FDA proposes expanded role in pet food oversight

You may remember the tainted pet food crisis in 2007. Melamine, a chemical used to make plastic, was added to pet food made in China. A massive recall was too little too late for more than 8,500 family pets who reportedly died from the contaminated food.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found, in the resulting investigation, that two specific Chinese food factories were responsible, and they were eventually shut down. However, little else was put forth by the government to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Unfortunately, the pet food industry at large has a history of attempting to hide these problems from the public. Press releases about recalls far too often go out late on a Friday night. The tactic has become so common that pet bloggers tracking recalls coined the phrase “Friday dump and run.” However, we’ve seen a change recently from the FDA. The agency is now looking at regulating the manufacture of food intended for animals.

A proposal from the FDA would govern the production of pet food and farm animal feed. Since so much of the American pet food supply comes from China, it’s welcome news that the oversight would also include foreign food production facilities. The proposed regulations would also go beyond detecting adulterants in the ingredients and would also regulate preparation methods, cooking temperatures, and pathogen control procedures.

The public outcry over the melamine crisis, and the many subsequent (almost monthly) recalls, has finally pushed the government to act.

Most recently, the pet food alarm has been raised over chicken, duck and sweet potato jerky treats from China that have been linked to the deaths of 580 dogs due to kidney failure. It’s important to note that pet owners are also at risk from touching contaminated pet food.

To date, the FDA’s role has been to monitor accurate labeling of ingredients and extra nutritional claims, such as joint support for dogs or urine acidification for cats, etc. This new attention to food safety, including production protocols, is an important step forward, and Best Friends supports any measures to protect both animal and human health. The proposed regulations would require makers of animal food sold in the United States to develop a written plan to prevent foodborne illnesses, like salmonella, and to put it into effect.

If you enjoy reading government documents, you can view a summary of the FDA’s current role in animal food oversight by clicking here.

The public is invited to offer input on the proposed regulations. You can tell the FDA what you think by clicking here.

Francis Battista