Animal Food Packagers May Be Affected by Proposed FDA Rule

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed a rule that would govern the manufacturing, processing, packing and packaged foodholding of pet and animal food for the first time.

The regulation would help stop food-borne illnesses in animals and people, reports The New York Times. Humans can become sick when they contact contaminated food that they give to their pets or livestock, reports Bloomberg. For example, if contaminated pet food is place on kitchen counters, the germs can spread when meals are prepared for the family. People also may become sick if they touch pets who have eaten contaminated food.

“Unlike safeguards already in place to protect human foods, there are currently no regulations governing the safe production of most animal foods,” says Daniel McChesney, director of the FDA’s office of surveillance and compliance at the Center for Veterinary Medicine. “There is no type of hazard analysis. This rule would change all that.”

FDA’s proposal was prompted by the public outcry that began six years ago after cat and dog food from China, contaminated with melamine — a compound used in plastics — caused the deaths of animals in the United States. Since 2007, the agency counted about 580 pet deaths, nearly all dogs, that were connected to chicken, duck, and sweet potato jerky treats, nearly all of which were imported from China. It is uncertain whether the new regulations would have prevented the deaths because the agency has been unable to pinpoint the cause of the illness.

The proposed rules are part of the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. They would ensure that foods imported into the United States would meet FDA safety standards. The New York Times explains further:

Much like regulations proposed for human food this year, the rules would require makers of animal food sold in the United States to develop a written plan to prevent food-borne illnesses, like salmonella, and to put it into effect. Producers would need to put protective procedures into place at critical points in the production process where problems are likely to arise.

Producers may have to set up a system to monitor whether food has been cooked long enough at the right temperature and keep records to document that. Company also would have to correct problems that arise and reevaluate their systems at least every three years.

Much of the proposal deals with processing the animal food under new requirements, but packaging requirements also are affected. For example, facilities that store packaged animal foods for which refrigeration is required for safety would have to ensure temperatures remain stable, and monitor those conditions. Manufacturers of thermally processed low-acid food packaged in hermetically sealed containers would have to ensure that their products would protect human health.

Source: “F.D.A. Bids to Regulate Animal Food, Acting After Recall and Deaths,” The New York Times, 10/25/13
Source: “Pet Foods Face First-Ever FDA Rule 6 Years After Dog Treat Scare,” Bloomberg, 10/25/13
Image by Denhulde.