Understanding potential histamine contamination in pet food and safeguarding your histamine quality control plan.
Pet food is an ever-changing industry that is constantly looking for new sources of protein to include in their proprietary pet food blends; not unlike human food manufacturers. The inclusion of fish meal in pet food isn’t a new practice by any means. Fish meal is a valuable ingredient in pet food due to its nutritional benefits but also because of its marketability. Phrases like “fresh seafood” and “wild caught” are appealing buzzwords to health-conscience pet parents. While the benefits of using fish meal as a protein source are plentiful, it’s not without potential risks. High levels of histamine is one risk that manufacturers must consider when adding fish meal to their ingredient list. It’s critical that they have a quality plan in place for their histamine testing, whether that be performing in-house histamine testing or by outsourcing to an outside laboratory.
Q: What is histamine and what are the risks associated with histamine contamination in pet food?
A: Simply put, histamine is a biogenic amine that is naturally found in both animals and humans. It plays an important part in our immune system responses, but if too much histamine is ingested through food sources it can cause adverse reactions. When levels high enough to cause a reaction are ingested, this is known as scombroid poisoning. Scombroid poisoning can be a real issue for pet food manufacturers specifically when they use fish meal as a source of protein. Improper storage of fish leads to growth of bacteria that produce high levels of histamine. So it’s not fish that’s the problem, but more specifically the handling of that fish.
Q: Who should be concerned about high levels of histamine in pet food?
A: Really anyone involved in the supply chain of fish products intended for either human or animal consumption should be concerned about the potential for high levels of histamine. It’s critical that proper storage protocols with strict temperature controls are followed. Improper storage conditions can cause the fish decay that leads to histamine production. Histamine levels will begin to rise before the tell tale signs of fish decay are even present, such as bad smell or taste. Ultimately it’s the responsibility of the pet food manufacturer to ensure that the ingredients are safe for pet consumption so that must be taken into consideration when sourcing their ingredients.
Q: When should pet food manufacturers be testing for histamine?
A: Manufacturers should be testing fish meal as early and as often in the manufacturing process as possible as histamine levels can continue to rise throughout the production process. As with all testing plans, it’s important to analyze your individual circumstances and develop a testing plan tailored to your needs. There will be no one size fits all testing plan that works for all manufacturers. Generally you always want to test your fish meal or fish ingredients prior to manufacturing as well as your finished product. Testing throughout the process will allow you to identify problem areas well before your pet food makes it to store shelves.
Q: Why is it important to test for histamine?
A: It’s important to test for histamine for a variety of reasons. The most obvious reason being the adverse and harmful effects that scombroid poisoning can have on animals. Testing helps to ensure you are putting out safe products that consumers can trust and will help to avoid costly recalls. Recalls are extremely damaging to even the most trusted brands.
Q: How can one either create or manage a quality system to help mitigate the risks associated with histamine contamination?
A: The first thing to do when establishing a histamine quality plan would be to decide on a testing route. Will you be testing in-house or be outsourcing to laboratory capable of analyzing biogenic amines? If testing in-house be sure your technicians are throughly trained on the chosen method and that this training is well documented. It’s also a good idea to run a known histamine quality control material alongside your other samples in an effort to validate your testing results. This will also ensure that your technicians are able to get accurate results based on this known sample. A quality control sample can also be used if outsourcing testing. Simply send in the quality control material in as a blind sample to ensure the laboratory can match the known value.
Q: Where can manufacturers find these quality control materials to support their quality plan?
A: Trilogy really prides itself on being a versatile solution for customer’s quality-related needs. Trilogy offers analytical testing for biogenic amines. In addition to our testing services, Trilogy excited to announce a new quality control material developed to ensure the accurate testing of histamine in fish. As always, Trilogy is committed to providing relevant testing materials safeguarding populations from unhealthy food and feed.