Formaldehyde-free options for supporting feed safety and protect animal performance

01 August 20215 min reading

Manufacturing poultry feed that is safe, nutritious, and high-quality will always be priority one for feed processors. But how can processors manage the integrity of feed and maintain margins in a volatile production environment characterized by disruptions in trade, stringent regulations and changes in production practices?

The challenge is complex. A traffic backlog in the Suez Canal earlier this year highlighted disruptions that can arise in the supply chain posing threats to both ingredients and final feed during transport. And as more countries reduce antibiotic use in livestock production, continuous monitoring and adaptive approaches to protect animal feed and ingredients from contamination becomes essential. Feed producers need solutions that support flexibility and innovation while assuring safety for all stakeholders in the supply chain.

Alternatives for a long-used feed safety ingredient

Formaldehyde has long been used to inhibit pathogens such as Salmonella. However, formaldehyde’s association with several human health and animal performance concerns mentioned below has inspired Trouw Nutrition to introduce alternative strategies to reduce feed contamination risk.

Human health risks linked to formaldehyde

Since 2018, the European Union has banned formaldehyde as a feed hygiene enhancer. The ban stems from significant health concerns regarding the chemical. Research has shown that formaldehyde is carcinogenic by inhalation and lower local concentrations are known to produce DNA adducts, which can initiate carcinogenesis.

A 2011 meta analysis done by Duong et al reviewing 18 retrospective human studies, found inhalation exposure to formaldehyde showed increased risks of spontaneous abortion and other adverse pregnancy outcomes. No safe level of formaldehyde was identified.

Formaldehyde’s adverse influence on animal performance

Research shows that formaldehyde can react with amino acid groups, including lysine. These reactions can result in lower availability of amino acids to the animal, in turn affecting animal performance. The reaction with lysine may explain why formaldehyde reduces the total amount of available lysine and alters protein utilization, ultimately reducing growth rates. Research conducted on various species suggests that formaldehyde affects growth performance through feed’s nutritive content and also by affecting the microbial community within the feed.

Figure 1. Effect of Fysal Feed in mash feed at 2kg/t; 14 days after treatment

A study by Williams et al., 2018 on nursery pigs showed that when treating diets with formaldehyde, growth rates were reduced. Although formaldehyde reduced the bacterial concentration levels in feed, it also altered the fecal microbial communities. These research insights tell us that strategies to control pathogens in feed need to consider the potential negative impact a strategy may have on gut microflora.

From a growth performance perspective, studies also provide evidence that including formaldehyde can negatively influence growth. The use of formaldehyde reduced Lactobacillaceae species, but increased Clostridiaceae species. Such a result is a clear indicator that pathogen control efforts for feed must take into account the potential adverse effects on gut microbial populations.

Studies done in poultry have shown similar influences on animal performance when feed protein supplements were treated with formaldehyde and when feed for chickens for fattening was treated.

Effective strategies to replace formaldehyde

Given these findings about formaldehyde, it is not surprising that feed and animal producing companies around the globe are looking at alternatives to protect worker safety and support animal performance. Blends of organic acids are an effective strategy, when properly selected and dosed. Several factors should be considered when looking to replace formaldehyde with organic acids and optimize results.

Efficacy and distribution: When it comes to cost-effectively addressing pathogen load, organic acids alone might not compete against formaldehyde. The blend of organic acids and other ingredients must have proven efficacy. Furthermore, as efficacy against microbial growth tends to be lower compared to formaldehyde, even distribution and proper mixing are essential to ensure the same level of pathogen reduction.

Safety, shelf-life and stability: Adding organic acid blends containing specific ingredients offers several distinct advantages over formaldehyde. Trouw Nutrition data shows that potent blends of buffered and non-buffered organic acids and surfactants can improve feed shelf life and reduce microbial loads compared to formaldehyde. The company tested and compared its Selko feed additive solution, Fylax Forte-HC liquid to formaldehyde. Results show that feed shelf-life was increased by 4.5 times as compared to the control, a result of Fylax Forte HC’s improved buffering capacity, which ensures a longer efficacy against formaldehyde’s volatile nature (figure 1).

In addition, Fylax Forte-HC liquid contains ActiProp® a patent-pending technology including a blend of organic acids, buffering agents, surfactant and a phytogenic ingredient. ActiProp is shown to reduce the surface tension of water. As water’s surface tension is reduced, active ingredients are able to penetrate deeper inside feed particles. Ultimately, this action improves starch gelatinization, in turn reducing pelletizer friction and leading to more efficient energy use at the feed mill.

Fysal Feed is another product in the Selko family of feed additives shown to address producer’s specific challenges. For example, this product is highly effective in rapidly reducing microbes, such as Salmonella and other enterobacteriaceae. Figure 1 reflects data from an in-house study that shows a strong reduction in Enterobacteriaceae counts after 14 days of storage.

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