Just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called on veterinarians and the public for help with its investigation of jerky treat related illnesses, it announced a proposal that is intended to make animal food safer.
Aside from concerns about toxic jerky treats, there have been a number of issues in the past few years that have resulted in tons of pet food being recalled. In 2007, melanine – a chemical used to make plastic – was added to food in China, which caused thousands of dog and cat deaths and prompted what’s believed to be the largest pet food recall in U.S. history. Since then, recalls have abounded over problems ranging from antibiotic residues, nutritional deficiencies and mold to improper storage and Salmonella, among other issues.
The lack of current regulations for animal food is almost surprising, considering the way we view our companion animals and the fact that it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. Concerned pet parents are trying to buy the good stuff, even when we’re broke, but even lower end products that hit the store shelves should, at the very least, be safe.
Unfortunately, as it stands now there are no regulations concerning the production of pet food, and the FDA doesn’t really get involved until after there’s already a problem with food that’s on the market.
The proposed rule, announced on Friday, marks the first time the FDA has proposed preventive measures, which will give the the agency more leverage in the supply chain to stop problem products from ever reaching store shelves in an effort to protect both animals and people who can get sick from handling contaminated foods.
“This proposed rule on animal food complements proposed rules published in January 2013 for produce safety and facilities that manufacture food for humans to set modern, prevention-based standards for food safety,” Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael R. Taylor said in a statement. “They also work in concert with standards proposed in July 2013 to help ensure that imported foods are as safe as those produced domestically.”
The proposed rule stems from the the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 and is intended to protect both pet and livestock food from bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants. It will require manufacturers to put procedures in place that will help prevent foodborne illnesses and correct problems that may arise. It’s also intended to prevent nutrient imbalances in food, which can be a big deal for some types of pets who rely on specific nutrients in food that their bodies can’t produce.
According to the FDA, this will also be the first time that animal food facilities will be required to follow proposed current good manufacturing practices that address areas such as manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of animal food, in addition to addressing other areas, such as sanitation.
However, the new rule won’t do anything about the problems stemming from jerky treats, because the cause is still unknown, or about the overuse of antibiotics in livestock feed.
The FDA will be holding a series of public meetings about the proposal over the next few months. The proposed rule will also be published in the Federal Register on October 29 and will be open for public comments for 120 days. You can submit a comment in support of making animal food safer at regulations.gov by searching for the docket number FDA-2011-N-0922.
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