FDA moves to keep food safe for animals

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing rules that would govern and regulate the production of all animal foods, protecting them from disease-causing contaminants. Under the proposed rule, facilities manufacturing, processing, packing and holding animal food would be required to practice procedures that can minimize or prevent hazards that are likely to occur, according to the FDA.

“I think it’s sad how it takes something bad to happen for action to be taken,” said Santa Monica College student Manuela Penaloza.

The announcement stems from the FDA’s ongoing investigation on the cause of almost 600 dog deaths believed to be linked to pet jerky treats imported from China.

“I’m careful of what food I give my two dogs, but I didn’t know there were so many dangers in pet food,” said Penaloza.

“This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” said Dr. Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, in a statement on the agency’s website. “Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a healthy diet is just as important for animals as it is for humans. Salmonella outbreaks, for example, are not just linked to “people food.”

The most prominent potentially disease-causing pet foods are jerky pet treats, according to the FDA.

A report on these treats issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stated that as of Sept. 24, more than 3,600 dogs and 10 cats have reportedly become ill from eating jerky pet treats.

“I’ve had some pets in my life, and I’ve only seen a few get sick, but I never thought it could have been the food that caused it,” SMC student Mayra Cendejas said.

The new proposal would be a part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 4, 2011.

“FSMA aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination of the food supply to preventing it,” according to the FDA.

According to a summary of the proposed rule by the FDA on its website, the protective measures would apply to domestic and imported animal food, including pet food, animal feed, raw materials and ingredients.

The summary also states that facilities producing animal food will be required to have plans outlined for identifying hazards, specify the steps to reduce or prevent those hazards, spot and record monitoring procedures and results, and specify the actions to take to correct the problems.

“I love my dogs, and I think that a lot of people would agree that they aren’t just animals and they’re really like a part of the family,” said Penaloza.

This new law is just a proposal and will be open for public comments for 120 days, according to the FDA. However, with recent recalls and animals becoming sick from food given to them by their owners, whether or not the proposal passes, pet owners still have options when choosing pet food.

The CDC states that the basic maneuvers for preventing illness from pet food is to check for recalled pet food and always wash hands.

Fabian AvellanedaComment