Pet Foods Face First-Ever FDA Rule 6 Years After Dog Treat Scare

Pet and animal foods would for the first time have to meet uniform manufacturing, processing and packaging standards under rules proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While the FDA typically gets involved in investigating contaminated pet food that is already on the market, the new regulations are designed to prevent disease-causing bacteria and dangerous chemicals before the poisoning occurs. The rules are part of implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, the biggest change to food oversight since 1938.

The safety of pet food has been in the spotlight in part because of imported jerky treats imported from China that have sickened 3,600 dogs and 10 cats, and killed 580, in the U.S. since 2007. The FDA has been unable to pinpoint the cause of the illness. The new rule, added to two others related to humans proposed this year, would ensure that foods brought into the U.S. from abroad meet FDA safety standards.

“Unlike safeguards already in place to protect human foods, there are currently no regulations governing the safe production of most animal foods,” said Daniel McChesney, director of the FDA’s office of surveillance and compliance at the Center for Veterinary Medicine. “There is no type of hazard analysis. This rule would change all that.”

Humans can get sick when they encounter contaminated food they are giving to their pets or livestock, the FDA said. When pet food tainted with bacteria is placed on kitchen counters, the germs can spread to meals prepared for the family. When an animal eats feed contaminated by a chemical, the meat or milk that comes from the animal can pass along the contaminant to people who consume it.

The proposed rule would govern manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of animal food and establish good manufacturing process for each step of production. It will also ensure that animals get enough nutrients from their regular food, an important issue since they generally are fed from a single source.

The proposal is subject to a 120-day comment period before taking effect, and may change based on the public input.

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