The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated on Friday that they were preparing to issue a proposed rule focused on improving the safety of animal feed and pet food.
The new rule would require feed manufacturers selling their product in the US, to identify any potential hazards and to implement procedures in order to prevent and correct them.
After along period in the rules conception, it comes days after the FDA turned to pet owners for help in it's ongoing investigation on jerky products (most of which were produced in China) that have killed up to 600 dogs and cats in addition to sickening thousands more in the US since 2007.
The proposed rule is one of seven key pillars of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, an initiative designed to improve human and animal food safety and reduce food-borne illnesses by giving the FDA greater power to intervene before an outbreak occurs.
"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," said Daniel McChesney, director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine
The FDA proposed that the animal feed requirements will become effective 60 days after the publication of the final rule in the Federal Register.
The proposed rule will be published on October 29 and there will be a 120-day comment period. The FDA also plans three public meetings on the rules, the first on November 21.
After the implementation of the new rule, small and very small businesses will be provided more time than bigger companies to comply.
"These rules will have a major impact on our members," said Richard Sellers, vice president of feed regulation and nutrition with the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), who also spoke on behalf of the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA).
The proposals, which run to over 400 pages, would for the first time that good practices were established that specifically addressed the manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of animal feed to ensure they are made under conditions that protect against contamination.
While food-borne illnesses in humans have been widely publicised, it was also possible for people to become sick from handling pet food contaminated by bacterias like salmonella.
The FDA is under a court-ordered deadline to complete the final rules of the food safety act by the end of June 2015.
President of NGFA, Randy Gordon, said the feed industry has already developed effective product safety programs tailored to the individual facilities.
"It will be vitally important that FDA's regulations provide the flexibility necessary for companies to continue to effectively address feed safety," Gordon said.