by Marion Nestle
Aug 10 2009

Do the food safety bills apply to pet foods?

A comment by Sophie on my post about the food safety bills needs an immediate response to set the record straight.  She says:

It’s my understanding that this [bill] excludes pet food manufacturers….our pets were the canaries in the coal mine in the 2007 pet food recalls; they helped bring huge awareness to the food safety issue especially when baby formula was tainted with the same melamine problem that pet food was…but yet our pets get left out of the food safety bill?  Something isn’t right here…

On this point, not to worry.  H.R. 2749 most definitely does include pet foods.  Here, for example, is Section 101 (C)(i):

The term ‘retail food establishment’ means an establishment that, as its primary function, sells food products (including those food products that it manufactures, processes, packs, or holds) directly to consumers (including by Internet or mail order).
‘(ii) Such term includes–
‘(I) grocery stores;
‘(II) convenience stores;
‘(III) vending machine locations; and
‘(IV) stores that sell bagged feed, pet food, and feed ingredients or additives over-the-counter directly to consumers and final purchasers for their own personal animals [my emphasis].

All sections of the bill, including recall authority, apply to  pet foods and animal feed, as well as to human foods.  As another example, see Section 420 (c):

Order to Cease Distribution- If the Secretary has reason to believe that the use or consumption of, or exposure to, an article of food may cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals, the Secretary shall have the authority to issue an order requiring any person who distributes such article to immediately cease distribution of such article [my emphasis again].

In this sense, the bill recognizes that we have only one (global) food supply and that this one (global) food supply feeds people, pets, and farm animals alike.

  • concern4pets

    On this point of H.R. 2749 including “pet food” in its food safety
    provisions, I think it’s going to take a legal expert, Ms. Nestle, based
    on these comments indicating AFIA separated pet food from human
    food definition in the passed bill. I have seen other opinions expressed that pet food, wrongly I think, is classed as animal feed,
    and the same provisions of 2749 that apply to human “food,” thanks
    to food industry groups like AFIA, will not apply to “animal feed,” in
    other words, “feed or pet food.” Perhaps more of the politics of food that prevent safer food supplies (?):
    In the House bill, AFIA had succeeded in creating a series of “firewalls” between food and feed requirements, so that any requirements specific and appropriate to human food regulation would not inadvertently impede the manufacture of livestock feed and pet food.
    The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) issued a comment saying it had created “firewalls” in the House bill to distinguish between food and feed requirements, as the term “food” in federal food law means “food for humans and animals.”

  • Sophie

    Marion, Im glad you noticed my comment and I guess I am getting conflicting info. I think it shows the confusing way the bill is written but I did ask Bill Marler as well as Consumers Union and was told by both parties that pet food was not included. So I guess Im even more confused than I already was. In addition, there are some clauses written in that make it very questionable such as this one: (C) AUTHORITY WITH RESPECT TO CER2
    TAIN FACILITIES.—The Secretary may, by regu3
    lation, exempt or modify the requirements for
    4 compliance under this section and the amend5
    ments made by this section with respect to fa6
    cilities that are solely engaged in—
    7 (i) the production of food for animals
    8 other than man or the storage of packaged
    9 foods that are not exposed to the environ10

    and this: (5) CONSIDERATION.—When implementing sec12
    tions 418 and 418A of the Federal Food, Drug, and
    13 Cosmetic Act, as added by paragraph (2), the Sec14
    retary may take into account differences between
    15 food intended for human consumption and food in16
    tended for consumption by animals other than man.

    And like the poster above, Im afraid that animal feed is being considered separate from pet food in this bill. I really hope Im wrong and most definately, would be jumping for joy if its clarified that pet food manufacturers are included in this food safety bill.

  • Sophie

    Oh! I forgot to add that I had also contacted my senators office for clarification and they also stated pet food was not included in this bill. So perhaps a definition of what the House is classifying “animal feed” to be and does that include pet food is needed? I was able to find no definitions in relation to this bill. And I guess the clause I posted above where it gives FDA wiggle-room to take into account differences on food intended for humans as compared to food intended for animals when it comes to implementation of this bill has me a bit worried and yes I admit…skeptical.

  • Janet Camp

    I thought it was pretty clear that pet food is included and is differentiated from animal feed. No?

    I’m relieved to know that my chickens’ food is included!

  • I am afraid this confusion is ever present in legislation, installed with the purpose of obscuring and obstructing. Can you imagine wading through a thousand pages of doublespeak, hundreds of loopholes, etc., trying with little success to protect the public good? My head explodes! I look forward to seeing how this will be implemented.