What safety measures are in place for commercial pet foods?


  • Multiple organizations contribute to safety measures for pet food manufacturing:
    1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
      • The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires that all foods (including pet foods) be safe, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled.
      • Within the FDA, the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is responsible for regulation of all animal feeds in interstate commerce, including pet foods, treats, nutritional supplements, edible chews, medicated feeds, food additives, and feed ingredients.
      • Existing food safety responsibilities of the CVM include:
        1. Authorization to inspect manufacturers based on risk assessment and laboratory tests and to access manufacturers’ food safety plan records.1
        2. Determine if there is a suspected contamination and decide whether a product recall is necessary.2
        3. House the Pet Event Tracking Network (PETnet), which enhances information sharing between the FDA and other regulatory agencies for pet food related incidents. This allows for rapid dissemination of information to prevent or reduce illness.3
      • Newer regulations, such as the FDA Amendments Act of 2007 (FDAAA) and Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), provide movement toward more proactive government involvement in issues of food safety including pet foods.1 Specific directives include:
        1. Establishment of a reportable food registry, where pet food companies must promptly report incidents that may lead to unsafe products. The Safety Reporting Portal has been established for this purpose4: https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov/fpsr/WorkflowLoginIO.aspx?metinstance=913F1FDDA530CFD94FCD325233B352806782253F.
        2. Establishment of federal standards for ingredients, processing, and labeling.
        3. Gain full supervision of food importation and foreign suppliers.5
        4. Implement comprehensive, prevention-based controls across the entire food supply.5
        5. Encourage manufacturers to adopt innovative approaches to food safety.5
        6. Authorize mandatory recalls for all food products.5
    2. The Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
      • The AAFCO is an advisory body comprising federal and state officials, but with no regulatory authority or enforcement powers. Rather, food safety regulation is enforced on the state level. Many states voluntarily adopt all or part of the AAFCO Model Bill and Regulations into their own feed laws.
      • AAFCO’s role regarding safety includes:
        • Determines what ingredients can, or cannot, contain for all animal feeds, including dogs, cats, horses, livestock, pocket pets, and exotics.6
        • Develops the AAFCO Model Bill and Regulations that include the AAFCO Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles, labeling rules, ingredient definitions, and feeding trial protocols.
        • AAFCO does not test, certify, or approve products, nor does it conduct feeding trials. Pet food companies must conduct their own testing, but the results are subject to verification by individual states and the FDA.
    3. Individual states
      • Food safety regulation is enforced on the state level. This is usually done by the state feed control official’s office, most often under that state’s department of agriculture. Many states voluntarily adopt all or part of the AAFCO Model Bill and Regulations into their own feed laws.
      • Some states monitor pet food once it is on the market. For example, many states collect random food samples from a variety of retail outlets to perform safety tests and analysis on a yearly basis.
    4. Pet food manufacturer
      • Many pet food manufacturers, but not all, have safety protocols established simply because it is best practice, even if they are not mandatory by law.
      • Currently, if a pet food facility is registered with the FDA, the FDA recommends (not mandatory) having a risk-based hazard analysis and critical control points program (HAACP) and/or other documented safety protocols in place.1 The HAACP is used to determine the key areas in food processing where the risk of hazards is high.
      • The FDA also recommends good manufacturing practices (GMPs). At present time, GMPs are only mandatory for canned food.
      • As of February 2014, a proposal under the FSMA is open for public comment to make HAACPs and/or other documented safety protocols, as well as GMPs, a requirement for all pet food producers.7
      • Other procedures pet food manufacturers may perform to ensure food safety include:
        • Have strict vendor assurance programs. Manufacturers may send a representative to the physical place of ingredient production or perform an audit of the contracted vendor.8
        • Testing of incoming ingredients for nutrients and known risks and contaminants with the latest technology available.8
        • Use of a protocol for fast, accurate traceability of a pet food product, in case the food must be removed from the market.1
    5. Pet Food Institute (PFI)
      • The PFI is a voluntary trade organization comprising many pet food manufacturers.
      • Promotes the best safety practices of its members through the Model Commercial Pet Food Manufacturing Principles.9
    6. American Feed Industry Association (AFIA):
      • The AFIA established voluntary certification of facilities that manufacture animal feed, including pet food.9
      • Provides audits to facilities covering hazard analysis, preventive controls, record retention, supplier standards, and safety specifications for ingredients and final products through the Pet Food Manufacturing Facility Certification Program and Pet Food Ingredient Facility Certification Program.9
    7. Veterinarians
The Science Behind our Recommendations
1. Eirmann LE, Cowell C, Thompson L. Pet food safety: the role of government, manufacturers, and veterinarians. Compendium. 2012; 34(1): E1-E3. 2. Stenske KA, Smith JR, Newman SJ, Newman LB, Kirk CA. Aflatoxicosis in dogs and dealing with suspected contaminated commercial foods. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2006 Jun 1; 228(11): 1686-91. 3. Dangin A, Murphy J, Melluso C. PETnet: An information exchange for pet food related incidents. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Website. http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/Products/AnimalFoodFeeds/PetFood/ucm278278.htm. Update November 2, 2011. Accessed October 13, 2013. 4. Safety reporting portal. Safety Reporting Portal Service Website. https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov/fpsr/WorkflowLoginIO.aspx?metinstance=992341103BECE8CAF92C4D154BB952C6B91484B9. Accessed February 20, 2014. 5. Food safety modernization act and animal feed. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Website. http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/Products/AnimalFoodFeeds/ucm347941.htm Updated February 13, 2014. Accessed February 14, 2014. 6. Association of American Feed Control Officials. 2011 Official Publication. Association of American Feed Control Officials, Inc. 2011: 8. 7. FSMA proposed rule to establish current good manufacturing practice and hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls for food for animals. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Website. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm366510.htm. Updated February 2, 2014. Accessed February 14, 2014. 8. Thompson A. Ingredients: where pet food starts. Top Companion Anim Med. 2008 Aug; 23(3): 127-32. 9. Burns, K. Improving the safety of pet food. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2012 Jun 1; 240 (11): 1270-1271. https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/120601d.aspx. Posted May 16, 2012. Accessed October 23, 2013. 10. How to report a pet food complaint. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Website. http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ReportaProblem/ucm182403.htm. Updated February 24, 2012. Accessed October 24, 2013.