In March, amid allegations in a class action lawsuit that Purina’s Beneful dog food could contain toxic levels of propylene glycol or could be contaminated with poisonous mycotoxins that could lead to the deaths of dogs, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) crafted a letter to United States Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
The letter takes the FDA to task for what they believe is a failure in enacting the pet food safety provisions in the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act, passed by Congress in 2007, which was adopted in response to the largest pet food recall in U.S. history.
“To put it frankly, the food safety system the FDA has fought to develop has not been put in place by the FDA,” Durbin and Feinstein wrote.
Citing the lack of FDA “investigations, warnings, consumer guidance, or product recalls” into media reports referencing “more than 3,000 complaints online about dogs becoming ill or dying after eating Beneful,” Feinstein and Durbin take issue with the FDA’s lack of “clear guidance to industry on reporting requirements, ingredients and processing standards, and labeling improvements.”
Thus far, it appears that the FDA has only enacted one of the systems required by the 2007 law: a pet food contamination database, wherein access is restricted to only government agencies. The other provisions were required to have been implemented in full within two years, which expired in 2010.
On March 27, the FDA announced a “Strategy to Create Definitions and Standards for Animal Food Ingredients.” In 2008, the FDA held a public meeting calling the new standards “impractical to implement, difficult to enforce, and would not provide the safety enhancements intended by FDAAA” if they were “limited to pet food only.” According to a New York State Bar Association report, the FDA “has taken no additional steps in the rulemaking process.”
Jill Putnam, a press officer with the FDA Office of Media Affairs, sent the following response to our request for comment from the agency:
“The FDA will respond directly to the members of Congress regarding their request. The agency is continuing to closely monitor complaints for Beneful and has yet to identify any safety signals. The FDA encourages anyone with concerns about a specific pet food product to submit a report to the Safety Reporting Portal. This portal is an important tool that allows the FDA to monitor products on the market and to determine when follow-up is needed.”
Also reached by The Daily Beast for comment, Keith Schopp, a PR person for Nestle Purina, issued the following statement:
“We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the safety and quality of Purina Beneful dog food. We continually work closely with the FDA to ensure the quality of every Purina product. Beneful is made in U.S. facilities owned by Purina, and is backed by Purina’s strict quality controls and comprehensive food safety program. The facts are—Beneful is a high quality, nutritious dog food enjoyed by millions of dogs every day, and there are no product quality issues with Beneful.”
The class action suit against Purina, which the company claims is without merit, is ongoing. Read the senators’ entire letter here.