Sunday Supplement: Proposed new FDA food structure leaves pet food out to dry


The proposed new US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) organization structure leaves the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) sucking on a hind teat.

Never a major player in the FDA heirarchy, the CVM has been formally excluded from the Human Foods Program, with only a dotted line connecting it to the Office of the Deputy Commissioner.

Although the CVM will report directly to the Office of the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, its relatively small budget and political profile will leave this essential element of food safety and nutrition with little voice or influence at the table.

Why does this matter?

The CVM is responsible for oversight of animal feed, pet foods and veterinary medicines.

If animal feeds are not properly regulated and supervised, animal nutrition–and ultimately human nutrition–suffers.

If veterinary medicines are not properly regulated and supervised, the health of livestock and the safety of the human diet suffers.

If pet foods are not properly regulated and supervised, the health of companion animals suffers.

Pet health matters

Pets play an important role in the mental and physical health of their human companions.

Those of us who have lost a dog, cat, or other pet to illness, accidents, or simply old age, understand the grief that this loss entails.

In addition, if an animal develops a gastrointestinal illness such as salmonellosis as a result of contaminated pet food, this illness can be passed along to people in the same household.

This is not speculation.

Kibble, raw pet foods, and pet treats contaminated with Salmonella have caused several outbreaks of human illness large enough to attract the attention of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Without a strong voice at the budget table, the CVM will not have the resources to oversee the pet food industry.

We have seen what has happened in the past when a pet food manufacturer has been allowed to operate on a “voluntary compliance” basis. More often than is healthy, the emphasis is on voluntary, and compliance falls by the wayside.

Can this be fixed?

I realize that the CVM has elements both of food and of pharmaceuticals in its regulatory portfolio.

Nevertheless, every component of the CVM’s mandate–animal feed, animal medications, pet food–indirectly supports the safety and nutriton of human or animal food.

I would propose that the scope of the proposed new directorate be expanded to include the CVM, and that the word “Human” be dropped from the title of the new Deputy Commissioner.

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