FDA animal food rules with gavel Zerbor/iStock/Thinkstock
REG OVERKILL: FSMA’s animal food rule aims to solve a problem before there is one.

Time to ‘Trump’ FDA’s animal food rule

Here’s why FDA’s animal food rule is a needless bureaucratic solution that’s seeking a problem to solve. Ask the president to ‘Trump’ it.

My mental “yellow flag” popped up several years ago at the first word of FDA’s proposed animal food rule. “Uh-oh, another unnecessary regulatory intrusion. Surely, there’s some redeeming value to it.”

Not so! Amazingly, this subchapter of the Food Safety Modernization Act trucked into effect, promising safer food for every Kitty, Barky (dog), Babe (pig), Bossie (bovine) and Henny. Nuf said. You get the idea.

Only one problem: The American animal food/feed industry already was well-regulated. No reliable cost-benefit studies supported this FDA intrusion.

Now, it’s time to “red flag” it, and ask the Trump administration and Congress to kill this regulatory over-kill rule and save billions of dollars. An exaggeration? Well, read on and decide for yourself.

A recent CoBank report on the U.S. feed industry warned that the food rule and traceability standards will speed consolidation of feed mills. FDA “makes no distinction between feed and food, regardless of human or animal consumption,” notes Trevor Amen, CoBank animal protein economist.

In brief, larger companies must be in compliance with extensive Current Good Manufacturing Practices, plus Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Prevention Controls as written by FDA legal beagles by this September. Smaller ones get a one-year reprieve on the second one. Firms with less than $2.5 million annual revenue get an additional year to comply.

The American Feed Industry Association estimates that 80% to 90% of all 19,000 U.S. animal feed mills fall under the small-business category. If you think all farm feed mills would wriggle out of compliance, read the bureaucratic legalese.

The “farm” definition is as clear as mud. The agency is “concerned” about feed mills that are part of a farm and whether they are majority-owned by a primary production farm. FDA is already working on more rules for whoever meets “small” and “very small” business definitions — so none escape.

Concerned yet? Read on
FSMA’s new traceability standards add another burden — $2 to $5 a ton, according to AFIA’s estimates. Most of that cost stems from increased recordkeeping requirements. To low-ball it, that would cost a mill selling 100,000 tons of feed about $200,000. Guess who’ll pay that extra tab.

Of course, private industry and academia are already at the multimillion-dollar federal grant trough with projects to help train the feed industry. And catch this: Enforcement of FSMA rules would be pawned off to state agencies.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture recently put the annual state implementation program costs for just preventive controls for animal food at $20 million, according to NASDA’s CEO Barbara Glenn. That’s to ensure the industry — farmers included — have the tools and education necessary to comply with regulations “doing little, if anything to enhance food safety.” Yes, she said that.

Keep in mind these protections are supposed to cover domestic and imported foods for people and animals. As Glenn points out: “[State] funding to ensure parity between imported and domestic food is also necessary.”

We already have major equivalency disputes over definitions and quality of imported organic foods and feeds. Budget cuts in many states have already pared down inspection programs. So who’s going to cover the cost of animal food compliance inspections? Guess who.

FDA also has a “whistleblower” wildcard to play. This FSMA provision — already in place — protects employees who uncover food/feed safety issues. Yes, Big Brother wants a “little brother” watching over you, too. But that’s a whole different issue.

A case against beer
Rest assured, there isn’t one. The burgeoning brewery and distillery industry escaped the regulatory bullet. They’re exempt from FSMA’s animal food rule as long as they have a written food safety plan or follow FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices.

But more than 3 million tons of spent grains and hops are handed off to farmers and feed mills. “We don’t know of any problems,” concedes Dan McChesney, director of surveillance and compliance with the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “But we’re trying to get to a preventive mode.”

The food/feed rule is just an unaffordable solution in search of a problem. Hello, President Trump. Let the bureaucratic cost-slashing proceed! It’s a warranted easy-do.

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