Florida law is very clear, Florida enforcement of that law is not so clear. It appears that the state of Florida is openly ignoring law allowing clearly defined “unsafe” pet food to be sold to consumers.
Every single US state is ignoring federal law with pet food, but 14 states also ignoring state law. Florida is one of those 14. Florida is where this consumer (and consumer advocate) lives, so Florida is where I began my fight for pet food to abide by law.
Florida law is very specific when it comes to pet food/animal feed. Florida law is almost identical to federal law – the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Florida law states a pet food or animal feed is adulterated (illegal) (bold added) “(h)If it is, in whole or in part, the product of a diseased animal or of an animal that has died by a means other than slaughter which is unsafe within the meaning of s. 402(a)(1) or (2) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”
Notice that Florida law states that diseased animal material and/or material from animals that have died other than slaughter is “unsafe“. But, Florida does not seem to be enforcing this law. Florida seems to be allowing “unsafe” pet foods to be sold to unknowing consumers.
Example: Selling in every grocery store across the state of Florida are the pet foods Beneful and Meow Mix; pet foods that contain ingredients allowed to be sourced from diseased or animals that have died other than slaughter.
Beneful Original with Real Beef dog food includes the ingredients “Chicken by-product meal, Animal fat, Meat and bone meal, and Animal Digest”. All four of these ingredients are allowed – through their legal definition – to be sourced from diseased or animals that have died other than slaughter.
Meow Mix Tender Centers Salmon and Turkey Flavors with Vitality Bursts cat food contains the ingredients “Chicken by-product meal, Animal fat, Animal digest, Turkey by-product meal”. All four of these ingredients are allowed – through their legal definition – to be sourced from diseased or animals that have died other than slaughter.
If the state of Florida was enforcing law, they would/should require Beneful and Meow Mix to sign affidavits confirming that their ingredients are NOT sourced from diseased or animals that have died other than slaughter – confirming their ingredients abide by Florida law. Further, Florida should make those affidavits public information as assurance to pet food consumers. But…Florida isn’t doing that. Florida – just like every other state – is counting on consumers not knowing/not understanding the definitions of pet food ingredients.
And there is a $100.00 obstacle in the way of consumers understanding pet food ingredient definitions. Pet food ingredient definitions are NOT public information. For a consumer to learn the definition of Chicken by-product meal, Animal fat, Meat and bone meal, Animal Digest and every other ingredient in their pet’s food, they must purchase the AAFCO Official Publication – which costs $100.00 a year. There are not many pet food consumers that would pay $100.00 a year for the pet food rule book, so most consumers don’t know what they are purchasing. Which works out perfectly for authorities.
Keeping consumers in the dark to what they are purchasing in a pet food is the foundation of lack of enforcement of law. Consumers don’t know, consumers don’t complain. Business goes on as usual.
I happen to be one consumer that does pay $100.00 a year for the pet food rule book. Thus I know the legal definitions of 4 ingredients in Beneful and 4 ingredients in Meow Mix are allowed to be sourced from illegal/adulterated foods. But even when a consumer does know the legal definitions of pet food ingredients…answers are not easily provided by regulatory authorities. Below is an overview of the attempts I’ve made to talk with someone at Florida Department of Agriculture as to why my state is not enforcing pet food law…
On February 14, 2016 I sent Florida Department of Agriculture an email asking why state law is not being enforced. No response. Another email, and two phone messages…no response.
Another phone call – received a different contact potential…3 phone calls to him, no response.
Another phone call, spoke with a colleague of above person – she emailed him – cc’d me on the message -asking him to call me. No response.
On April 14, 2016 I contacted Florida Senator Jack Latvala office, explained the situation. Next day received an email from Florida Department of Agriculture press secretary asking “How can I help?” Explained the Florida lack of enforcement with pet food situation. He promised to get back to me.
1 week later, no response. Sent follow up. Response received: “I’ve been researching the issue and will be in touch soon.”
1 week later, no response. Follow up with email and voice mail. Response received: “Very sorry, have been out of the office. Will follow up first thing in the morning when I get back. Thanks for the patience.”
1 week later, no response. Sent follow up email. Response received May 4, 2016:
“Thank you for your interest in this issue, Ms. Thixton. According policy currently sanctioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM), the inclusion of these products in not in violation of the law. The FDA-CVM based this policy on data indicating a minimal risk associated with the remains of animals that may have died otherwise than by slaughter, once subjected to the rendering process.”
Response sent to Florida Department of Agriculture same day:
“CVM policy is not law. CVM Compliance Policy Guides openly admit they are only “guidance” for FDA representatives – they are not law. So we still have the issue of law. And we have the issue of Florida State Law which CVM has absolutely nothing to do with.
And regards to risk – the USDA states rendered dead animals ARE a risk to pets. “The cooking step of the rendering process kills most bacteria, but does not eliminate endotoxins produced by some bacteria during the decay of carcass tissue. These toxins can cause disease, and pet food manufacturers do not test their products for endotoxins.” Source: http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/662/Chapter4.pdf?sequence=15&isAllowed=y
Risk aside, we still have the issue of Florida feed law. So can you explain why Florida is not enforcing this law?”
1 week later, no response from Florida. Sent follow up.
1 week after that, requested the “data indicating a minimal risk associated with the remains of animals that may have died otherwise than by slaughter”. No response.
On May 13, 2016 I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with FDA. Request number FDA1625983 which asked…
CVM has Compliance Policy relating to pet food and rendered ingredients. CPG 675.400 Rendered Animal Feed Ingredients and CPG 690.300 Canned Pet Food are the Compliance Policies that I am requesting data on. I am requesting the CVM data that these Compliance Policies were based on – specifically the data that proves rendered diseased or non-slaughtered animals is not a risk to pets. It is assumed CVM has science to prove diseased and/or non-slaughtered are of no risk to pets. I am requesting the science CVM has on this issue (proof this material is of no risk to pets).
Also CPG 675.400 states “In addition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine does not believe that Congress intended the Act to preclude application of different standards to human and animal foods under Section 402.” I am requesting the data that CVM bases their “does not believe that Congress intended the Act to preclude…animal food” on. Specifically I am requesting evidence CVM was provided by Congress stating FD&C Act excludes animal food.
Today May 16, 2016 I contacted the Florida Attorney General Office. Waiting for a return call.
Will Florida or FDA provide that data? It is highly unlikely. Because I’m confident that data does not exist or it is so nondescript it would make them look foolish by providing it.
Florida Department of Agriculture has the tagline ‘Fresh from Florida’. As it turns out, Florida Department of Ag is not so fresh.
Should Florida ever respond…should the conversation that should have happened 3 months ago ever take place, it will be posted. And should FDA ever provide response to my Freedom of Information Act request, it will be posted. We wait.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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