Science - November 25, 2004

Rikilt system traces animal material

Aries, the system for tracing animal remains in livestock feed that was developed by Rikilt, Institute of Food Safety, is on the rise in Europe. Twenty-five laboratories in EU countries will use the system to determine whether there are traces of animal material in livestock feed.

Since the outbreak of mad cow disease (BSE), which is possibly related to the deadly Creutzfeldt-Jacobs disease in humans, nobody is taking any risks. There has been a total ban on animal remains in feed for ruminants. There are fewer restrictions for pig and chicken feed, which are allowed to contain fishmeal for instance.

The regulations have led to a strict separation of the production lines for cattle feed and other animal feeds in many European countries. Aries (Animal Remains Identification and Evaluation System) helps analysts in their work of tracing. The decision-support system has now been optimised and is available on CD-ROM. A determination key provides analysts with microscope images of miniscule bone fragments.

In December the first laboratories will start using the EU recommended system. ‘We’ve already had the first analysts from Eastern Europe here to do a course, and Canada is also planning on using the system,’ says Dr Leo van Raamsdonk, who works at Rikilt.

The decision-support system guides the user along a decision-tree, similar to one used to determine flora types. At any moment the user can see what decisions have been taken, and can call up images to help identification and check European legislation for the material in question. Experienced analysts can work more efficiently, or use the system as a reference for tricky cases. The photos are not always very clear, but Van Raamsdonk explains that they have done that deliberately. ‘We haven’t only included the best photos in the system, because in reality the material is also not so pretty.’ / GvM

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