Lerøy, Auchterlonie address Ethoxyquin use in fishmeal production at IFFO conference

IFFO, the international marine ingredients trade group, hosted discussions tackling several thorny issues facing the fishmeal and fish oil sector at the organization’s annual conference in Rome, Italy in October.

More than 440 people from 45 countries attended three days of presentations, many focused on the important contribution of marine ingredients to animal and human health, but with some delving into problems facing the industry, such as negative misconceptions about it. 

IFFO President Eduardo Goycoolea praised the industry for taking a more responsible approach to sustainable production in recent years and for embracing IFFO’s Global Standard for Responsible Supply (IFFO RS), the organization’s sustainability certification, and its Improvers Programme, which is designed for companies moving towards certification.

“IFFO RS-compliant production is estimated to rise to 51 percent of global production this year,” he said.

Goycoolea outlined the latest market data, stating that production of marine ingredients from whole fish has remained stable, that production of marine ingredients from byproducts has grown substantially, and that it has huge future potential. Price volatility was shown to be no more variable than vegetable proteins and has been more or less stable for the last decade. 

Panels at the conference discussed challenges facing the industry, such as fisheries at or close to maximum exploitation, competition with a growing demand for fish oil for nutraceuticals, an urgent need for new, alternative ingredients such as algae and GMO vegetable oils, food safety and residue testing, and a growing demand for aquaculture production. Additional panels discussed whether growth in marine ingredients is still possible, if production can be both sustainable and responsible or if it contributes to the collapse of world fisheries, if fishmeal production deprives local communities of fish, and whether unethical practices on fishing vessels are ignored. 

Delegates heard that in reality, the species used for fishmeal are mostly unpopular as a consumer food fish, aquaculture has developed considerably as an efficient converter of fishmeal into food, and social issues are gradually being tackled and are improving, as IFFO RS has advanced plans to address social issues within its standard. 

Jim Cannon, CEO of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, looked at the state of sustainability in the fisheries used to make fishmeal and fish oil. Using research performed by SFP, Cannon said that 90 percent of relevant fish stocks in Latin American waters and the Atlantic are reasonably well-managed, with 20 percent certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and 60 percent enrolled in various improvement programmes. However, more efforts are needed in Southeast Asia, where the situation is often unclear, and transparency is frequently absent.  A joint IFFO/GAA project looking at the issue of tropical fishmeal will report later this year.

For some time, the fishmeal and fish oil industry has sought alternatives to the synthetic antioxidant Ethoxyquin (E324), which is not approved for use as a direct additive in foods for human consumption and should not be detectable in the food supply. It is currently in a reauthorization process for use as a feed additive in the European Union, which has drawn the attention of consumers and their pressure groups.

Marine Harvest has responded by setting a target to remove Ethoxyquin from the supply chain and replace it with a natural alternative. Marine Harvest Chairman Ole Eirik Lerøy believes that if the entire industry phased out use of Ethoxyquin, this would improve trust and value in fishmeal as a premium feed ingredient.    

However, IFFO Technical Director Neil Auchterlonie judges that this bold statement does not take into account the complexity of the industry and the importance of effective antioxidants in stabilizing fishmeal and protecting EPA and DHA, the important omega-3 fatty acids that exist in fishmeal.

Giving an overview of IFFO’s current work, Auchterlonie touched on several projects looking at different aspects of antioxidants, including transportation, and the important task of examining fish in: fish out (FIFO) values in a more sophisticated way that takes into account the true value of fishmeal and fish oil and their nutritional benefit in aquafeed. 

“Next year, IFFO is investing more money in work that will inform its future evidence-base, and is about to start projects on the issue of plastics, how fishmeal quality relates to farmed salmon nutrition, analyzing West African fishmeal industries, and comparing the production of marine protein with plant protein in terms of environmental impacts. There is also our far-reaching communications strategy project to get underway,” Auchterlonie said. “The true value of all our project work will be realized in the months and years ahead, where it will enable IFFO to become more proactive in sharing important information with policy-makers, regulators and other key stakeholders, and solidify IFFO’s position as a major force in the global feed and food industries.”

IFFO Director General Petter Johannessen closed the conference by highlighting key next steps for the industry.

“Our industry needs to expand its focus across the value chain and proactively communicate the true value of marine ingredients. We should aim to strengthen the position of industry through our raw material’s point of difference factors. We have a good story to tell and it’s our responsibility as both IFFO and the wider industry to tell it,” he said.

Johannessen said his organization will focus on three core areas moving forward.

“Firstly, engaging our stakeholders from across the value chain, positioning marine ingredients with the true value they have. Secondly, proactively communicating that value to ensure the unique and important role of marine ingredients in global food production is understood by everyone. Johannessen said. "Thirdly, we will use our evidence-based approach to report the facts and be transparent in our activities.”  

Photo courtesy of IFFO


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