Federal Regulation of Pet Food

According to the Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) the

…regulation of pet food is similar to that for other animal feeds. There is no requirement that pet food products have premarket approval by the FDA. However, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires that pet foods, like human foods, be pure and wholesome, safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled.[1]  [Emphasis added].

The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (the Act) defines food:

…(f) The term “food” means (1) articles used for food or drink for man or other animals…(3) articles used for components of any such article.[2] [Emphasis added].

Thus the Act that Congress passed to give the FDA its governing authority does not distinguish between food for humans and food for animals. Both should be held to the same standard.

In order for an article to be considered a food, it cannot be adulterated, which the Act also defines:

A food shall be deemed to be adulterated-
…(5) if it is, in whole or in part, the product of a diseased animal or of an animal which has died otherwise than by slaughter;…[3]

Despite this explicit ban on diseased or deceased animals not explicitly killed to become food, the FDA has determined that it will not enforce this provision of federal law:

Pet food consisting of material from diseased animals or animals which have died otherwise than by slaughter, which is in violation of 402(a)(5) will not ordinarily be actionable, if it is not otherwise in violation of the law. It will be considered fit for animal consumption.[4]

That is, if a pet food manufacturer complies with all other aspects of the Act, it can sell diseased animals and animals that died in a manner not intended for food, so long as it is cooked at an adequate temperature[5].  In other words, a dead rabid raccoon found on the roadside could lawfully be placed in your pet’s food so long as it is cooked.  You, the consumer, have no way of knowing this (more on labeling in another post).   Thus by not enforcing federal law  the FDA allows adulterated food to be used in pet food.  Unfortunately, this example is one of many of the FDA avoiding its congressional mandate with regard to pet food.  It is no wonder that pet food gets recalled so frequently.

Because we cannot rely on the federal government to protect our pet food supply, perhaps we should look to the state regulating authorities. Indeed, according to the FDA,

The best source of information about State rules is the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). To promote uniform labeling requirements across all States and territories of the United States, AAFCO has developed a set of “Model Regulations for Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food” that are contained in AAFCO’s Official Publication. Since the AAFCO “Model Regulations” were developed consistent with Federal requirements, they are a useful resource for information on the regulation of pet food.[6]

We’ll take a look at AAFCO in a later next post.


[1] See http://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/FDABasicsforIndustry/ucm238614.htm
[2] See 21 USC Section 321(f)
[3] See 21 USC Section 342(a)(5)
[4] See CPG Sec. 690.300
[5] Ibid.
[6]http://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/FDABasicsforIndustry/ucm238614.htm

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