FDA Fact Sheet: Dos and Don’ts of Safely Distributing Human Food for Use as Animal Food

Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

Production of animal food, like human food, is an essential function Americans depend on daily, reinforced by the Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is monitoring the availability of foods for livestock and pets and reports no shortages or current disruptions in the pet and livestock food supply chain. Still, FDA encourages restaurants, retailers, distributors and food manufacturers with extra food due to COVID-19 disruptions to consider diverting the food to animal use rather than having it go to waste. Unused food may be sent directly to farmers, animal caretakers, ingredient suppliers to animal food manufacturers or manufacturers of animal food for pets, livestock or other animals. FDA issued a two-page Fact Sheet on March 27 providing guidance on how to safely distribute unused food for animal food use, taking the following precautions:

  • Safety. Only divert human food that is safe — meaning it may have surpassed its “best if used by” date or has potential quality issues but is not unsafe for humans or animals to consume. Human food that is considered adulterated for reasons such as recall, contamination or other defects should not be diverted to animal use without first submitting a written request to the appropriate FDA District Office and including the information described in the Agency’s Compliance Policy Guide Sec. 675.200.
  • Labeling. Packaged food should be labeled with a statement of identity and a list of ingredients to provide notice of ingredients in the product that may be harmful for some animals. Animal food DOES NOT have to meet the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requirements.
  • Packaging. Any packaging that could be harmful for animals to consume should be removed.
  • Holding. Food should be held in conditions that maintain food safety before distribution. For example, bulk bins should be clearly labeled and stored to prevent employees contaminating bins with garbage or chemicals.
  • Toxicity. Do not distribute food that could be toxic to certain species of animals. For example, artificial sweetener xylitol and chocolate can be toxic to dogs. If in doubt about whether a food or ingredient is harmful to animals, submit questions to askCVM@fda.hhs.gov or do not distribute the food.
  • Meat Products. To prevent the spread of disease, there are specific requirements on using meats to feed certain species of animals. For example, most ruminant animals (e.g., cattle, sheep and goats) cannot be fed mammalian protein of any kind, and meat products should not be fed to swine unless heated as required in the Swine Health Protection Act.

Finally, companies should check to see if there are state and local requirements for distributing animal food, including licensing and labeling requirements. In some instances, companies may consider the benefit of identifying such food as “human grade” if it continues to meet the requirements established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which include storage and handling consistent with good manufacturing practices. State specific animal feed requirements can be found here.

Additional guidance regarding diverting human food to animal food includes:

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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