Feed safety platform

Sigma-Chain & Avian BioTrack
Enhanced Feed traceability of the poultry meat chain through
Tamper-proof feed sampler and E-tracking technology

Type of activity: Research project.
Finance: 6th EC Framework Programme (FP6) & by the Irish Department of Agriculture and Food under the FIRM programme
Duration of the project: 01/10/2006 – 30/09/2009


A key link in the farm-to-fork food chain, where potential product contamination can occur, is the feed input to that chain. Recently there have been a number of high profile food safety scares which have been traced back to the feed inputs to the system. For example, the BSE crisis of the 1990’s has been linked conclusively to the feeding of meat and bone meal to animals, while even more recently dioxins were found in animal feeds in Belgium. The economic impact of both the above crises is still being felt. Consumers today demand auditable controls to test and monitor of the quality of the feedstuffs fed to animals entering the food chain. However few traceability systems, such as the “Farm-to-Fork” concept, amongst others, include detailed feed inputs in their protocols. Feed inputs to the poultry chain are sourced on national and world markets and, as it is not always possible to have an inspector present (from the local regulatory authority), especially in 3rd country situations, to oversee the sampling and the subsequent chain of custody of the samples to the laboratory, chain security cannot be guaranteed. It is therefore essential that verifiable and secure feed samples can be taken, even if regulators cannot provide round the clock supervision. A statistically robust and tamper-proof sampling system, as shown below, that guarantees the integrity of the chain of custody for feed samples, has recently been developed at University College Dublin (Ireland). The development of this secure and tamper-proof prototype device not only forms an integral part of Avian BioTrack, a FIRM project funded by the Department of Agriculture and Food in Ireland, but also part of the EU FP6 Sigma Chain Project (11 partners), the final aim of which is to develop a stakeholders guide to the identification and management of contamination risks in the food and feed chains to provide a harmonised and working food and feed chain vulnerability assessment and control system.

Project description


In compliance with legislation (legal framework provided by Council Directive 70/373/EC of 20 July 1970 on the introduction of Community methods of sampling and analysis for the official control of feedingstuffs, and currently 12 Commission Directives establishing Community methods of analysis for the official control of feedingstuffs and various amendments) and best practice, the proposed system provides verifiable product samples for subsequent laboratory analyses. It is envisaged that the device will enable certifiable feed samples to be tracked and traced, through associated bar-codes/RFID tags, guaranteeing the chain of custody from the sample point to the laboratory, thus truly achieving complete Food Chain Traceability from feed input to consumer. The device will be tested during “in situ” field trials with partners both in the poultry and feed industry and at various stages of the feed process. A statistical model of the sampling procedures (batch volume, size of particle, flow rate) required to ensure the quality of feed will then be developed. This critical data will be stored in a secure Avian BioTrack database accessible to authorised parties, and integrated into a final holistic protocol for complete poultry chain traceability.

Expected results

It is expected, on completion of testing, that the device, as part of the above named national and EU research projects respectively, will guarantee the integrity of the feed inputs to the poultry food chain and indeed to all other food animal feed chains. In the event of future feed related public health issues, the Avian BioTrack database will provide rapid access to critical data. The series of pictures below shows the sequence of actions for simple and rapid collection of samples and ease of real time electronic data capture.

F igure 1: Action sequence for use of tamperproof sampling device

This device has an Irish and European patent, and as part of the dissemination and demonstration activities of both projects it is currently being commercialised. For further details please contact Alexis.Pacquit@ucd.ie.

Main partners

GS1 (http://www.gs1ie.org/home.php)
Codico Plc (http://www.codico-distributors.com/index.html)
Biosystems Engineering Ltd (www.bioe.ie)
Sigma Chain consortium (http://www.sigmachain.eu/index.php?page=15)

Project team


Professor Shane Ward,
Head of School,
School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine,
University College Dublin,
Belfield, Dublin 4.
Email: shane.ward@ucd.ie


Barry Mc Inerney, MVB, MSc (Agr),
Biosystems Engineering,
Room 126, Chemistry Building,
University College Dublin,
Belfield, Dublin 4.
Ph.: +353-(0)1 716 2152
Mobile: +353 87 8131743
Email: Barry.Mc-Inerney@ucdconnect.ie

Dr. Alexis Pacquit,
Biosystems Engineering Ltd.,
Belfield Innovation Park,
University College Dublin,
Belfield, Dublin 4.
Tel: +353-(0)1-716 3530
Fax: +353-(0)1-716 3532
Email: Alexis.Pacquit@ucd.ie


Avian BioTrack: http://www.ucd.ie/bioresources/avian/avian.html
Sigma Chain: http://www.sigmachain.eu/
12 commission directives: http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/animalnutrition/sampling/directive-list_en.pdf