The Power of Nature: Defining the Scientific Gold Standard


The increasing consumer pressure against the use of antibiotic growth promoters has strongly pushed the developments of all kinds of feed additives, some with and others without clear proven modes of action. Phytogenic feed additives (PFAs) are increasingly accepted by the feed industry to improve animal performance. However, due to the increasing number of plant-based feed additives that are offered on the market, it is getting more and more difficult to reliably divide ‘marketing products’ from effective additives optimizing livestock production.


EU-authorizations as ‘zootechnical feed additives’ are seen as Scientific Gold Standard in the industry. An interview with CEO Markus Dedl, Dr. Jan Dirk van der Klis (Director of Products & Innovation) and Dr. Antje Holthausen (Patents & Registration), Delacon.

Delacon experts analyze raw material for zootechnical feed additives

© Werner Dedl / Delacon: Zootechnical feed additives


Ban of antibiotic growth promoters, phase-out of medically important antibiotics, ‘antibiotic-free’ meat, these issues are discussed across the globe. Which role do phytogenic feed additives play?


Dr. Jan Dirk van der Klis: Although the modes of action of antibiotic growth promoters were never clarified in detail, their advantages to promote growth and feed efficiency of livestock were well-known, despite the decreasing effects over time. Ironically, phytogenic feed additives suffer the opposite fate: although their different modes of action are well described, their positive impact on animal performance often was questioned. However, this initial skepticism is decreasing as an increasing number of independent studies clearly show the beneficial impact of phytogenic feed additives for livestock production. They are seen as promising natural choice for both, conventional and antibiotic-free production.


In your newly released company video, you talk about trusting in the power of nature. Nevertheless, trust does not necessarily mean proven effects?


Markus Dedl: Since the very beginning of phytogenic feed additives, we have strongly believed in our mission: Improving the efficiency in animal nutrition, animal health and food safety by new combinations of natural substances while minimizing the environmental impact. However, belief is not enough. By continuously investing ten percent of our annual turnover in fundamental and market-oriented research as well as in development of highly standardized products with measurable effects, we have replaced belief by scientific knowledge. It is this knowledge that encourages our team to trust in the massive potential of nature, and to discover and perform nature day by day.


The question arises how to reliably differentiate ‘marketing products’ from effective additives optimizing animal production. You talk about the Scientific Gold Standard?


Dr. Jan Dirk van der Klis: For a lot of people plant-based feed additives are still somehow a black box due to its nature. It is very important to ask for and understand the research behind the product in order to differentiate ‘marketing products’ from true phytogenic feed additives with proven effects. Notably, phytogenic feed additives based on botanical compounds and plant extracts show wider modes of action compared to chemical, nature-identical single substances, which is due to the synergistic effects of all active components within the plants we use. Conclusive scientific trials at company-owned facilities, with independent institutes and customers provide evidence of our scientific expertise in the powerful physiological effects and the specific application of botanical compounds. Such knowledge is crucial in order to avoid cutting down the power of nature.

Nevertheless, keeping the overview of the diversity of products offered on the markets, and evaluating them in terms of science is almost impossible for customers. Indeed, as far as feed additives are concerned, there exists at least one very practical solution to reliably differentiate ‘marketing products’ from safe and effective additives: the official registration as a ‘zootechnical feed additive’ gives third-party proof of a product’s efficacy, and is considered the industry’s scientific gold standard.

© Delacon


Zootechnical feed additive, what does that term mean, and what is the difference to other feed additive groups?

Dr. Antje Holthausen: In the European Union, all phytogenic products must pass the authorization process as feed additive, if efficacy claims are used. The requirements concerning safety issues are mandatory for all additives, whereas the scope of application differs, and is reflected by the feed additive categories. According to Art. 6, Reg. EC 1831/2003, a zootechnical feed additive is defined as “any additive used to affect favourably the performance of animals in good health or used to affect favourably the environment”.

Unlike most botanical feed additives, which are considered as sensory additives (flavors), Delacon decided to apply for zootechnical category for its main products, encompassing both digestibility and performance parameters. The zootechnical registration is granted exclusively to products with significant beneficial effects on animals’ performance and thus, guarantees the quality and consistent effectiveness of the respective products.


What is special about the ‘zootechnical feed additives’ and why is this EU-authorization of such importance to Delacon?

Markus Dedl: The independent registration process for zootechnical feed additives in the European Union, which imposes extremely strict criteria and confirms not only the safety but also the efficacy of the certified product, is considered the industry’s scientific gold standard. It involves a thorough scientific evaluation and assessment by the highest European testing authority, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Although different regions use comparable systems to authorize feed additives, the registration process of the EU is an international standard that is recognized worldwide and supports decision-making of potential customers and partners.

We have been the pioneer, the first company worldwide to receive a zootechnical registration by the European Union for a phytogenic feed additive. The zootechnical registration of our products is evidence of our slogan ‘performing nature’, as well as our position as pioneer and global leader in trustworthy and reliable phytogenic feed additives that are proven to be safe and effective, and the natural choice for challenges in animal nutrition.

benefits of a zootechnical feed additive for producers

© Delacon


Which kind of preliminary work is needed for such an authorization?

Dr. Antje Holthausen: If you decide to apply for an EU authorization, you have to provide sufficient information on the additive, according to the rules laid down in Reg. EC 1831/2003 and the scientific guidance by the authorities, in an application dossier. It includes the identity of the additive and a description of methods to analyze the additive, its intended use, the manufacturing process and stability, as well as its safety for target animals, consumer, worker and the environment and last but not least, the efficacy of the additive. In fact, the preliminary work for the application for zootechnical feed additives takes years to perform the required trials and analysis. Beyond the requirements for safety that are mandatory for all feed additives, a vast number of significant studies and animal trials on performance parameters, using a variety of different methods and executed in different European countries, were provided. In contrast to many other products that have been authorized as ‘zootechnical feed additive’, Delacon’s phytogenic feed additives are complex plant-based product, consisting of botanical compounds and extracts with hundreds of single compounds. For the safety evaluation, EFSA had to consider the detailed composition of each ingredient, the constituents of essential oils, as well as all herbs, spices and other plants. Thus, the evaluation was much more complicated and took a long time compared to other applications. Nonetheless, significant data confirm the efficacy of Biostrong® 510 EC and its specific combination of hundreds of single components.




© Delacon


Which steps does the complex authorization procedure include?

Dr. Antje Holthausen: After submitting the application dossier to the EC, samples of the feed additive have to be provided to the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL). The EURL verifies the provided analytical methods for tracking the additive in the feed chain. The EC is giving a mandate to EFSA, to assess the safety and efficacy of the additive and to determine whether the additive complies with the requirements of a zootechnical feed additive. A working group of 21 independent scientists evaluate the safety and efficacy of the additive per stated claims and asking for supplementary information, if further details are necessary to conclude the safety and efficacy. After finalizing the evaluation process, EFSA issues a scientific opinion. Their opinion is supporting the decision of the community on the authorization of the additive. Their decision shall take into account the evaluations done by the EURL and EFSA, but considers additional market policy and strategic targets of the EU, in particular benefits for animal health and welfare as well as welfare for the consumer of animal products. The authorization is valid for a period of ten years, after which a renewal procedure is mandatory.


Which of your products are considered as ‘zootechnical feed additive’ registered by the EU? In which feed additive category are your other phytogenic products registered?

Dr. Jan Dirk van der Klis: Due to the fact that the registration process takes years and needs a high investment, Delacon applied for a zootechnical registration for our main products: being the first phytogenic feed additive awarded this coveted quality certification, the Delacon product Fresta® F for pigs was authorized as ‘zootechnical feed additive’ in 2012. The EFSA opinion on Biostrong® 510 EC for poultry has been published in July 2016, the authorization as zootechnical additive was published on March 9, 2017. Our other products are premixtures, comprised of botanical extracts, which are registered as sensory additives.

Portrait of Dr. Jan Dirk Van der Klis

© Delacon


How exactly do several stakeholders benefit from it, and for whom is it relevant?

Markus Dedl: Finally, we all benefit from the science-based approval of additives and ingredients that enter the food chain. The production of healthy food is the superior target of the EU Food Legislation. Their horizontal approach implies the whole food chain, including feed additives for livestock production. Similar approaches can be seen on a global scale.


The official registration process with its categories does not only allow discriminating between different products, but also gives evidence for the power of nature and the synergistic effects in sophisticated phytogenic product formulations. For feed manufacturers, livestock producers and farmers, efficacy may be the most important factor, while food safety, quality and animal welfare are probably the most relevant factors for consumers.

benefits of a zootechnical feed additive for producers

© Delacon

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