Blog: An important opportunity to improve pet food safety

Blog: An important opportunity to improve pet food safety

Veterinarians, pet owners need rigorous testing to be mandatory.
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Feb 25, 2014

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has requested public comment on a proposed regulation called the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA, for short), intended to strengthen the safety of pet food and animal feed sold in the United States. If it’s done right, this regulation has the potential to significantly improve the safety of pet food, prevent recalls and assure the public that it can depend on the safety of the food fed to family pets.

There is currently no requirement that pet food factories test finished products for contamination from Salmonella. Finished product testing means that after a food product goes through manufacturing but before it is shipped, it goes through one final round of testing to ensure that the product is safe. Most major pet food manufacturers already undertake such procedures—and have strong internal food safety programs—but these food safety standards are voluntary and are not universally implemented across the pet food industry.

The FDA should require that dry pet food manufacturers implement rigorous quality and food safety programs throughout the manufacturing process and test their finished product and their factory environments for Salmonella and other pathogens. While Salmonella is generally not harmful to healthy animals, it may certainly be harmful to their owners. It is common for pet meals and family meals to be prepared on the same surface, so pet food needs to be free of any substance dangerous to human health. Recent recalls in the dry pet food industry demonstrate how important robust quality and food safety and testing standards can be in dry pet food manufacturing.

These new food safety standards will be costly for some manufacturers to implement, to be sure, but they are worth it to reduce the risk that contaminated pet food can pose. What’s more, they will help prevent recalls that put consumers at risk and damage the pet food industry as a whole. The FDA’s proposed regulation is a step in the right direction and will ultimately raise the bar for pet food safety in the U.S.

If you are interested in ensuring that the FDA implement strong safety standards for pet food manufacturing, you can submit your own comments to FDA here: www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/fsma/ucm366510.htm.

Mark Cushing, JD, is founding partner of the Animal Policy Group, providing government relations and strategic services for various animal health, veterinary and educational interests. He maintains offices in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., and is a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences.

The Veterinary Policy Notes blog on dvm360.com helps veterinarians and other animal health professionals keep abreast of the growing number of issues, political challenges and regulatory initiatives affecting the veterinary profession, animal health industry and animal welfare movement.