Role of Quality Control Laboratories in Animal Feed Production

22 June 2020

Livestock production as a whole is a complex process involving many independent and integrated processes. According to WHO, availability of animal feed and efficient feeding are the foundations for successful livestock production. The feeding of a balanced diet/ration according to the nutrient requirements of the species enhances quality of product, animal productivity and associated animal welfare, without having much or any environmental concerns. Even today, feed accounts for 70-75% of production costs, and its quality needs to be ascertained for consistent performance of animals. The macro and micro-ingredients involved in feed production should undergo stringent quality control measures to produce a safe and reliable feed. These goals can be achieved by implementing a robust Quality Management System (QMS) that provides the mechanism to constantly monitor all quality related issues and identify opportunities for improvement.

Quality Assurance & Quality Control:

Quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) are two aspects of QMS that are often used interchangeably. Although similar, there are distinct differences between the two concepts. Typically, QA activities and responsibilities cover virtually all of the quality system in one or other way, while QC is a subset of the QA activities. The QA is responsible for providing confidence to internal stakeholders as well as the external ones like customers, government agencies, regulators, certifiers, and third parties. QA is process oriented and focuses on defect prevention. The QC, on the other hand, is more of inspection aspect of quality management. The QC is product oriented and focuses on defect identification.

QC is a reactive process and aims to identify and give clues to rectify the defects in finished products (complete feed, concentrate, basemix, premix, feed additive/supplements, feed ingredients etc.) Considering an instance of mycotoxin control, QC process identifies the problem such as unacceptable levels of mycotoxin in the final product, but it will not tell how to solve this production problem. QA programs, on the other hand, set forth guidelines to prevent failures in quality, from occurring and when problems are detected by QC, provide the framework to identify and correct the production practices that led to compromised product quality. Thus, a producer following a QA program can trace back in their production system and identify where the failure occurred. Protocols and procedures can be evaluated, corrective actions taken, and records kept to prevent future occurrence. The goal of a QA program is to consistently produce a safe product at the level of quality demanded by the consumer and/or market and mandated by laws/regulations. The QC is an integral part of QA and operates mainly through laboratory analysis in manufacturing industry.

Various factors that make up the basic essentials of QA/QC in animal nutrition QMS comprise of specifications of ingredients, vendor management, product formulas & specifications, drawing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Identification, sampling program, In-Process analysis, documentation (records and reporting), packaging specifications, label specifications, cleaning and sanitizing guidelines, requirements for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), recall program, storage and logistics program, laboratory analysis, Statistical Quality Control (SQC) and quality audits.

QC and QA in animal nutrition production industry is of utmost importance in the success and profitability of animal enterprises. Obviously, a finished product should match label claims for the macro and micro-nutrient levels, active drug level in medicated feeds etc., so that precise nutrients are available to the animal when that specific feed is been offered. Consequently, this precision nutrition will translate itself into efficient and consistent animal performance.

QC laboratory:

QC department is a crucial sector in any animal nutrition industry. Without this, industry cannot proceed or cannot maintain the quality of the product. A QC laboratory plays a key role in assuring the quality of manufactured product and is the backbone of QC department. The QC personnel in the laboratory carry out tasks like assessing physical, chemical, microbiological and sensory properties of raw materials, ingredients, packaging materials and finished products. They also work in the factory or processing areas for evaluating product & process conditions. It is the duty of QC personnel to interact cooperatively with the personnel of the standards and inspection agencies to ensure that the regulatory law is understood and met. Hence, these personnel play a vital role and is essential to have qualified and reliable ones for the same.

It is always not possible to have full-fledged QC lab as in case of small manufacturing plants. Therefore, there are three ways to obtain laboratory analysis results to ensure the quality criteria.

  • In-house QC laboratory
  • Outside independent laboratory
  • Combination of in-house and independent laboratory

Criteria for QA by QC labs:

Analytical quality control (AQC) is the main criteria of QA, which refers to all those processes and procedures designed to ensure that the results of laboratory analysis are consistent, comparable, accurate and within specified limits of precision.

QC in the laboratory begins with sample collection and ends with the reporting of data. AQC is achieved through laboratory control of analytical performance. A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) will be of great help in managing lab activities. The Initial control of the complete lab system can be achieved through specification of laboratory services, instrumentation, glassware, reagents, solvents, and gases. However, evaluation of daily performance must be documented to ensure continual production of valid data.

The goal of the AQC Program is to guarantee the generation of precise and accurate analytical data. The program has two components: QA - the system used to verify that the entire analytical process is operating within acceptable limits and QC - the mechanisms established to measure non-conforming method performance.

QA Procedure:

  1. SOP: Each laboratory method is clearly described in standard operating procedures (SOP) and these methods are periodically reviewed and updated.
  2. Training: Tests or analyses are performed by trained staff members. Each staff member must meet performance criteria before performing an analysis.
  3. Reliable and Well-maintained Equipment: Each instrument is operated by trained staff members. Maintenance logbooks are kept for each instrument. The instruments are calibrated according to manufacturer guidelines and in accordance to the relevant SOPs.
  4. Traceability: Analytical standards/chemicals used are traceable to certified reference materials.
  5. Annual Review of QC Results: The results of proficiency testing or Ring test and QC results are annually evaluated for trends.

QC Samples:

  1. Blanks: A reagent blank is analyzed with every set of samples that are extracted or digested. This reagent blank includes any and all reagents that are used in the analytical process and is carried through the entire process, including extraction and filtering or digestion.
  2. Duplicates - At least ten percent of samples are analyzed in duplicate. The first, last and every tenth sample are run in duplicate.
  3. Standard Reference material (QC Sample): At least one standard reference material is analyzed with each set of samples. The values for the standard reference materials are included in the final report. Samples run with a standard reference material that falls outside the acceptable range are re-analyzed, including digestion or extraction if necessary.
  4. Spike Samples: Sample fortifications or spikes are used to verify accuracy of tests requiring extensive sample manipulation or for preparation of non-standard sample types.
  5. Participation in Ring Tests or Proficiency testing: It is very important for a QC lab to participate in ring tests conducted by an External agency. The results are testimonial of reliability of the participating lab.

Sample Collection:

Great care should be taken to ensure samples are representative of material so that lab results reflect the nutrient content of the ingredient or feed being sampled. Guidelines are available for sample collection protocols.

Sample Labelling:

Each sample should be properly labelled with following information while submitting to the laboratory for the analysis

  • Laboratory ID for the sample
  • Contact details of the sample source
  • Lot No. / Batch No.
  • Sample Type
  • Date of Sampling
  • Location of sampling (Bag, truck, silo etc.)
  • Method of sampling
  • Details of tests to be performed

Tests performed by QC labs:

The analysis carried out by QC labs can be generally classified into three categories,

  • Standard analysis
  • In-depth analysis
  • Manufacturing analysis

Standard analysis are the most widespread as they are usually quick and inexpensive. They are indispensable for making monthly updates to the values in the formulation (moisture, protein, fat, crude fiber, starch, ash, etc.). Using a
Near Infrared Reflectance Spectrometer (NIRS) is a cost-effective and quicker way to increase this type of analysis.

 In-depth analysis focuses on more complex and expensive analysis types (amino acids, minerals, etc.) or undesirable substances (mycotoxins, heavy metals, etc.).

Analysis related to the manufacturing process are also of paramount importance: for instance the tracer, which is designed to verify the homogeneity of the mixture or carry overs, enzymes, fats in the event of coating, pellet durability, particle size, flow-ability test etc.

Few of the tests that are typically carried out by any animal nutrition QC laboratories are,

  1. Sensory tests
  2. Physical & chemical analysis
  3. Coefficient of Variation (C.V.)
  4. Particle size estimation
  5. Pellet Durability Index (PDI)
  6. Proximate analysis
  7. Analysis of micro-nutrients
  8. HACCP analysis

Conclusion:

QMS plays a critical role in the success of any animal nutrition industry. There are several advantages of implementation of QMS. The manufactured end products must comply with the current legislation and the guarantees defined on the product label. The QC labs play a very vital and major role in achieving the goal set by the quality management. If carried out in a methodical way, QMS ensures that precise nutrients are achieved in the product (feed) that is been produced for animals. Interface of QMS with formulation system further ensures that precision nutrition is maintained in the entire animal production chain. This enables animals to perform efficiently thereby enhancing the profitability of livestock operations. In addition, customers’ satisfaction is sought by providing them with a quality product that meets their expectations.

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