Caution needed in feeding food waste to pigs
23rd November 2013
The IFR generally supports efforts to reduce or reuse food waste, as a way of reducing the overall environmental impact of the food chain. However, this needs to be done in a responsible manner. It is essential that any food waste used to feed pigs is not exposed to contamination from meat or other animal-derived foods, to prevent contamination. This is why it is currently illegal to feed catering waste to pigs. Untreated waste caused a major foot and mouth outbreak in 2001. Other viral diseases of animals are also spread in this way, such as African Swine Fever, and there is a risk these could come to the UK.
Non-animal food waste from the food supply chain can be used to feed pigs, and where this diverts material from landfill is to be supported. According to the National Pig Association, over 40% of pig feed already comes from these sources. These sources are registered and regulated to provide safeguards against contamination and protect the food chain. These safeguards need to be tight, as even a small breach from a single operator can have large scale impacts on the overall industry. Taking waste, even if it is suitably treated, from sources where the potential for contamination is higher makes one of these breaches more likely.
To improve the sustainability of the food chain, the IFR supports efforts to explore new ways of utilising food wastes or co-products but this must be done with an eye on the overall safety and integrity of the food chain. Our own research is looking at ways in which food waste can be converted into valuable chemicals, such as biofuels, in an environmentally and economically sustainable way, including researching ways in which the efficiency of this process can be improved.