Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

How Safe Do You Want Your Pet Foods to Be?

November 08, 2013 / (6) comments

Unfortunately, one of the topics that we seem to touch upon frequently here is pet food safety, or more specifically, the lack thereof. A rule proposed late last month by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the 2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act could potentially change that.


The goal of the proposed rule, called “Preventive Control for Food for Animals,” is to protect all animal foods, including those fed to companion animals and livestock, from disease-causing bacteria, chemicals, and other contaminants.


Under current regulations, the FDA tends to only get fully involved once a problem has been identified (which is part of the reason why they simply can’t pull the jerky treats that have been linked to so many pet illnesses off the market … the specific problem has not yet been identified). As Daniel McChesney, the Director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine says on the FDA website, “Unlike safeguards already in place to protect human foods, there are currently no regulations governing the safe production of most animal foods. There is no type of hazard analysis. This rule would change all that.” The consumer update continues:


This proposed rule would create regulations that address the manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of animal food. Good manufacturing practices would be established for buildings, facilities and personnel, and would include cleaning and maintenance, pest control, and the personal hygiene of people who work there.


It would also require facilities to have a food safety plan, perform an analysis of potential hazards, and implement controls to minimize those risks. Those controls would have to be monitored and corrected as needed.


The new rule is also designed to prevent nutrient imbalances in animal foods, and in combination with two other rules proposed in July, would hold foods and ingredients imported into the United States to the same safety standards as those that are produced domestically. As Dr. McChesney says, “When you buy food for your animals, those ingredients could come from anywhere in the world, so animal food producers and their suppliers, no matter where they are based, have to be held to the same high standards.”


For more information, take a look at the FDA’s Fact Sheet on the proposed rule. It covers which types of facilities would and would not be covered, a timeline for implementation, and a lot more. If you agree with me that this proposed rule could go a long way towards making the food supply for animals in this country safer, consider posting a comment on regulations.gov. I’m sure the pet food industry will be putting their two cents in; it would be beneficial for the FDA to hear from consumers, and from the veterinary community as well. The comment period closes February 26, 2014.


Dr. Jennifer Coates


Image: Sergey Niven / Shutterstock


Comments  6

Leave Comment
  • 11/08/2013 04:47pm

    "The comment period closes February 26, 2013." As your article is dated November of 2013, perhaps there is an error on the date you mention, Dr Coates?

  • 11/08/2013 04:50pm

    Oops, yes, that's supposed to read Feb. 26, 2014. Sorry!

  • 11/08/2013 05:10pm

    Yes, I see you meant 2014.

  • Rules
    11/08/2013 11:02pm

    Rules are great, but considering how many human foods end up having problems, does the FDA have enough inspectors to include the supervision of pet food manufacturers? Are they going to hire and train more inspectors?

  • 11/09/2013 06:37am

    Frankly, I'd like my dogs' food to be as safe as human food. I realize that there are no 100% guarantees and things can happen, but I would really like to see equal safety as in human food. That's what I would like.

  • safe pet food
    11/29/2013 02:46pm

    Rule 1: buy American, the pet you save may be your own.
    Rule 2: Canned foods tend to be safer than dried foods. Canned foods have to be cooked and if contaminated with organisms, will swell up or smell badly when opening.
    Rule 3: Know your suppliers. Are they using reputable sources? Is their storage safe and clean and dry?
    Rule 4: Don't feed your pets anything you wouldn't eat - and don't feed them foods known to be harmful to their health (stimulants such as caffeine are one), then there are foods and plants that come from bulbs, grapes and raisins are off limits, too. I have seen so-called dog food that listed raisins and onions as ingredients - something that was pulled from the shelves after I mentioned it to the retailer.