By: Daniel McChesney, Ph.D.
Animals are an important part of our lives. Whether we’re talking about a family’s pet or a farmer’s livestock, we at FDA are committed to doing all we can to keep the foods they eat free of contamination.
To this end, we have proposed the Preventive Controls for Food for Animals rule to establish good manufacturing practices for facilities and personnel involved in manufacturing, processing, packing and holding animal food. It would require facility owners to have a food safety plan and to have controls in place to minimize any potential hazards.
This proposed rule pulls together the work we’ve done over the past decade to craft a safety system for animal food and will give us new tools to do this important work. The research and findings of the agency’s Animal Feed Safety System Working Group helped create the foundation for the proposed regulations.
Historically, we have put most of our efforts into responding to safety issues involving animal food as they arise. And while regulations have been crafted to address such threats as the brain-wasting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (aka “mad cow” disease), this regulation moves towards a comprehensive, risk-based regulatory framework to keep all animal foods safe.
And you can see by looking at some of the crises in recent years this is clearly an important public health issue, one that affects both animals and people.
Everyone still remembers the massive recall of pet foods in 2007 after melamine, a chemical used to make plastic, was intentionally added to ingredients produced in China, killing pets across the country.
Just last year, 30,000 tons of dry dog and cat food were recalled following an outbreak of Salmonella tied to a South Carolina facility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 47 people in 20 states and two in Canada fell ill from coming in contact with the contaminated food.
Globally, public health agencies have for years dealt with the presence of dioxin – linked to cancer and developmental problems in people – in animal food ingredients, and those episodes led to multiple food recalls.
While FDA moved quickly in response to these and other crises tied to contaminated pet foods, the agency’s focus changed with the enactment in 2011 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Congress charged FDA to take a more preventive, risk-based regulatory approach.
While FDA has proposed four other rules this year that were mandated by the food safety law, we chose to handle safety issues involving animal foods separately. Animal and human foods are produced differently, and animals and people are vulnerable to different hazards.
Also, the rule deals with the nutrient content of animal foods to satisfy a need that is unique to animals. If humans eat a food that’s not particularly nutritious, we can choose something else later. Animals obviously don’t have that option, and they usually get the same food for every meal, so these foods must be complete, nutritionally balanced products.
The bottom line is that we want the foods that animals eat to be safe. We want you to be safe if you’re handling pet food or eating foods derived from animals. This rule will help us do that. You are welcome to read the rule and submit comments by visiting FDA’s official docket at www.regulations.gov or www.fda.gov/fsma.
Daniel McChesney, Ph.D., is Director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.