How Safe Do You Want Your Pet Foods to Be?

Updated: April 02, 2014
Published: November 08, 2013
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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 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