Protecting animal and human health in the pet food industry

There have been big changes in the food industry recently, and more are coming as laws stemming from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) get implemented. But it isn’t just human food that’s affected by the legislation – food for our furry family members also falls under FSMA.

The new rules include verifying and certifying facilities that export to the U.S., classifying allergens and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli as adulterants and giving the FDA the authority to issue mandatory recalls as well as increased power to access company records.

Although the regulations will help protect pets, its bigger goal is to prevent human illness following contact with a pet that has eaten contaminated food. For example, pets that have eaten food contaminated with a foodborne pathogen can shed the organism, which can lead to human illness. Additionally, a person coming into direct contact with contaminated pet food and not washing their hands also can result in illness.

Children, the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems, such as cancer patients, are much more susceptible to foodborne illness, such as salmonellosis.

Pet food manufacturers have a broad spectrum of concerns when it comes to testing, including foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, and mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin and deoxynivalenol (DON).

So what are the best ways to ensure facilities are clean and safe? It comes down to creating an effective preventative control program and implementation of the program, including companywide endorsement and validation of the effectiveness of the programs. Testing alone does not constitute a preventative control program, rather, it is an integral segment that verifies the preventative measures in place. This includes:

  • Maintenance
    • Ensure all equipment is properly maintained, regularly serviced and cleaned.
    • Complete repairs with the proper materials.
  • Sanitation
    • Clean equipment and work spaces often and thoroughly.
    • After a spill or equipment break down, ensure all affected surfaces have been cleaned.
    • Monitor sanitation with a set testing protocol.
    • Maintain product contact zones and restrict access from high risk zones. Implement foot baths, hygienic hand wash stations and other interventions.
    • Follow a comprehensive rodenticide and insecticide program to keep pathogen-spreading pests away.
  • Testing
    • Develop, implement and verify a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan. Test for surface cleanliness (e.g., ATP testing), and for microorganisms such as Salmonella.
    • Test  the production environment to determine if any bacteria has taken up residence in various product contact zones, including hard to access areas that have been in contact with the product or areas adjacent to the product (e.g., processing equipment).
    • Testing the finished product should only be done as a verification of environmental testing. A positive result on either a finished product or an environmental sample on a direct contact surface is a reportable event to the FDA and must be reported within 24 hours. Remember, testing is a verification of the steps prior to the actual test.


For more information from the USDA on testing pet food for Salmonella, click here.

For a breakdown of how FSMA affects the pet food industry, click here.

For HACCP validation information, click here.

Neogen’s pet food sales team, Tim Hendra, Victoria Minton, Amy Drury and Matt Nichols.

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