FSMA is to Pet Food as…

FSMA has helped the pet food industry decrease product health issues and reduce the need for product recalls. The pet food industry must continue to invest in the infrastructure necessary to improve the standards of pet food safety.

Puppy eating out of a dog food bowl.

 Scott Haskell teaches the online course “Animal Health, World Trade, and Food Safety” for Michigan State University’s Institute for Food Laws and Regulations. The course is offered each year in the fall semester. 

Importantly, for the very first time the safety of pet food is regulated by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). Prior to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the FDA’s role and oversight concerning pet food were very limited. FSMA currently is providing the FDA with new and necessarily expanded powers of regulation and guidance to the pet food industry. A new preventative approach is the rule rather than the exception for food safety. Such an improvement was much needed and necessary!

Prior to this change in food safety requirements, pet food manufacturers generally were following the unofficial guidance provided by customer requirements. Again prior to FSMA, the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) did an outstanding job providing guidance and production modeling to the pet food industry. AAFCO developed and established definitions and limitations for ingredients in cat and dog food. With this said, the AAFCO had no legal authority or official mandate. Because of this, the quality and in many cases the food safety varied substantially between products and pet food manufacturers. This proved to be unacceptable. So, when FSMA was written into law, a new era of pet food safety and standards came in to view. Final rules were essential to the positive changes within the industry.

FSMA has begun to eliminate pet food safety inconsistencies and has helped standardize food safety requirements thereby improving overall food quality and diminishing product safety issues while insuring manufacturing compliance. These standardization requirements are mandatory for registered facilities which are engaged in the processing, manufacturing, packaging, transporting and storing of pet food and products nationally.

These new FSMA and important pet food safety requirements include:

Preventative Controls for Animal Food Rule- The FDA has finalized current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) for producing safe animal food that takes into consideration the unique aspects of the U.S. animal food industry and provide flexibility for the wide diversity in types of animal food facilities. Establishment of industry CGMPs was a essential move. This legislation is of such importance as to change much of the pet food manufacturing industry. Arguably, this rule is the most important compliance rule for pet food manufacturers to date. Requirements include pet food facilities developing and implementing a food safety plan that includes an analysis of hazards to determine which issues require control; and the development of risk-based preventive controls to minimize or prevent hazards. The FDA has finalized CGMPs for producing safe animal food that takes into consideration the unique aspects of the domestic and global animal food industry and provides flexibility for the wide diversity in types of animal food facilities. Very important stuff!

Food safety plan development- With FSMA, the processing facility has the ability to follow either the human food or animal food CGMPs when processing by-product feeds. Unless it is a qualified facility or exempted from 21 CFR part 507, subpart C (hazard analysis and preventive controls), the animal feed facility is required to determine any hazards that may require a preventive control. Documentation of this hazard analysis is required. Additionally, a written food safety plan must be developed, implemented and followed. This plan must also include a specified product recall plan.

Foreign Supplier Verification (FSVP) Rule- This requirement is so important in controlling the potential for contamination or adulterants entering domestic pet food from the global marketplace. The FSVP rule requires animal food manufacturers which are importing international feed ingredients to verify and assure that their global processors and suppliers’ manufacturing and processing are following the required FSMA preventive controls. Domestic pet food manufacturers must ensure that all imported products remain un-adulterated. All potential allergen information must also be properly labeled on all products. Additionally, global processors CGMP requirements must be in compliance with the Preventive Controls Rule. This is an important requirement to maintain standardized quality, transparency and safety.

Accredited Third-Party Certification- This rule helps to establish the requirements and necessary procedures that allow the FSMA framework to be developed and monitored. This rule is important to all accreditation bodies seeking recognition by the FDA, as well as requirements for third-party certification bodies seeking accreditation. Essentially this rule can help establish voluntary programs for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies (third-party auditors). These third-party auditors help conduct food safety audits and can issue certifications of foreign producers/manufacturers and their food products for humans and animals. This rule helps to ensure the necessary competence and subsequent independence of the accreditation bodies participating in the program. This very important rule allows animal feed manufacturers who utilize foreign supplier products to obtain food safety certifications from the FDA. FDA-recognized accreditation bodies can participate in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP). These participants allow the expedition of product review and subsequent importation. On the other hand, the FDA through this ruling is allowed under special circumstances to halt potentially harmful and dangerous food from entering the country. A very important stop gap measure!

Foreign Supplier Verification Programs- FSMA also included the requirement for pet food facilities to develop a supply-chain program to address hazards within these programs, especially with the increased incorporation of raw materials in products. As above, the producer/manufacturer must develop/implement a risk-based supply-chain program. This is especially necessary if their hazard analysis identifies a hazard which requires a preventive control or if a control will need to be applied in the facility’s supply chain. Domestic manufacturers will not need to have a supply-chain program if they intend to control these hazards within their own facility. It is the responsibility for domestic manufacturers to ensure that raw materials/ingredients requiring a supply-chain-applied control are received only from approved suppliers or verified manufacturers. This is especially important with the ever-expanding raw ingredient market.

Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule- This rule helps create a modern, risk-based framework for food safety within the confines of product transportation. The overarching goal of the sanitary transportation rule is to prevent transportation practices that may create overall food safety risks to animal feed (e.g., failure to properly refrigerate product, inadequate cleaning and disinfection of transport vehicles after and between delivered loads, failure to properly protect food during transport and delivery). This extremely important rule helps establish the necessary requirements and framework by which loaders, shippers, carriers (motor or rail vehicles), and receivers/manufacturers which are involved in transporting animal food to utilize good sanitary practices to help ensure the safety of that food. However, this rule does not apply to products transported by air or sea. Essentially this rule establishes the requirements for transportation equipment, transportation operations, record keeping and maintenance, and employee training. This rule is implemented to ensure that transportation into or within the United States is designed to insure and maintain high standards. Approved transportation must not allow animal food to become unsafe for consumption. Training of personnel in understanding adequate temperature controls and the elimination of cross-contamination is essential. Additionally, the maintenance of written records of carrier procedures are required and must be open for inspection at all times.

FSMA has accomplished such a wide range of necessary improvements to the safety of pet food and products. The pet food industry must continue to invest in the infrastructure necessary to improve the standards of pet food safety. The establishment of a FSMA informed and educated food safety team onsite at manufactures is essential. Additionally, internal and external audits are necessary for program success. FSMA has helped the pet food industry decrease product health issues and reduce the need for product recalls. As such, FSMA has been a worthwhile development and is worth continued industry buy in.

Learn more about food laws and regulations and the FSMA rules with online graduate courses designed for food industry professionals. Visit www.iflr.msu.edu or contact iflr@msu.edu to learn more.

These courses with MSU’s Institute for Food Laws and Regulations may be of particular interest:



FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Animal Food https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-final-rule-preventive-controls-animal-food

Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals Guidance for Industry https://www.fda.gov/files/animal%20&%20veterinary/published/CVM-GFI--245-Hazard-Analysis-and-Risk-Based-Preventive-Controls-for-Food-for-Animals.pdf


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