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

The highly successful NOPS scheme, set up in 2009 to help reduce the risk of naturally occurring prohibited substances in equine feed, is now a stand-alone code, run solely by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), it no longer exists as an appendix to the UFAS and FEMAS codes.

This move has seen the BETA NOPS Code continue to grow and develop its international presence. As part of what has been a substantial review, the code’s list of naturally occurring substances has been amended, with the removal of hordenine and the introduction of a list of herbal NOPS.

Companies wishing to be audited to the BETA NOPS Code now have a wider range of pre-qualifying Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) -based schemes to choose from allowing a wider range of companies to join and giving the scheme the flexibility to cater to applications from company based overseas.

Once accepted, members can feature the BETA NOPS Code logo on product packaging to reassure owners, trainers and riders of the stringent quality management procedures that have been set in place. The scheme is a company scheme so the assumption is that all products placed on the market by a scheme member will be NOPS compliant.

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

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)
  • Atropine – (nightshade – Atropa belladonna)
  • Cannabinoids - (Hemp fibre and plant material)

Historically the principal risk has come from caffeine, theobromine and more recently morphine (coinciding with the cultivation of morphine poppies in UK). With the cessation of the cultivation of poppies in the UK from this year the risk from this type of contamination should reduce in the longer term. In addition more recently hyoscine and atropine have occurred more frequently as a result of certain weeds containing these substances naturally, starting to occur more frequently in certain crops used as ingredients in horse feed.

The list of herbal NOPS was introduced in 2016 following tracking of analytical results in raw materials since the scheme began. These are substances either naturally present in certain herbs that could lead to a positive test in competition, or are substances that originate from weed seeds contaminating herbal supplies. Testing for these substances should be done on a risk assessed basis and for many companies will be of little or no concern.

High Priority

Substance - Typical Source - FEI status

  • Cathinone/Cathine - Khat - Banned
  • Digitoxin - Foxglove (Digitalis sp) - Banned
  • Ephedrine/Pseudoephedrine - Ephedra sp. - Banned
  • Reserpine - Indian snakeroot, Devil’s Pepper; (Rauvolfia sp.) - Banned
  • Synephrine - “Bitter” orange cultivars (Citrus sp.) - Banned                                            

Low Priority

Substance - Typical Source - FEI status

  • Harpagosides - Devil’s Claw - Controlled
  • Salicylic acid - Willow bank, Meadow Sweet - Controlled
  • Valerenic acid - Valerian (Valeriana Officinalis) - Controlled
  • Yohimbine - Yohimbe tree (Rauvolfia sp.) - Controlled

The substances listed on the high priority herbal list are not permitted in equine feed or supplements.  The substances included in the low priority list are permitted however are limited to horses NOT competing and inclusion of raw materials that may naturally contain these substances must be highlighted on product packaging together with an indication of a withdrawal period.  The NOPS logo may NOT be shown on products intentionally containing these raw materials.

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

The BETA NOPS Code calls for every one of its members to evaluate the risk of NOPS contamination during each step of the manufacturing process, from field to feed sack. This includes the sourcing, storage, transport and actual processing. Suppliers of raw materials are audited on a regular basis and staff undergo rigorous training.

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

The code, which most of the UK's major feed manufacturers have agreed to comply with, is endorsed by the British Horseracing Authority and National Trainers Association. The British Equestrian Federation requires all squad members to use only NOPS accredited products.

The FEI introduced another category of prohibited substances with their  “specified substances” list in 2016. This Specified Substances approach allows the FEI and/or the FEI Tribunal more flexibility when prosecuting a case or when deciding on sanctions.  Specified Substances are not necessarily less serious agents than other Prohibited Substances, and nor do they relieve the Personal Responsible (PR) of the strict liability rule that makes them responsible for all substances that enter a Horse’s system. However, there is a greater likelihood that these substances could be susceptible to a credible non-doping explanation.

For companies interested in joining the BETA NOPS Scheme an application form and further information can be downloaded here

Any company making claims relating to NOPS must be a member of the scheme as the scheme involves more than purely auditing to the NOPS code.  Having product made in a NOPS accredited manufacturing plant does NOT mean that the company marketing the product is NOPS accredited.

Any company making claims relating to NOPS must be a member of the scheme as the scheme involves more than purely auditing to the NOPS code.  Having product made in a NOPS accredited manufacturing plant does NOT mean that the company marketing the product is NOPS accredited.




Participating Companies

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

A Poucher and Sons (Bardney Dairies) Ltd
A.N Irwin Feeds Ltd, (Bluegrass Horse Feeds)
AB Agri - t/a Premier Nutrition Products
ADM Protexin Limited
Allen & Page Ltd
Aviform Ltd
Berry Feed Ingredients part of WHM Pet Group Ltd
Blankney Estates Ltd
Blue Chip Feed Ltd
Campbell Environmental Oils Ltd
Cargill (Provimi Ltd)
Carrs Agriculture Limited t/a Caltech
Carrs Billington Agriculture (Sales) Ltd
Charles R Wynne Ltd
Charnwood Milling Company Ltd
Cherwell Valley Silos Limited
Cod Beck Blenders Ltd
Connolly's Red Mills
Connolly's Red Mills
Dallas Keith Ltd
David Taylor Animal Nutrition Ltd
Dengie Crops Ltd
Denis Brinicombe Group
Devenish Nutrition
Devenish Nutrition
Dodson & Horrell Ltd
EAF Group Limited
Equilibrium Products Ltd
Equine America (UK) Ltd
F H Nash Ltd trading as Baileys Horse Feeds
Form Nutrition Ltd (trading as Equiform Nutrition, Maxavita and Vital Equine)
Fox Feeds Ltd
Friendship Estates Ltd
Gain Animal Feeds
Global Herbs Ltd
Greencoat Ltd
H J Lea Oakes Ltd
H J Lea Oakes Ltd
H J Lea Oakes Ltd
H J Lea Oakes Ltd
Hay & Brecon Farmers Ltd
Henry Bell & Co (Grantham) Ltd
Hepromij BV / Van Dijck BV
Honeychop Horsefeeds Ltd
Horse First Limited
I'Anson Bros. Ltd and Divisions British Horse Feeds, Masham Micronized Feeds & Golden Paste Company
Inform Nutrition & Mervue Laboratories
Inovitec Ltd
International Energy Crops Ltd
J August Plambeck GmbH & Co KG
Jack and Andrew Smales
John Loader (Wessex) Ltd
Ketripack Ltd
Keyflow (UK) Ltd
Mark Westaway & Son (Barleycroft LLP)
Mark Westaway & Son (Love Lane Farm)
Mars Horsecare UK Ltd
Micronized Food Products Ltd
Mole Valley Farmers Ltd
Muntons plc
Northern Crop Driers Ltd
Nutriad Ltd
Oaklands Animal Health t/a Science Supplements
Ocean Harvest Technology
Omega Equine Ltd incorporating Better4Hooves Ltd
PureFlax Ltd
R A Baillie Ltd
R S Assemblies Ltd
S P Woolhouse & Sons Ltd T/A M and T Haylage
Saracen Horse Feeds Ltd.
Scotmin Nutrition
Shamrock Farm Enterprises
Silvermoor Limited
Simple System Ltd
Stangroom Brothers Ltd
Stour Bay Company and Stour Bay Partnership
Sundown Products Ltd
Swedencare Ireland
Target Feeds Ltd (trading as Rowen Barbary Horse Feeds)
Tharos Ltd
The Equine Edge Ltd
The Pure Feed Company Ltd
The Rosehip Company Pty Ltd
Timmerman Groenvoederdrogerij BV
Tithebarn Ltd
Topspec Equine Limited
United Farmers
Urtica Plus Ltd
WHM Pet Group Limited - Marriage’s Specialist Foods
Yorkshire Feedstuffs Ltd
Youngs Animal Feeds Ltd

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