Is Dog Food Safe? The FDA Isn't Sure

In response to tainted pet treats, federal authorities are proposing new standards for companies that manufacture pet foods. The Food and Drug Administration has been unable to determine the precise cause of death for about 580 dogs that ate jerky treats, imported primarily from China. Some 3,600 dogs have been sickened by the treats, as well as reports of 10 cats.

Most of the suspected food is chicken jerky in the form of tenders and strips, but others include duck, sweet potato, and treats where chicken or duck jerky is wrapped around dried fruits or yams. The FDA reports of the sickened animals (PDF) cover a variety of breeds, ages, and weights, as well as jerky products sold under several brands. The investigation began in 2007.

The Current Good Manufacturing Practices rule would apply to domestic and imported animal food, including pet food, animal feed, and raw materials and ingredients. Factories making animal food would need to have written plans to identify hazards and what steps will be used to minimize those hazards. The rule would not apply to farms that produce their own food for their animals, nor to grain elevators or other warehouses that store raw commodities used in food production.

The rule would cost manufacturers an estimated $128.75 million per year, according to the agency. “While the many potential benefits of the proposed rule can be identified, the current economic costs of hazards associated with animal food products could not be sufficiently quantified for comparison,” the FDA said.

In August, Nestlé Purina PetCare recalled a batch of its Purina One Beyond Our White Meat Chicken & Whole Barley Recipe dry dog food after one bag was found to have salmonella contamination. The same month, Procter & Gamble recalled several of its Eukanuba and Iams brand foods for dogs and cats after salmonella was suspected. The company said no illnesses were reported from the recalled foods.

The proposed rule was published Oct. 29 and is subject to a 120-day comment period.

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