FDA issues groundbreaking rules for manufacturing safe pet foods

Nearly 5 years after the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)--and after multiple outbreaks of food-borne illnesses in both people and their pets--the FDA has finalized two major rules contained in the law. One of those rules marks the first time the agency is laying out current good manufacturing practices for making, processing and packaging animal foods.

The FDA announced the final rules on Sept. 10, and many businesses will need to be in compliance this month. Some food manufacturers that already comply with human food safety rules won't have to implement additional controls for making ingredients used in animal foods. But any company that's taking byproducts from human foods and further processing them to make kibble will have to comply with the new good manufacturing practices. In addition to defining those practices, the rule requires facilities to have a written food-safety plan.

The FDA said its final rule on good manufacturing of pet foods was developed with "an unprecedented level of outreach by the FDA to industry, consumer groups" and other stakeholders. The rule was first proposed in October 2013 and the agency has been collecting comments since then. 

Although most of the focus on food safety and the FSMA has centered on protecting the estimated 48 million Americans who contract food-borne illnesses every year, federal regulators have been under increasing pressure to pay more attention to animal foods. Earlier this year, for example, an outbreak of kidney disease in dogs was linked to chicken treats that were made by an American company. 

And in June, after several highly publicized recalls of raw pet foods, the FDA started collecting samples of the popular products to test them for Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli. The agency cited several studies that raised alarm bells about raw foods, including one that revealed the discovery of Salmonella in 80% of raw chicken dog foods and 30% of stool samples from dogs that consumed them.

"Today's announcement sets us on the path to a modern food safety system that will prevent illnesses and continue to build confidence in the safety of the food served to our families every day," said Dr. Stephen Ostroff, acting FDA commissioner, in a press release from the FDA.

- here's the FDA's final rule on animal food safety 
- access the agency's press release here
- read more at Food Safety News