Many in the industry have been eagerly waiting for news from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a variety of petfood-related matters:
- As this issue goes to press, there has been nothing publicly proposed regarding new federal regulations for petfood labeling as mandated by the FDA Amendments Act of 2007 (FDAAA);
- It is hoped the pilot program to accept GRAS (generally recognized as safe) notifications for petfood ingredients will begin soon; and
- Guidance documents regarding "therapeutic diets" (for lack of a better term at this time) and use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in pet products still appear on FDA's "under development" list.
Despite the lack of news on those issues, FDA has announced several items on its website that affect petfood.
Pet health and safety widget
FDA has developed a computer application that interested parties are free to install on their websites to display information directly from the agency. According to FDA, all that is required to accomplish this is to copy the html code from FDA's website and paste it on your own homepage or blog. No maintenance is required; once installed, FDA will update the content automatically.
Once the widget appears on your website, the viewer can click on either "tips" or "updates." One of the current tips included in the widget is how to report a petfood complaint to FDA. However, the tips also include non-petfood topics, such as purchasing pet drugs online. Current updates include information on petfood labeling, heartworm disease and animal drug safety. Previous updates included notices of petfood recalls.
Petfood early warning system
Among other things, FDAAA mandated that the agency establish an early warning and surveillance system to identify adulteration of petfood and outbreaks of illness associated with petfood. In a recent Federal Register Notice, FDA announced the intent to help accomplish this requirement through incorporation of a petfood complaint questionnaire into the MedWatch\Plus\Portal and Rational Questionnaire Initiative.
This will be part of a larger electronic system to collect and process adverse event reports for all FDA-related products. Proposed questions include requests for information about the petfood product, when it was purchased, how it was used and what effect its use had on the animal.
The time allotted for public comment is very short (30 days), so technically, the comment period will have expired by the time this reaches print. While comments would likely still be received after the deadline, they may not be granted the same consideration. Comments on the pet food questionnaire should be submitted to the US Regulations website ; reference Docket #FDA-2008-N-0546.
A new draft for the Animal Feed Safety System (AFSS) recently has been added to FDA's website. The system is intended to help protect human and animal health by ensuring the safety of animal feed (including petfood). The current draft framework identifies the following major components of AFSS:
- Ingredients and the approval process;
- Limits for feed hazards;
- Process control for the production of feed ingredients and mixed feed;
- Reporting of unsafe feed;
- Regulatory oversight; and
- Education and outreach.
Within each component, gaps in the current system are identified. FDA then explains how it intends to address these gaps to better provide for distribution of safe feed in the US. For example, FDA has established a risk-ranking method of identifying feed hazards to assist the agency in setting priorities and directing resources.
Reportable Food Registry
This requires manufacturers to promptly report on instances of petfood contamination where there is reasonable probability of a serious adverse effect on health. It became effective on September 8, 2009, but FDA indicated the intent to exercise enforcement discretion for an additional 90 days. That grace period has now expired, so it is imperative that manufacturers report as required or face potentially serious consequences.