Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Is your pet’s food making you sick? Study finds many don’t know the risk

From the August 19, 2020 article by Brian Wallhemer at MedicalXpress

“many Americans don’t wash their hands after feeding or playing with their cats and dogs and aren’t aware of the risk of contracting a foodborne illness from those activities.”

“Some tips to keep pet owners from getting foodborne illness include:

–Wash hands with soap and water after preparing food for pets, petting or playing with pets, and before preparing food for people.

–Avoid feeding pets raw meat.

–Handle and store pet food carefully to avoid cross-contamination. 

–Keep up with pet food recalls and keep records of pet food lot numbers and other information for potential tracking.”

August 20, 2020 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] FDA issues proposed rule to help ensure the safety of food for animals

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 4.53.02 AMFrom the FDA press release

FDA issues proposed rule to help ensure the safety of food for animals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a proposed rule under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) aimed at improving the safety of food for animals. This proposed regulation would help prevent foodborne illness in both animals and people and is open for public comments for 120 days. The proposal is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s larger effort to modernize the food safety system for the 21st century and focus public and private efforts on preventing food safety problems, rather than relying primarily on responding to problems after the fact.

The proposed rule would require makers of animal feed and pet food to be sold in the U.S.to develop a formal plan and put into place procedures to prevent foodborne illness. The rule would also require them to have plans for correcting any problems that arise.  The proposed rule would also require animal food facilities to, for the first time, follow proposed current good manufacturing practices that address areas such as sanitation.

“The FDA continues to take steps to meet the challenge of ensuring a safe food supply,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “Today’s announcement addresses a critical part of the food system, and we will continue to work with our national and international industry, consumer and government partners as we work to prevent foodborne illness.”

The proposed rule would help ensure the safety of food for animals and prevent the transmission of agents in food for animals that could cause foodborne illness in both animals and people. People can get sick by handling contaminated food, such as pet food.

“This proposed rule on animal food complements proposed rules published in January 2013 for produce safety and facilities that manufacture food for humans to set modern, prevention-based standards for food safety,” said Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael R. Taylor. “They also work in concert with standards proposed in July 2013 to help ensure that imported foods are as safe as those produced domestically.”

The FDA will hold three public meetings on the Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Animal Food Facilities. The first meeting will be held on November 21, 2013 at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in College Park, MD. The second meeting will be on November 25, 2013 at the Ralph H. Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago. The third meeting will be held on December 6, 2013 at the John E. Moss Federal Building in Sacramento, CA. For more information, visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm247568.htm.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

And from http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm371395.htm

….The proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register, with a 120-day public-comment period. The rule is filed in FDA’s official docket at www.regulations.gov and can also be accessed at www.fda.gov/fsma

 

And from http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm371395.htm

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing preventive measures to protect all animal foods from disease-causing bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants.

This includes the food that pet owners give their dogs, cats and other companion animals, and the feed that farmers give their livestock.

Preventive Controls for Food for Animals is the fifth rule that FDA has proposed this year as part of the food-safety framework envisioned by the 2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act that focuses on preventing foodborne illnesses.

Daniel McChesney, Ph.D., director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), explains that this rule proposes establishing a whole new set of protections for animal foods. Currently, the agency primarily gets involved when there is evidence of contaminated animal food on the market.

“Unlike safeguards already in place to protect human foods, there are currently no regulations governing the safe production of most animal foods. There is no type of hazard analysis. This rule would change all that,” says McChesney.

McChesney notes that human and animal health are intertwined. People can get sick when pet food is contaminated by disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella. When such food is handled by pet owners and placed on kitchen surfaces, the bacteria can spread to foods consumed by their family.

And if an animal has eaten feed contaminated with a chemical like dioxin and then enters the food supply, consumers could likewise absorb the chemical, putting their health at risk.

By helping to prevent the contamination of animal foods, the proposed rule protects pets and people alike, he says.

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Requiring a Safety Plan

This proposed rule would create regulations that address the manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of animal food. Good manufacturing practices would be established for buildings, facilities and personnel, and would include cleaning and maintenance, pest control, and the personal hygiene of people who work there.

It would also require facilities to have a food safety plan, perform an analysis of potential hazards, and implement controls to minimize those risks. Those controls would have to be monitored and corrected as needed.

While this rule is similar in many ways to the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule that FDA proposed in January 2013, McChesney explains that it is different in a number of ways because animals face different hazards.

For example, he says, the proposed animal rule doesn’t address allergens—substances that could cause an allergic reaction. That’s because animals don’t get the kind of life-threatening allergic reactions that people do. They might get a skin reaction but not the kind of physical shock that a food allergen could trigger in a person.

On the other hand, contaminants that endanger animals are sometimes tolerated better by people and were not as great a concern in crafting protections for human food. For example, some animals are much more vulnerable to aflatoxin, a toxin caused by mold, and could die after consuming food containing the toxin.

The animal rule is also designed to prevent nutrient imbalances in animal foods. Unlike people, who get their foods from many sources, an animal’s food is meant to be a complete and balanced diet, explains McChesney. If a food doesn’t have enough of a particular nutrient, the animal has no way to make it up. For example, cats need thiamine (also known as Vitamin B1) but their bodies don’t produce it. If they don’t get enough in their food, they can suffer severe neurological problems.

The proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register, with a 120-day public-comment period. The rule is filed in FDA’s official docket at www.regulations.gov and can also be accessed at www.fda.gov/fsma.

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Import Rules Add Safeguards

The proposed animal rule would work in concert with two rules proposed in July 2013 to help ensure that foods exported to the United States are held to the same FDA food safety standards applied to foods produced in the United States. Together, the three rules would help ensure the same level of safety for domestic and imported foods for animals.

In one of the most infamous examples of pet food contamination, dogs and cats across the country were sickened and killed in 2007 when melamine, a chemical used to make plastic, was added to pet food ingredients imported from China. McChesney noted that FDA received about 18,000 calls from anxious pet owners at the time.

The requirements proposed in both the animal and import rules are designed to help prevent that from happening again, he says.

Overall, McChesney says that the animal food supply is very safe. However, with the marketplace becoming more global and more diverse, more protections are needed. When you buy food for your animals, those ingredients could come from anywhere in the world, so animal food producers and their suppliers, no matter where they are based, have to be held to the same high standards, he says.

“Whether in the home or on the farm, people take the safety of their animals very seriously, and so do we,” says McChesney.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Oct. 25, 2013

October 29, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[FDA Press Release] Why Are Jerky Treats Making Pets Sick? – FDA asking consumers to report illnesses

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 8.16.29 PM

From the 22 October 2013 FDA press release

If you have a dog or cat that became ill after eating jerky pet treats, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would like to hear from you or your veterinarian.

The agency has repeatedly issued alerts to consumers about reports it has received concerning jerky pet treat-related illnesses involving 3,600 dogs and 10 cats in the U.S. since 2007. Approximately 580 of those pets have died.

To date, FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has conducted more than 1,200 tests, visited jerky pet treat manufacturers in China and collaborated with colleagues in academia, industry, state labs and foreign governments. Yet the exact cause of the illnesses remains elusive.

To gather even more information, FDA is reaching out to licensed veterinarians and pet owners across the country. “This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” says CVM Director Bernadette Dunham, DVM, Ph.D. “Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it.”

In a letter addressing U.S. licensed veterinarians, FDA lists what information is needed for labs testing treats and investigating illness and death associated with the treats. In some cases, veterinarians will be asked to provide blood, urine and tissue samples from their patients for further analysis. FDA will request written permission from pet owners and will cover the costs, including shipping, of any tests it requests.

Meanwhile, a consumer fact sheet will accompany the letter to veterinarians so they can alert consumers to the problem and remind them that treats are not essential to a balanced diet. The fact sheet also explains to consumers how they can help FDA’s investigation by reporting potential jerky pet treat-related illnesses online or by calling the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator for their state.

 

What to Look Out For

Within hours of eating treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit, some pets have exhibited decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption, and/or increased urination.

Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder. About 60 percent of cases involved gastrointestinal illness, and about 30 percent involved kidney and urinary systems.

The remaining cases reported various symptoms, such as collapse, convulsions or skin issues.

Most of the jerky treats implicated have been made in China. Manufacturers of pet foods are not required by U.S. law to state the country of origin for each ingredient in their products.

A number of jerky pet treat products were removed from the market in January 2013 after a New York State lab reported finding evidence of up to six drugs in certain jerky pet treats made in China. While the levels of these drugs were very low and it’s unlikely that they caused the illnesses, FDA noted a decrease in reports of jerky-suspected illnesses after the products were removed from the market. FDA believes that the number of reports may have declined simply because fewer jerky treats were available.

Meanwhile, the agency urges pet owners to be cautious about providing jerky treats. If you do provide them and your pet becomes sick, stop the treats immediately, consider seeing your veterinarian, and save any remaining treats and the packaging for possible testing.

 

What FDA Is Doing

More than 1,200 jerky pet treat samples have been tested since 2011 for a variety of chemical and microbiological contaminants, from antibiotics to metals, pesticides and Salmonella. DNA testing has also been conducted, along with tests for nutritional composition.

In addition to continuing to test jerky pet treat samples within FDA labs, the agency is working with the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), an FDA-coordinated network of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories across the U.S. and Canada. (A summary of the tests is available on Vet-LIRN’s webpage.)

Inspections of the facilities in China that manufacture jerky products associated with some of the highest numbers of pet illness reports did not identify the cause of illness. However, they did identify additional paths of investigation, such as the supply chain of some ingredients in the treats. Although FDA inspectors have found no evidence identifying the cause of the spate of illnesses, they did find that one firm used falsified receiving documents for glycerin, a jerky ingredient. Chinese authorities informed FDA that they had seized products at the firm and suspended its exports.

To identify the root cause of this problem, FDA is meeting regularly with regulators in China to share findings. The agency also plans to host Chinese scientists at its veterinary research facility to increase scientific cooperation.

FDA has also reached out to U.S. pet food firms seeking further collaboration on scientific issues and data sharing, and has contracted with diagnostic labs.

“Our fervent hope as animal lovers,” says Dunham, “is that we will soon find the cause of—and put a stop to—these illnesses.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Oct. 22, 2013

 

 

October 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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