FSMA discussion headlines NGFA, PFI conference

More than 300 representatives of animal feed and pet food industries attend day-and-a-half conference.

Iowa secretary of agriculture Bill Northey, during his keynote address at the 2016 Feed & Pet Food Joint Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, outlined the regulatory challenges the animal food industry is facing while also juggling increasing and changing consumer demands.

"We live in interesting, challenging times, ... and you guys are right at the front edge of it," Northey told the audience Tuesday as he kicked off the annual collaboration between the Pet Food Institute (PFI) and the National Grain & Feed Assn. (NGFA). More than 300 representatives of the animal feed and pet food industries attended the day-and-a-half-long conference.

"State agencies want to be your partners; we want to figure this out together," Northey said, referring to the far-reaching new animal food safety rules promulgated by the Food & Drug Administration to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

In addition, Jenny Murphy, consumer safety officer in the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, discussed the upcoming enforcement and compliance of FSMA for the feed and pet food industries.

Of the seven foundational regulations established to implement FSMA, the two most significant for the animal food industry are the Preventive Controls for Animal Food final rule and the Foreign Supplier Verification Program final rule. The first implementation stage of the Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule -- which requires facilities to develop and implement current good manufacturing practice (CGMP) requirements -- is already in effect for the largest companies. Future regulatory deadlines under FSMA continue until 2019.

Murphy recognized the enormity of new FSMA regulations for the industry and added that the compliance process will be a learning opportunity for FDA regulators as well as animal feed and pet food businesses.

"New regulations are not fun, but what (FSMA is) really trying to do is elevate food safety," she said. "The better your records are, the easier it makes life for all of us." She added that FSMA "will be a continuous learning model for several years."

Murphy said FDA will conduct its first training for a "core group" of inspectors next week, with additional inspector training to be done in phases. Inspectors will be using the same curriculum developed by the Food Safety Preventive Control Alliance's animal food subcommittee as what is available to industry members. She said inspections of the animal food industry initially will be focused solely on the CGMP requirements, and inspections of the largest animal feed and pet food facilities to which the regulations now apply will begin as early as the last week of October, with the initial focus on education. However, she said FDA will take regulatory action if it encounters hazardous conditions that pose a public health risk during such inspections.

In addition, the agency has published three draft guidance documents to assist the industry in the first stages of FSMA compliance, and Murphy encouraged the audience to submit comments and opinions on those documents.

"We welcome your comments. That's what helps us make (the guides) better and make them more user friendly for you," she said. "Tell us what we didn't get right; we want to fix it."

The first FSMA deadline for animal food facilities was Sept. 19, 2016. View the full FSMA implementation schedule here and more FSMA resources here.

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