change would occur. "I would not put too much money on that horse," he said even though the European Food Safety Authority and DG Sanco were looking at the issue.
The UK produces around 2.25Mt of ABP a year, said Woodgate. Some of this goes into pet food, but much is wasted because of legislative restrictions. Woodgate was confident that change would happen if certain "hurdles" could be surmounted.
"Some animal products will be allowed back into the animal feed chain in the very near future," he asserted. "We are hopeful the regulations will change as part of the new TSE [transmissible spongiform encephalopathy] Road Map published in July."
Woodgate argued that, with hygienic processing, some products, such as empty pig guts, classified as 'category 2' (not for use in the food chain) could be upgraded to category 3, which can be used for animal feedstock.
However, Stephen Wyllie from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: "Category 2 is high-risk material and, in general, unfit for human consumption and cannot go into food animal production."