September 10, 2021
Kemin: Safe Feed Matters - Addressing the shift in customers' perspective in feed biosecurity (Part 2 of 2)
This article is Part 2 of 2 of a series. In the previous part published last week, Kin Ken Chew, product manager for Feed Quality and Technology at Kemin Animal Nutrition and Health, Asia Pacific, discussed the company's unique customer-centric approach in helping to address uncertainty faced by the industry in ensuring feed safety. In this article, Dr. Jason Tan, CLS Innovation Associate Manager, shares his unique role in the innovation journey that Kemin embarks on from the perspective of CLS.
eFeedLink: Jason, please give us a brief introduction to CLS and your unique role.
Customer Laboratory Services, commonly known as CLS, was set up in the Singapore plant in 1988 to position Kemin Industries as a customer-centric company. The aim was to serve as a key differentiator in the market by offering customised laboratory and technical services such as product comparisons and efficacy tests for our customers. The establishment of CLS has successfully positioned Kemin as a partner that works with its customers to find solutions that best fit their needs.
Before joining Kemin in late 2019, I worked as a scientist at a start-up focusing on vaccine production and biologics research and development for the aquaculture industry. With scientific rigor instilled from my previous academic and working experience, I hope to bring a new breath of technical and scientific expertise to the CLS family.
My key role is to drive the development and implementation of innovative test kits that can help address our customers' concerns. Together with our team members, we scout for existing test kits for 'on-field' feasibility evaluation (and revamp the assays as necessary) or develop test kits entirely from scratch. I have also spearheaded the concept-to-launch of these test kits by serving as a key inventor and presenter in webinar series. This is to introduce our commercial team members to the newly launched test kits so that they can leverage these tools to help address our customers' concerns. One of the test kits that we have recently developed is the Sal-Alert™ test kit, a presumptive Salmonella detection kit that feed millers and farmers can easily operate. This rapid 18-hour test kit can be used to screen for potential Salmonella occurrences in different feed ingredients.
Our overarching goal with these innovative test kits is to conveniently help our customers understand their feed hygiene quality and complement our laboratory services as a holistic offering to the market.
Tell us more about the introduction of diagnostic test kits such as Sal-Alert.
To develop test kits grounded in a clear understanding of our customers' needs, we need to understand their pain points from their perspectives. It is important that the CLS can glean first-hand information concerning our customers from the commercial and technical services (TS) teams, who are usually the first point of contact with them on field. Once we have the information, the CLS can either scout for existing test kits or formulate new assays, to address their concerns.
For example, early Salmonella diagnosis is essential to mitigate diseases on farms. CLS does offer conventional Salmonella detection services for our customers. However, one feedback about this test method is that it can be time-consuming. Knowing this, we took the initiative to develop an 18-hour, rapid, presumptive Salmonella diagnostic test kit, Sal-Alert, for our customers in 2020. Of course, Sal-Alert is never intended to substitute for the conventional method of Salmonella diagnosis but to serve as a quick screening tool at the field level. Should their feed samples be presumptively tested positive for Salmonella occurrences, this can heighten our customers' alert on their feed hygiene status. They can either send the samples to an external laboratory or us to conduct a final confirmatory test.
Similarly, we have introduced a commercially available rapid Total Enterobacteriaceae Count (TEC) test kit as a means for our customers to conduct on-site bacterial quantification with convenience. Together with Sal-Alert, these rapid diagnostic tools are offered to our customers based in the Asia Pacific region to assess their feed hygiene status as a form of environmental surveillance.
Please walk us through the innovation journey that Kemin embarks on from the perspective of CLS.
The CLS is a scientifically driven unit as we routinely reach out to our customers to conduct experiments to help them understand the quality of their products. With a solid capacity to perform reliable in-vitro tests and innovate new experimental designs, this can help gain the trust of our scientifically inclined customers in using our services. This, in turn, translates to a better customer support ecosystem that Kemin has to offer.
Over the years, the CLS has developed rapid diagnostic test kits to allow our customers to diagnose and detect potential issues early in the field in real-time. Simply put, we bring laboratory services to the field. One of the first successful launches of the test kits was in 2015 when the CLS developed a rapid, portable Clostridium perfringens diagnostic test kit to help estimate the bacterial load in the cloaca of livestock. As this test kit gained market momentum and popularity amongst our customers, we have initiated a series of exploratory research projects to adapt or develop new diagnostic test kits that can help our customers perform the diagnosis themselves on site easily. As you can see, there is a transformation in the CLS' operation over the years, from conducting experiments in the laboratory to innovating new test kits for in-field services.
The CLS is also a multifaceted entity as we are also working at the interface of marketing and sales. For instance, the CLS works together with our sales force to regularly provide bespoke training and educational workshops for our customers. This helps to broaden the customers' experience in terms of product usage. It also allows the CLS team to understand their needs better.
In short, these two-tiered services (e.g., science and sales interfaces) that the CLS embarks on over the years have successfully added significant value for our customers. As the name implies, the CLS is a customer-centric unit that emphasizes scientific laboratory services and innovation to help address the customers' concerns.
Please share with us Kemin's other unique services that support feed safety initiatives.
In the context of microbiological testing, we regularly perform water activity evaluation, Salmonella detection, total Enterobacteriaceae quantification, and mold count analyses for our customers. These are either based on the US Food and Drug Administration's Bacteriological Analytical Manual (BAM) or MicroVAl-certified methodology to ensure the reliability and robustness of the assays conducted. By combining these tests, we can provide a holistic overview of our customers' feed hygiene status.
In addition to microbiological evaluation, we also conduct a series of analytical services as part of our feed safety initiatives. The effect of organic acids, such as propionic acid, has been well documented to increase the longevity of feed materials by preventing mold and microbial growth. It is the crucial ingredient in many of Kemin's antimicrobial products. To help our customers understand if Kemin's products are applied homogenously or at the correct dosage, we can conduct propionic acid recovery tests from feed through our in-house method involving gas chromatography. Similarly, our team regularly performs High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) assay to recover formaldehyde from the feed, as it is one of the key actives in our formaldehyde range of Sal CURB products.
Please also tell us more about how Kemin is conducting formaldehyde exposure monitoring. Since our previous interview with Kemin in 2018 (https://www.kemin.com/ap/en/blog/animal/safety-concerns-on-formaldehyde--how-to-deal-with-them--and-what), could Kemin share with us the changing profile of formaldehyde used in the Asia-Pacific region?
Chew: Since the denial of authorisation of formaldehyde use as a feed additive in the European Union, we do see some customers switching to formaldehyde-free products to fulfill the export requirements, especially to Europe. However, other than that, we still see that for the majority of our customers in Southeast Asia and Oceania, formaldehyde-based feed additives are still the most common solution because of their effectiveness.
The key reason for the EU denial of the use of formaldehyde feed additives is worker safety. Hence, while formaldehyde-based products can be used in Asia, we place a strong emphasis on the safety aspect of the application. This is where we have our KAS team customise applicator systems to ensure the product is being applied in the mixer in an enclosed system. CLS provides product handling safety training and formaldehyde exposure monitoring to assure the formaldehyde level is within the safe limit.
In the United States, while formaldehyde usage is still approved by the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), stringent hazard control measures for workers are implemented. The key here is to manage formaldehyde correctly for both efficacy and safety.