Thousands of Pets Died, Nothing has Changed
For seven years the FDA has ignored requirements of law to update pet food ingredient definitions and update pet food labels. FDA has ignored requirements of law written specifically because of thousands of pets died in the 2007 pet food recall. Enough already.
In March of 2007 the world learned about what would become the deadliest pet food recall in history. Melamine tainted pet food ingredients imported from China destroyed the kidneys of thousands of cats and dogs. In two months time, the FDA had received reports of more than 8,000 sick or dead pets; sadly what was reported to FDA was only a small percentage of the actual number of illness and death. With human illnesses reported to FDA, it is estimated that actual human illness is at least 7 times the number reported; with pet food we can guess it is even higher. This would mean the actual pet illnesses and deaths that occurred in 2007 was more like 56,000.
Six months after the 2007 pet food recall was announced, the U.S. Congress took action to protect our pets. Congress approved – by unanimous vote in the House and the Senate – the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA). Among many drug and food regulatory updates in FDAAA, the Act included some very specific language to update pet food/to protect pets. The goal of FDAAA (the pet food portion) was to prevent another deadly recall. FDAAA was signed into law on September 27, 2007.
With pet food, FDAAA required the following…
SEC. 1002. ENSURING THE SAFETY OF PET FOOD.
(a) Processing and 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.
A little explanation of the above law…
“Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act” – the deadline this work was required to be completed was September 28, 2009.
The “Secretary of Health and Human Services” means the division of government over the FDA, sort of the FDA’s boss.
“Ingredient Standards” means a level of quality in pet food ingredients. As example, in the 2007 pet food recall, melamine was added to the commonly used pet food ingredient wheat gluten. In 2007 there was no legal ‘standard’ or level of quality for wheat gluten (legally preventing the addition of melamine to the ingredient). Thus the laws of FDAAA – wanting to prevent another disaster – required FDA to establish a legal ‘standard’/a legal level of quality for each pet food ingredient; what each ingredient can or cannot consist of.
“Processing standards” would be similar to ingredient standards. FDAAA required FDA to establish a legal standard of quality for the manufacturing of pet food (what manufacturers can or cannot do in the manufacture of pet food).
Lastly the law required FDA to update the labels of pet food, providing consumers with nutrition and ingredient information.
FDAAA also required FDA to establish an early warning and surveillance system for pet food (and human food) recalls (Section 1002 b), deadline September 28, 2008. The FDA announced this task was completed on May 24, 2010 (1 1/2 years past deadline).
But, what has FDA done about the legal requirements for pet food ingredient definitions and standards, pet food manufacturing standards and updated pet food labels that FDAAA required to be completed by September 28, 2009?
Early on we saw progress.
In April of 2008 (7 months after FDAAA became law), FDA announced the agency would survey consumers “to establish baseline information about consumer use and understanding of pet food labels.” The agency also stated the survey would be repeated “after the new pet food label regulations are implemented to estimate changes in consumer beliefs and behavior about pet food labels.”
The questions the agency asked in the 2008 survey were minimal (at best) and did not “establish baseline information.” (Click Here to read the 2008 survey questions – section K)
(To my knowledge, no follow up survey has ever been done, because pet food labels have never been updated.)
In May of 2008, the FDA held a day long public meeting discussing what FDAAA required of the agency with pet food. Three FDA representatives stood before the audience and discussed what FDA requirements were with FDAAA with pet food. To read the transcript of the public meeting Click Here, and please read the speech from the one consumer advocate that attended (Mike Floyd).
It is significant to note that both in April and May of 2008, FDA publicly acknowledged they had work to do because of FDAAA. But that was about the last time FDA made such an acknowledgement.
In 2008 pet food consumers had hope, but 2009 dashed all hopes of change. The deadline of FDAAA – September 28, 2009 – came and went with no further information or action by FDA (on section 1002 a quoted above). It wasn’t until March of 2015 (5 ½ years past the deadline) did we hear another mention of FDAAA (pet food). FDA made an announcement the agency finally had a “strategy to establish ingredient definitions and standards”. The FDA’s strategy: review AAFCO’s existing animal food definitions. And use these existing animal food definitions as ingredient standard and or existing ingredients would be cleared through the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) process.
This 5 ½ year late ‘strategy’ was nothing any different than how things were in 2007. FDA’s delayed strategy was absolutely nothing new, as FDAAA law required.
And it should be noted that FDA’s 2015 ‘strategy’ gives consumers no information about ingredient definitions. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials – a private corporation) owns the copyright protected pet food/animal feed ingredient definitions. To have access to the definitions of pet food ingredients, a consumer would be required to pay AAFCO $100 a year.
Nothing has changed.
Because a reckless industry was working within a poorly regulated system, thousands upon thousands of beloved pets died in 2007. The 2007 pet food recall was so horrific that Congress even realized the current system of pet food regulation was broken; by unanimous vote, laws were written in hopes to prevent another national pet food disaster.
But those laws have been blatantly ignored by FDA. They gave us a few glimmers of hope within the first year, but that was all. The agency did not meet the deadline of September 28, 2009 for any part of FDAAA Ensuring the Safety of Pet Food Section 1002 (a). Today, pet food consumers have no pet food ingredient definitions or standards, and no updates to pet food labeling. With the issues addressed by FDAAA, we are EXACTLY where we were in 2007.
Beloved family pets died – gave their lives in order for this change in pet food (law) to finally happen. Grieving pet owners were promised things would change. Grieving pet owners were lied to. It was – and is – business as usual with FDA. The agency continues to do as they want, when they want – with no accountability to pet food consumers.
This has to stop. It’s up to us.
The FDAAA laws were written to protect our pets, and we must demand protection is provided. Even if you don’t purchase commercial pet food, please speak for those that do. Please speak for the thousands of pets that died from the 2007 pet food recall.
Every member of Congress in 2007 (the 110th United States Congress) voted unanimously to implement FDAAA. Each of those individuals hold responsibility to assure the law they wrote and voted to approve is enforced. Click Here to view a list of the names of the 110th United States Congress. By the way, our current President Barack Obama and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton were in the Senate in 2007 and voted to approve FDAAA. Email them as well.
To contact the White House, and find your existing members of Congress, Click Here.
In 2007, thousands of pets died due to inferior oversight of pet food and pet food ingredients. The 110th United States Congress acted swiftly and included law to protect pets in FDAAA (section 1002 a). Unfortunately, FDA has ignored the deadline Congress required. In fact, we are approaching the seven year anniversary of the deadline.
Pet food consumers have not been provided with Section 1002 (a) (1) ingredient standards and definitions with respect to pet food, Section 1002 (a) (2) processing standards for pet food; and/or Section 1002 (a) (3) updated standards for the labeling of pet food that include nutritional and ingredient information.
The FDA has not completed any part of FDAAA Section 1002 (a).
Current pet food ingredient definitions are copyright protected, owned by AAFCO. You or I would be charged $100 a year to read the definitions. No ingredient definitions are specific to pet food and none have been updated as FDAAA required, they are the very same definitions as were in 2007 (before FDAAA). No pet food ingredient standards exist. No updates to pet food labels. Nothing.
This is unacceptable. Thousands of pets died – gave their life in order for these legal requirements of change in pet food to occur. Those lost lives have been ignored. I ask you as my [fill in your choice: President, Representative in Congress, Presidential Candidate, Representative of Congress that voted to approve FDAAA] to demand FDA fulfill their duties of FDAAA with pet food. Seven years is far too long to wait for pet food safety.
And (please) we need letters sent to the FDA Ombudsman. The FDA website states: “Ombudsman is a Scandinavian term that describes a special kind of grievance-handling official who investigates citizen’s complaints against administrative agencies.”
Under When and How to Contact the Ombudsman: “For general complaints or comments on current CVM science-based programs, policies and procedures and guidance documents and for suggestions on how they can be improved.”
Mail: Marcia K. Larkins, D.V.M.
FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine
7519 Standish Place HFV-3
Rockville, MD 20855
Phone: (240) 402-5674
Fax: (240) 276-9060
Example letter to CVM Ombudsman:
In 2007, thousands of pets died due to inferior oversight of pet food and pet food ingredients. The 110th United States Congress acted swiftly and included law to protect pets in FDAAA (section 1002 a). Unfortunately, FDA has ignored the deadline Congress required. In fact, we are approaching the seven year anniversary of the deadline with little to no action from FDA.
FDAAA required FDA to establish: Section 1002 (a) (1) ingredient standards and definitions with respect to pet food, Section 1002 (a) (2) processing standards for pet food; and/or Section 1002 (a) (3) updated standards for the labeling of pet food that include nutritional and ingredient information.
To date, only a “strategy” of accepting existing AAFCO definitions has been discussed by FDA. In essence, nothing of FDAAA Section 1002 (a) has been completed by FDA. Pet food consumers have no access to pet food ingredient definitions, there are no established standards, and no changes have been made to provide consumers with quality information on pet food labels.
This is unacceptable.
As well, through FDA Compliance Policy, FDA gives the pet food/animal feed industry permission to violate federal law (Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act).
Again, unacceptable. Just as I am expected to abide by law, I expect FDA to enforce law. FDA should have no authority to pick and choose which laws they enforce, and should not have the privilege of ignoring requirements of law.
Thousands of pets died – gave their life in order for these legal requirements of change in pet food to occur. FDA has ignored those lost lives. Seven years is far too long to wait for pet food safety. FDAAA Section 1002 (a) needs to be completed. Now.
I did not lose a pet in 2007, but I know many that did. I have heard heartbreaking stories that still haunt me. Just imagine how those families feel knowing FDA has done nothing on the laws their pets died for. We collectively need to stand up for those pets, for those families – and demand FDA to establish what FDAAA required of them 7 years ago. Now is the time for us to show FDA we will no longer accept this lack of action. Please write your emails.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients? Chinese imports? Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 4,000 cat foods, dog foods, and pet treats. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee. www.PetsumerReport.com
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