FDA or Congress? Where does the blame lay?
In a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, professor and author Marion Nestle brings up a very good point. When questioned how she felt about the proposed FDA head Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Dr. Nestle reminds readers that Congress tells the FDA what to do.
Dr. Marion Nestle is the author of several food related books, including the 2008 book titled Pet Food Politics: Chihuahua in the Coal Mine. Her blog, Food Politics, (http://www.foodpolitics.com/) reports to readers pertinent information regarding food and the safety of food. In a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Dr. Nestle addresses a question from a reader, what does she think about proposed FDA head Dr. Margaret Hamburg?
Nestle feels Dr. Hamburg is an excellent choice to fix the broken FDA. However, as she points out, “This agency oversees the safety of drugs, medical devices, and food for animals as well as people. This is a large order, but the FDA faces particular hurdles. The industries it regulates do not like being regulated. They prefer self-regulation, and they let Congress know it.” http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/10/FDG516RMSG.DTL
The perfect example of an industry that ‘prefers self-regulation’ and manages to ‘let Congress know it’ is the pet food industry. Pet food lobby organizations, such as The Pet Food Institute, are known to have powerful influence at the FDA.
As example of the influence of The Pet Food Institute, in 2001 the FDA considered requiring pet foods that contained possible mad cow contaminated ingredients to be labeled ‘Do Not feed to ruminants’. In 2001 (as is presently) the FDA requires bulk animal feed ingredient packaging and/or related shipping documents to be clearly marked ‘Do Not feed to ruminants’ if they contain suspect rendered mad cow disease material. In 2001 (again, as is presently), it was legally acceptable to feed dogs and cats mad cow disease material. The FDA wondered if pet food containing mad cow disease risk material should as well be clearly labeled ‘Do Not feed to ruminants’, knowing that many expired and salvage pet foods are recycled and fed to livestock, thus possibly contaminating meat producing animals and in turn the public. As common practice, the FDA accepted comments on the proposed pet food labeling rule, the following is the comment from the Pet Food Institute…
“…such a label would have not only a negative effect on pet food by unnecessarily alarming consumers, it would also have a negative impact on human foods. Our research found that 71 percent of consumers would buy something else if they saw such a label on pet food; 68 percent would be very concerned about the safety of the pet food if it carried such a label; and, 40 percent of the respondents would be very concerned about consuming beef and lamb because of the label on pet food products.” http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/01/Nov01/110501/ts00004.pdf
Since you do not see ‘Warning – Do Not Feed to Ruminants’ on your pet food labels today, you can guess who won that battle.
We blame the FDA (me included), yet as Dr. Marion Nestle points out, it is the task of Congress to tell the FDA what to do. Clearly, both Congress and the FDA are not doing their job and clearly support the interests (and pocket books) of industry instead of consumers and their pets. I urge you to continually pressure your Representatives in Congress to do something (anything?) to assure the safety of pet food. Existing laws are in place to ban many high risk materials in pet foods, yet no one in Congress is requiring the FDA to enforce them. Please, don’t give up hope. Please don’t give up writing and calling their offices demanding they require the FDA to enforce the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act laws. We pet owners do not have a rich and powerful lobby organization to gain the attention of Congress, however, with persistent and on-going pressure, perhaps one day Congress will listen to the voices of U.S. citizens instead of world industry.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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