We are beginning to see results of the US congressional
inquiries made last spring on the petfood recalls. In fact,
both houses of Congress have proposed a host of new legislation
in recent months, all related to food safety, imports and/or
Most notable to date is the Food and Drug Administration
Amendments Act of 2007 (FDAAA). It passed in both the US House
of Representatives and the Senate by large majorities (I think
unanimously by the latter) and was signed into law by President
Bush in September.
Most of the FDAAA deals with various issues regarding drugs
and medical devices; only a small portion actually pertains to
food safety (approximately 10 out of 156 pages). Much of that
food safety part applies to all foods under FDA jurisdiction,
but it includes many specific references to petfoods. The
complete document is available at
Effects on FDA
The new law puts the burden on FDA to improve its
capabilities when dealing with a food contamination incident.
To help address some of the complaints about the agency during
the recalls, FDA must establish an early warning and
surveillance system to help identify adulteration of the
petfood supply and outbreaks of illness associated with
petfood. The law suggests emulating or coordinating efforts
with warning systems already in place for human food and animal
health. Congress has granted FDA only one year to put this
system in place.
Another complaint was FDA's not communicating facts about
the petfood recalls in a timely manner to the public. The new
act directs FDA to improve its ability to collect and compile
pertinent information from companies, associations and other
organizations and disseminate it quickly and effectively. This
would include posting all information in a single, easily
accessible location on the Internet with a searchable database,
easy for the public to understand and use.
Other aspects of FDAAA include coordinating efforts with
state authorities on food safety issues and establishing a
reportable food registry within the next year. Further, within
two years, FDA must promulgate new regulations establishing
petfood ingredient standards and definitions, processing
standards and updated labeling standards that include
nutritional and ingredient information.
Effects on industry
Under the current Bioterrorism Act, all food facilities
(including animal feed and petfood facilities) must be
registered with FDA. However, except for some record-keeping
and the requirement for companies to provide the agency with
information on its facilities in case of an emergency, the
burden this places on the industry is arguably little.
But under the reportable food registry as part of the new
FDAAA, companies must report to FDA, within 24 hours of
discovery, any instance involving a food where "there is a
reasonable probability that the use of, or exposure to, such
article of food will cause serious adverse health consequences
or death to humans or animals." Also, the facility must
investigate the cause of the adulteration within this 24-hour
period if the adulteration may have originated internally.
The only exception to the reporting requirement is when the
adulteration originated in the facility, was detected before
any of the product was shipped out and was corrected or the
product was destroyed. Facilities must maintain records on
these incidents for two years. The records must be made
available to FDA inspectors and could be subject to release to
the public under the Freedom of Information Act. This puts a
tremendous new responsibility on petfood manufacturers.
The new regulations pertaining to ingredient, processing and
labeling standards will also likely impose additional burdens
on the petfood industry, but it is not yet known what they
might be. FDA is directed to consult with AAFCO and other
stakeholders, including petfood manufacturers and veterinary
medical associations, as the rules are developed.
What's not affected
Though the safety of imported food was identified as a
driving force behind this legislation, the act mentions little
about food importation. It has new directions to FDA regarding
inspection of imported seafood and aquaculture products, and
these new regulations and systems will certainly impact
imported as well as domestic products. However, there's no
mention of increased inspection of all food imports or new
Also, there's no mention of increasing FDA authority with
regard to initiation of recalls under FDAAA. At this time,
recalls of adulterated products are technically all voluntary,
although with one exception I don't remember an instance where
a company fought FDA's "suggestion" to initiate a recall.
Still, this was seen by some in the US Congress as a great
deficiency in existing law, and I expect we may see further
legislation to grant FDA mandatory recall authority.
Public meetings invited comments and provided updates
Committees discussed key proposals such as a possible shift in the oversight of animal feeds
The mid-year meeting addressed several regulatory matters affecting petfoods
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