A Pet Food Betrayal Like None Other
Congress and FDA just eliminated laws that thousands of pets died for in 2007. We must demand those laws be put back and enforced. We must demand the pets that died for these laws be remembered.
On March 16, 2007 a pet food recall announced by Menu Foods turned into the deadliest recall in history. The FDA received more than 8,500 reports of pet deaths, but some estimates were far higher. The pet food industry at the time told pet owners not to worry, only 1% of all pet foods were affected. But…1% of an estimated 60 million pets in 2007 meant that 600,000 pets were exposed to pet food poison. Family after family lost their beloved pet in a painful gut-wrenching way. If you did not have a sick pet from the recall, you probably knew at least one family whose dog or cat was sick or died. It was a horrible, horrible time.
In response to this horrible time in pet food history, pet owners were given promises by Congress. They told us new law in the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act will ‘ensure the safety of pet food’. In fact, that’s what they named the laws – “Ensuring the Safety of Pet Food“. This is what Congress promised us:
Not later than 2 years after September 27, 2007, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (referred to in this chapter as the “Secretary”), in consultation with the Association of American Feed Control Officials and other relevant stakeholder groups, including veterinary medical associations, animal health organizations, and pet food manufacturers, shall by regulation establish-
- ingredient standards and definitions with respect to pet food;
- processing standards for pet food; and
- updated standards for the labeling of pet food that include nutritional and ingredient information.
These laws were a blessing. Finally pet owners would be given public access to ingredient definitions, finally FDA would establish exactly what standard of quality each ingredient would be held to and finally FDA would update pet food labels giving pet owners more nutritional information about their pet’s food. And Congress established a deadline for FDA to complete the work. Through these laws, grieving pet owners had a glimmer of hope nothing like this would ever happen again. But…
What Congress promised, FDA never delivered. FDA ignored and ignored the required deadline. In fact today, FDA is 9+ years late (past the deadline) on completing the pet food safety laws promised us in 2007. FDA had no intention of providing pet owners what law required, so just a few months ago FDA snuck the deletion of these pet food safety laws into an unrelated animal bill. Today…it’s as if they never existed.
The Safety of Pet Food death sentence was found at the very bottom of a bill that should have ONLY been information to update animal drug fees.
HR 5554, Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Amendments of 2018
Section 306. (b) Ensuring the safety of pet food.—Section 1002(a) of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 (21 U.S.C. 2102(a)) is amended—
1) by striking paragraph (1); and (2) by redesignating paragraphs (2) and (3) as paragraphs (1) and (2), respectively.
NO…Section 1002 (a) wasn’t “amended” – it was completely eliminated. Section 306 of HR 5554 completely eliminated the pet food safety promises Congress gave us in 2007.
And how did we find out about this despicable action? The FDA or Congress certainly didn’t warn pet owners. Instead we learned the Director of CVM decided to brag to industry about the pet food safety deletion. Dr. Steven Solomon – Director of FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine – told industry at a trade event that Ensuring the Safety of Pet Food Section 1002 (a) of FDAAA was gone. In a section of the industry post about it – titled “Poof! Pet food ingredients provision is gone” Dr. Solomon is quoted saying: “deletion of ingredient standards and definitions provision in FDAAA. He commented that this means FDA will continue working with AAFCO for that.”
We can be confident that FDA is who submitted the deletion of pet food safety law to Congress (a Freedom of Information Request has been submitted to FDA for confirmation). But…the House of Representatives that were FDA’s partner’s in crime were:
Representative Markwayne Mullin, Oklahoma – Republican
Representative Kurt Schrader, Oregon – Democrat
Representative Greg Walden, Oregon – Republican
Representative Frank Pallone, Jr., New Jersey – Democrat
Representative Michael Burgess, Texas – Republican
Representative Gene Green, Texas – Democrat
All of the above were sponsors of the bill that destroyed the possibility for pet food safety. Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon is of most concern to be a sponsor of this bill. “As a veterinarian from Oregon, I am particularly grateful to see this bill come to the floor.” During the 2007 pet food recall Representative Schrader was Dr. Schrader; he was a practicing veterinarian during the deadliest time in pet food history. How very disturbing that a veterinarian/Representative would just forget about the thousands of pets that died in 2007, forget about the pets he treated in 2007.
Thousands and thousands of pets died for these laws. We MUST get them back, and we MUST force FDA to complete this required work “Ensuring the Safety of Pet Food”.
If you had a pet that died because of the 2007 pet food recall, if you knew someone that had a pet that died because of the 2007 pet food recall, if you NEVER want to see another deadly disaster like the 2007 pet food recall…I am begging you…send all of your Representatives in Washington DC the following email. We CAN turn this around.
I have spoken with the offices of my Representatives in Congress about this despicable situation (details below) – but we need every member of Congress to be strongly urged to Right this Pet Food Wrong.
Example letter to your Representatives in Congress:
Dear Senator or Dear Congressman/woman,
In 2007 Congress made me and millions of other pet owners a promise: that a law entitled “Ensuring the Safety of Pet Food” would protect us from another deadly pet food disaster. But, perhaps unknowingly, Congress just voted to eliminate the “Ensuring the Safety of Pet Food” laws. Thousands and thousands of pets died for these laws, and now they are gone.
Hidden within a bill that otherwise had nothing to do with pet food – HR 5554 Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Amendments of 2018 – one provision changed the future of pet food. To the demise of millions of pets, Congress passed HR 5554 with this devastating provision:
“Section 306 Food Additives Intended For Use In Animal Food.” Item (b) of this section of HR 5554 states:
“Ensuring the Safety of Pet Food. —Section 1002(a) of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 (21 U.S.C. 2102(a)) is amended –
By striking paragraph (1); and By redesignating paragraphs (2) and (3) as paragraphs (1) and (2), respectively.”
In 2007, Congress investigated the pet food conditions in the US and discovered that pet owners have no public access to pet food ingredient definitions and was aghast that this basic Freedom of Information right was denied to pet owners. Congress also learned that pet food ingredients had no ‘standard of quality’. As example, they learned that ‘wheat gluten’ had no quality standard to prevent the inclusion of melamine; the cause of the 2007 recall. Congress required FDAAA Section 1002 (a) to include “ingredient standards and definitions with respect to pet food”.
In 2007 Congress realized that pet owners were provided with little to no ingredient or nutritional information on the labels of pet food. In 2007 Congress thoughtfully remembered to require FDAAA Section 1002 (a) to include “updated standards for the labeling of pet food that include nutritional and ingredient information.”
Below are the exact laws that Congress wrote in 2007 to protect our family pets:
“SEC. 1002. <<NOTE: 21 USC 2102.>> ENSURING THE SAFETY OF PET FOOD.
(a) Processing and <<NOTE: Deadline. Regulations.>> Ingredient Standards.–Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (referred to in this title as the “Secretary”), in consultation with the Association of American Feed Control Officials and other relevant stakeholder groups, including veterinary medical associations, animal health organizations, and pet food manufacturers, shall by regulation establish–
(1) ingredient standards and definitions with respect to pet food;
(2) processing standards for pet food; and
(3) updated standards for the labeling of pet food that include nutritional and ingredient information.”
Sadly, in the summer of 2018 – just a few months ago, Congress decided to eliminate the very laws they provided us in 2007. The laws that were titled “Ensuring the Safety of Pet Food” are now gone. I ask you: exactly how is the safety of pet food assured to pet owners when the laws were eliminated?
I suppose these pet food safety laws would not have been so easily dismissed by Congress had FDA ever actually completed the work as required by official deadline. The unfortunate truth is, the pet food ingredient standards and definitions, the processing standards and the updated pet food labeling requirements of FDAAA Section 1002 (a) were never completed by FDA. The September 27, 2009 deadline has been ignored by FDA for 9+ years.
Pet owners have waited, and waited and waited for assurance pet food is safe. And to make matters worse, FDA has time and time again told us they would complete the pet food safety work.
2008: “Within 2 years, FDA will issue new regulations to: Establish ingredient standards, definitions, and processing standards for pet food [animal feed].” and FDA announced a survey “to establish baseline information about consumer use and understanding of pet food labels.”
2009: “FDA continues to implement FDAAA as part of its public health mission. FDA has held numerous public hearings and meetings to address patient, consumer, health professional, and industry questions about implementation of specific provisions, particularly Title IX and Title X.” (Title X held Section 1002 (a)).
2015: FDA announced a “strategy to establish ingredient definitions and standards”.
2016: FDA stated the provisions in FDAAA Section 1002 (a) were written and important BECAUSE so many pets died in 2007. ”Overview of FDA’s Feed Safety System” “FDAAA: Title X of the Act has several provisions that apply to animal food safety that were in response to the dog and cat illness and deaths in the United States from pet food imported from China that contained melamine, cyanuric acid, and related compounds. Current Project Work Project A1. As required by the FDAAA, FDA will be establishing feed ingredient standards and definitions through the comment and rulemaking process. FDA is drafting a regulation to fulfill the mandate to establish standards and definitions.”
This is simply unacceptable for FDA to mislead pet owners for years. Further, had FDA had completed the work of FDAAA Section 1002 (a) by the deadline required, many more pets lives could have been saved…
In March of 2015, Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein wrote FDA regarding numerous consumer complaints of Beneful Dog Food. Quoting this letter to FDA: “In 2007, Congress passed legislation in response to tainted pet food associated with the death of thousands of dogs and cats in the United States. This law requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take several steps to improve the regulatory regime for pet food safety, including a requirement that pet food companies report to the FDA within 24 hours when they determine they have an adulterated product in their supply chain. We appreciate that FDA has implemented an online database to inform consumers of pet food recalls. However, eight years later, most provisions of the pet food safety law have not been implemented and protections Congress enacted are not in place, amid allegations of contaminated Beneful dry kibble.”
More than 1,400 dogs became ill and or died linked to the above Beneful Pet Food situation. Experts estimate that the majority of the pet food recalls from September 28, 2009 (day after FDAAA Section 1002 (a) was required to be completed) to present day could have been prevented if FDA would have completed FDAAA Section 1002 (a) per the required date. We have no estimate to how many pets became ill or died due to FDA’s failure to complete this pet food safety requirement of FDAAA, though we are certain the number is significant.
Even today there is a serious pet food issue that most certainly could be the result of FDA’s failure to complete the requirements of FDAAA. FDA is investigating a link between canine heart disease and grain-free pet foods. FDA warned pet owners on July 12, 2018: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.” Could this serious pet health issue be the result of FDA never developing ingredients standards for the ingredients in question (“peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes”)? It absolutely could be.
In 2007, Congress clearly cared about our pets by writing FDAAA. In 2018 Congress passed a bill that included a hidden devastation for pet food consumers. I am asking you as my Representative to take action for the millions of pet owners in the US. I ask you to take the steps necessary to reinstate FDAAA Section 1002 (a) in a new bill with the requirement FDA complete this work within 6 months. HR 5554 was introduced into the House and signed into law within 4 months. Pet food safety deserves the same prompt attention from Congress.
Some Congressional websites have a word count limit with their contact forms. If the above is too lengthy for the website to accept – PLEASE call their office and ask for a email address to send.
If you are a pet owner in Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas or New Jersey – I suggest you send a personal email to Representative Markwayne Mullin Oklahoma, Representative Kurt Schrader Oregon, Representative Greg Walden Oregon, Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. New Jersey, Representative Michael Burgess Texas, Representative Gene Green Texas the co-sponsors of the bill that destroyed pet food safety. Especially Representative Schrader…a veterinarian. They all should be ashamed of themselves.
I have spoken with the staff of Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Marco Rubio, and Representative Gus Bilirakis. I’ve learned that we MUST get a Senator or Congressman/Woman to introduce a new bill that will reinstate FDAAA Section 1002 (a). One of the above offices told me this will take at least a year. I responded NO! The bill that destroyed pet food safety went from introduction to law in less than 4 months. We will except nothing less. I will call them everyday if need be to assure they help us.
The pets that died in 2007 gave their lives for pet food safety law. They MUST NOT be forgotten. The laws Congress eliminated must be restored. They must Right this Wrong. Write your Representatives in Congress, call them. Stand up for the thousands of pets that died in 2007.
Also – I encourage every pet owner whose dog or cat died from the 2007 pet food recall to share your story with your Representative. Tweet them, post your story on Facebook. I share with all this one sad, painful story of a pet owner in 2007…
“In his final days, Merlin and I sat next to each other, he in a tank attached to oxygen and I on the bedroom floor next to him so that he wouldn’t feel alone. I’m disabled and it was not easy, but I was determined that Merlin knew he hadn’t done anything to warrant his isolation. In the end, I held him in my arms while the veterinarian administered a lethal dosage that would finally separate me from my dear friend. It cost $6000 in vet bills, several friendships, and almost a marriage. I cried for months.”
Please send your emails. Make your phone calls. Tweets and posts of Facebook. Let’s remember these pets by demanding our laws are in place and being abided by.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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