The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has promulgated new regulations concerning pet foods, as an additional layer of protection to prevent the introduction of BSE (bovine spongioform encephalopathy) or "mad cow" disease into the United States.
For practicing veterinarians, the regulations affect only product considered to be "distressed," which is basically pet foods in damaged containers or that which is past its sell-by or expiration date, or those products considered unfit for sale to clients.
Some veterinarians have typically donated such "distressed" products to local shelters or humane organizations. To do so now requires that the products be clearly labeled with the precautionary statement, "Do Not Feed to Cattle or Other Ruminants." Further, donated items must be accompanied by a letter clarifying the appropriate use and feeding of the products, and the recipient must provide a signed acknowledgement, stating their understanding of the restrictions placed on the products.
Another option for practicing veterinarians is to return "distressed" product to the manufacturer for safe and proper disposal.
The American Animal Hospital Association believes it is the responsibility of all companion animal practices to comply with these requirements or to return these products to the manufacturer. As a profession, we need to do all that we can to help ensure a safe food supply for people and animals. We urge all practices to work cooperatively with the pet food industry to ensure that "distressed" products are appropriately handled.