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Reducing the Risk of Disqualification from Naturally Occurring Prohibited Substances in Feed.

The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) has introduced two assurance schemes designed to reduce the risk of naturally occurring prohibited substances (NOPS) in equine feeds.

The Universal Feed Assurance Scheme (UFAS), Naturally Occurring Prohibited Substances (NOPS) Code is designed for manufacturers of compound feeds, and the Feed materials Assurance Scheme (FEMAS) NOPS Code is a sister scheme designed for raw material and straights providers. Both UFAS and FEMAS together with the NOPS components are administered by the AIC (Agricultural Industries Confederation). Companies are audited through the AIC schemes as well as being bound by additional requirements run by BETA as part of the BETA UFAS NOPS code.

Feeds and supplements conforming to the new Codes will carry logos to reassure owners and trainers of the stringent quality management procedures that have been undertaken by manufacturers.


NOPS – what are they and where do they come from?

The definition of a prohibited substance is “any substance that can exert an effect on a horse” which is a broad, all encompassing definition. A naturally occurring prohibited substance (or NOPS) is one that is either naturally present within certain ingredients or that occurs as a result of inadvertent cross contamination during processing before arriving at the feed manufacturer’s facility. The main NOPS and their sources are:

  • Caffeine – (cacao)
  • Theobromine – (cacao)
  • Theophylline – (tea)
  • Morphine – (opium poppy, Papaver somniferum)
  • Hyoscine – (nightshade, Datura)
  • Hordenine – (germinating barley)
  • Atropine – (nightshade – Atropa belladonna)
  • Nicotine – from tobacco

Historically the principal risk has come from caffeine and theobromine, but more recently several incidences of morphine contamination of feed have occurred, coinciding with the cultivation of morphine poppies in UK.

The British Horseracing Authority’s Rules of Racing and International FEI rules for competition state a no threshold policy for naturally occurring substances that could affect performance, with the exception of theobromine.  Whilst the risks of such an occurrence are low, the consequences can be disastrous with loss of prize money, value, earnings, prestige, owners, trainers, riders, feed/supplement manufacturers and team placings.

BETA NOPS Assurance Schemes

BETA The Code HACCP Approach

The BETA Codes require manufacturers to evaluate the risk of a NOPS contamination during every step of the sourcing, storage, transport and manufacturing processes for their each product, and design their quality management systems in line with the risks identified.

Suppliers of raw materials will be regularly audited and staff will also undergo rigorous training to ensure strict adherence to the Code.

The Code has been endorsed by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and the National Trainers Association.  Professor Tim Morris, Director of Equine Health and Welfare of the British Horseracing Authority says of the Code: “By significantly reducing the risk of NOPS, the new Code provides important protection for those competing or racing under rules. The fact that most of the UK’s major feed manufacturers have already agreed to comply with the Code confirms its viability as a workable verification system.”

The endorsement of the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is currently being sought and it is hoped to work with the FEI in the future.

Participating Companies

The following companies have signed up to be audited under the new codes.

Best Practice on Yard

Beyond the NOPS code, best practice for responsible control of prohibited substances on a yard should include the below. A downloadable 'Guide to Avoiding Prohibited Substances' can be found here.

There is also a more detailed leaflet which can be downloaded here.

Stable Management

  • Inform staff of all possible sources of contamination;
  • Forbid the consumption of food and drinks meant for human consumption in the stable;
  • Required stable staff to wash their hands thoroughly after and / or use disposable gloves whilst carrying out treatment on a horse or on themselves;
  • Require stable staff to declare any medications they are taking;
  • Empty and decontaminate the loose box, manger and water trough prior to the arrival of a new horse;
  • Empty and decontaminate the horse box after each journey;

Medication Management

  • Designate one person (who is well-informed of the risks of contamination) to look after the horses’ healthcare needs and to administer treatment(s);
  • Make it very clear which horse the vet should treat;
  • For each horse, have a log book available which details all treatment(s) currently being carried out as well as the prescribed dosages.
  • Keep prescriptions for the statutory period (namely, 5 years);
  • Be aware of medication ‘withdrawal periods’ before racing or competing;
  • Keep medication in a first-aid cupboard or box which is locked at all times;
  • If the manger or feed bucket is used to administer medication, clean thoroughly after use.

Feed Management

  • Choose companies accredited to the BETA / UFAS NOPS Code;
  • Keep the labels or delivery notes which state the batch numbers of the feed delivered,  suppliers being under obligation to keep samples of the batches;
  • If possible, keep samples of the feed upon delivery and keep for two months after the feed has been consumed in case of any future investigations;
  • Close the feed store when not in use;
  • Never place the first aid box, material(s), equipment or grooming kit in the feed store;
  • Designate one person (who is well-informed of the different contaminations risks)to prepare and distribute the feed rations.