COLLEGE STATION, TX – Making sure pets are healthy and safe is an important part of the mission of Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and leading experts in toxicology on faculty, it was no surprise that the college would be called upon to assist in the response to the pet food crisis earlier this year.
In April 2007, the Board of Directors of the Pet Food Institute established the National Pet Food Commission. Made up of board-certified veterinarians, state and federal feed regulatory officials, nutritionists, quality control personnel, and ingredient specialists, this commission was tasked with making recommendations about how to prevent the adulteration and contamination of pet food in the future, and reducing risk to pet health. The NPFC’s report, released by the Pet Food Institute at the beginning of November, addressed multiple points in the pet food industry.
Dr. Murl Bailey, toxicologist at the CVM, served on the commission, and early on during the crisis that resulted in numerous recalls, indicated that there would be multiple compounds contributing to the pet deaths across the country.
“Early information initially led many veterinarians and diagnosticians to focus in on one particular compound,” said Bailey. “However, it soon became very clear that there were multiple factors at work.”
The identified compounds – melamine, cyanuric acid, ammeline, and ammelide (also know as melamine and related compounds or MARC) – were responsible for hundreds of pet deaths and even more illnesses across the country, and resulted in the recall of thousands of pounds of pet food from multiple manufacturers. The initial investigations conducted by the FDA and pet food companies discovered that no validated analytical method existed for detecting MARC in pet food or feed. More than 2000 person-hours at the Food & Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine alone were spent developing improved methodologies to detect contaminants in a pet food matrix.
“One of the very important things in our recommendations to the FDA-CVM and the Pet Food Institute was that the development and implementation of a comprehensive Animal Feed Safety System had to be completed,” said Bailey. “We need to have a science and risk-based approach that addresses all points in the pet food manufacturing process. We also need to formalize the criteria and the system by which veterinarians report illness and/or death potentially related to feed.”
In addition to the recommendations made directly to the FDA-CVM, the NPFC recommended implementation of current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP)-based Model Regulations for Feed and Feed Ingredients along with improving the timeliness of the Ingredient Definition process for feed terms and feed ingredients.
Other recommendations for the Pet Food Institute, pet food manufacturers, and colleges of veterinary medicine were to develop educational and communication efforts to include the establishment and maintenance of an improved network between all organizations involved in pet food manufacture.
“By addressing key quality control points in the process, and educating people at all levels of the process, we can take a more proactive approach to preventing a crisis such as this from happening in the future,” said Bailey. “Just like no one ingredient was responsible for the contamination, no one organization can hope to solve the problem. It will take everyone from the manufacturer to the retailer, to the consumer, to the veterinarian, and that’s why we as a commission took such a broad-based approach to our recommendations.”