FDA extends landmark food safety overhaul to animals

The Food and Drug Administration issued regulations Friday to extend the largest food safety update in 70 years to cover animals.

A draft rule, to be published Tuesday in the Federal Register, stems from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The 2010 law calls for a major shift in the national strategy for combating food-borne illnesses, replacing a system focused on responding to contamination to with one designed to prevent it. 

Under the regulations, producers of animal feed and pet food sold in the United States would be required to establish plans to put procedures in place combat outbreaks like the spate of jerky-treated illnesses that have killed hundreds of dogs.

The FDA announced earlier this week it is stepping up its investigation into the deaths, with a focus on Chinese plants where most of the treats are manufactured.

In the meantime, the rule unveiled Friday calls for animal food makers to develop systems to correct problems that arise and would, for the first time, hold them to a set of “good manufacturing” standards involving sanitation.

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said in a written statement that the rules would protect, “a critical part of the food system.”

The rule follows sweeping proposed regulations for farms, manufacturing plants and imported foods.

Members of the public will have 120 days beginning Tuesday to weigh in on the proposal. The FDA also announced three meetings on the animal food rule, to be held this fall in College Park, Md.; Chicago; and Sacramento, Calif.