(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the August/September 2019 issue.)
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Countless people worldwide, regardless of age or gender, are infatuated with the millions of animal species with which we share planet Earth, with many taking on the responsibility of being pet owners to a small segment of those species.
Today, owners care for their chosen pets as if they were their own kids—especially in the U.S. But such emotionally tied bonds that people hold with their pets have naturally made owners harbor real concerns on what they are feeding their furry, feathered, or scaly friends.
A recent report revealed that the global pet care market reached an astounding $125 billion in 2018, with pet food sales toppling slightly over $91 billion.
Regardless whether one prefers tropical fish, turtles, horses, snakes, songbirds, dogs, or cats, FDA is the appointed governing body in the U.S. that regulates all pet foods, as well as imported pet food goods/ingredients.
Important Pet Food/Veterinary Regulatory Measures
Listed below are pertinent years and events that have affected pet foods from a regulatory angle in the U.S.
1968: Animal Drug Amendments places all regulations of new animal drugs under one section of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act)—section 512, making approval of animal drugs and medicated feeds more efficient.
1988: Generic Animal Drug and Patent Term Restoration Act extends to veterinary product benefits given to human drugs under the 1984 Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act. Companies can produce and sell generic versions of animal drugs approved after October 1962 without duplicating research done to prove them safe and effective. The act also authorizes expansion of animal drug patients.
1994: Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act allows veterinarians to prescribe extra-label use of veterinary drugs for animals under specific circumstances. In addition, the legislation allows licensed veterinarians to prescribe human drugs for animal use under certain conditions.
In addition, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) amends the FD&C Act to create a new category of substances as well as a new regulatory scheme. (However, products marked as dietary supplements for animals don’t fall under DSHEA, and FDA presently does not recognize them as a special category. Depending on their intended use, the agency classifies these products as either food for animals or animal drugs.)
2011: Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) includes even tighter controls and prevention measures regarding pet foods. Pet food is presently the most highly regulated of all food products that by law must meet myriad federal and applicable state requirements. FDA regulates both finished pet food products including treats and chews and their ingredients.
There are some voluntary programs as well. USDA has a voluntary pet food certification program; however, it is not acknowledged by FDA or state Departments of Agriculture. USDA only regulates meat, poultry, eggs, and catfish. I have written several of these pet certification programs at USDA facilities as the requirements are highly detailed, with record retention of at least five years since the day of final shipment.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary membership association of local, state, and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies. Following AAFCO model regulations helps manufacturers meet or exceed individual state requirements. Most state laws require registration of feed or pet food while other states may require that a company be licensed to sell in that state.
Third-Party Food Safety Standards for Pet Food
Pet food manufacturers worldwide that were already processing animal products under the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) more than likely had no difficulties with meeting FDA’s FSMA requirements and their ever-mutating conformance deadline dates. Many of the GFSI standards regarding the safety, quality, and legality of pet foods were actually “borrowed” by FDA when creating FSMA prior to 2011.