We pet parents are routinely left aghast by pet food nightmares. The FDA is primarily concerned with the safety of the human food supply and hasn't paid a tremendous amount of attention to pet food. As a matter of fact, to date there are NO specific pet food regulations.
Hopefully, that will soon change. The first pet food specific regulations were proposed by the FDA last week. With 120 days for public comment the goal is to have them in place by 2015.
According to the Dog Food Advisor there have been 20 recalls of pet food and treat so far in 2013 (there were 27 recalls in 2012). These are divided between chemical contamination, generally melanine in chicken treats from China (NBC News) and salmonella contamination.
The FDA has long been puzzled by the chicken jerky deaths - where they admit nearly 600 pets have died and more than 3,600 have been sickened in an ongoing, mysterious outbreak of illnesses tied to jerky treats made in China.
The path to illness and death via salmonella contamination is much more straight forward and it is this problem that the proposed regulations address.
The proposed animal food regulations parallel those for human food established this year. The rules would require makers of animal food sold in the United States to develop a written plan to prevent food-borne illnesses, like salmonella, and to put it into effect. Producers would need to put protective procedures into place at critical points in the production process where problems are likely to arise.
The written protocols the FDA wants to require address sterilization of the food as it is produced, giving stated temperatures and time at temperature required. Every batch of food produced will require records that include these measurements.
The FDA also wants to have producers review their protocols minimally every three years.
The "bonus news" is that these regulations are to apply not only to pet food but to agricultural animal food. Yes, the chicken, pigs and cows that we eat have to be fed cleanly too before they become part of our food chain.
All good news and a step in the right direction to contain salmonella outbreaks which have become all too common.
Now in honor of the memory of the 580 recorded pet deaths traced to chicken jerky treats let's keep the pressure on the FDA to complete the job. According to the New York Times, the agency has received more than 3,000 complaints about the jerky over five years - 3,600 dogs and 10 cats - who were sickened by treats with ingredients from China.
We strongly urge pet owners to make comment to the FDA about the proposed regulations as well as additional regulations they should draft. It is easy to do on their website and they will be soliciting comments on their proposed pet food regulations until the end of January 2014.
For your pets, please speak up.