Gastric Ulcer Feed Assurance Mark
BETA's new feed approval mark
The British Equestrian Trade Association's new feed approval mark offers feed companies a fantastic opportunity to highlight products suitable for horses and ponies prone to, or at risk from, equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) whilst at the same time making it easier for horse owners to identify products most suitable for their horse if prone to the condition.
Why was the new feed approval mark developed?
Poor nutritional management is a known contributing factor for several equine conditions such as laminitis, tying up and colic, as well as in some cases of equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS), which has been detected in a variety of breeds and types of horse, rather than being confined to racehorses.
It is widely accepted that particular types of diets and feeds might be linked to EGUS and a number of feed companies, quite rightly, wanted to highlight the feeds in their product ranges that were considered more suitable for horses and ponies prone to, or at risk from, this painful condition. Unfortunately, legal restrictions meant that it was extremely difficult for them to do so, even though regulatory organisations permitted the term “prone to” when referring to laminitis.
However, the launch of new BETA feed assurance scheme, developed following extensive consultation with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), has brought about significant change, as manufacturers with approved products are now able to highlight feeds best suited for horses and ponies prone to EGUS without breaking current rules and regulations involved in marketing equine feeds. The feed mark has also made it much easier for concerned owners to select the most appropriate feeds.
What type of products are included?
The scheme applies to feeds rather than supplements, as it aims to identify products that are suitable for use in a dietary regime where scientific evidence supports a reduction in the incidence of EGUS. The VMD specifically wished to exclude supplements from the scheme as they felt that they are often perceived as medicinal and it was essential that the integrity of the scheme should not be compromised by products that might be interpreted as treating or preventing the condition.
What were the nutritional criteria?
Research published in peer-reviewed journals was examined to establish the nutritional criteria of the scheme. This related mainly to the levels of starch and sugar in the feed and the amount that recommended feeding rates would include in the total daily diet. As it is important that the nutritional needs of racehorses and performance horses were included, slightly higher limits of sugar and starch were set for products marketed as high-energy – rather than those found in feeds for leisure horses – but the products must still contain less sugar and starch than typical high-energy products found on the market.
How does the application process work?
Any company can submit products for approval – they do not have to be a BETA member – and there is an annual fee payable to cover the cost of running the scheme. BETA hopes in the future to invest in research surrounding gastric ulceration. The application is a stringent one and involves a three-stage process, which includes the examination of ingredients, labelling, marketing claims and independent laboratory analysis.
All feeds submitted must be either a compound complementary feed that provides a balanced diet when fed at a rate stated by the manufacturer or a feedstuff typically advised to help manage horses prone to EGUS, including chopped or high-fibre feeds and sugar beet, or alternative energy sources to cereals such as high-oil concentrates.
The BETA feed mark is not designed to endorse products containing ingredients purporting to reduce the risk of ulcers. Any feed making such a claim will be excluded, whether or not if fulfils other criteria. Once approved, a product will be reviewed annually.
The below companies are entitled to feature the distinctive feed approval mark – a red BETA logo with the wording “Suitable for equines prone to gastric ulcers as part of a balanced diet” – on their packaging.
Alfa A Oil
Winergy Equilibrium Growth
Spillers Alfalfa Pro