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The Challenges of Pet Food Processing

While the subject of food safety is primarily focused on protecting people, a 2007 recall made headlines and brought to light the importance of pet food safety. Due to the deliberate contamination of wheat gluten and rice protein, more than 60 million containers of pet food and treats were affected. In a four-week span, the FDA received over 14,000 reports, ultimately becoming the largest pet food recall in history. Since then, hundreds of pet food recalls have taken place across the globe.

The rate of households with at least one pet has grown steadily over time (currently at a whopping 68%), resulting in an increased concern for the safety of pet products. With an estimated 90 million dogs and 94 million cats, the U.S. is ranked #1 in pet ownership. In light of these facts, it’s easy to understand the strength of the pet food industry, and the importance of ensuring strict safety measures for pet food manufacturers.

The Dog Days of Kibble

While most regulations of standard pet food manufacturers fall under FDA jurisdiction, facilities still require risk-based HACCP plans to ensure food safety. When it comes to dry pet foods, sensory testing (based on taste and smell) can be limited. Instead, facilities rely on the effect of the product on people. In the case of accidental consumption, does this product pose a threat to children or the elderly? Are strict GMPs being maintained to prevent the transmission of allergens to at-risk humans?

While pets are not typically affected by such pathogens as Salmonella or E. Coli, pet handlers remain susceptible to potential illness. Effective Critical Control Points and kill-steps should be maintained as they would be for human food manufacturing.

The Modern Trend of Human-Grade Pet Food

The meals of our four-legged friends have changed dramatically over time. Where kibble was once the standard and an easier product to regulate, the rise of human-grade pet foods are in high demand. These fresh, frozen, dehydrated, and freeze-dried options require a more complex processing strategy and higher standards of food safety. With this modern approach comes the utilization of fresh meats and animal co-products from the poultry and beef industry, bringing an added level of risk into plants when compared with low-moisture ingredients.

Under FSMA, the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-based Preventive Controls for Animal Food , known as the Preventive Controls for Animal Food(PCAF) regulation aims to ensure safe manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of food for animal consumption in the United States. Much like the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule(PCHF), The PCAF rule requires pet food companies utilize a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual(PCQI) for certain activities such as food safety plan creation and validation of the plan.

While these challenges can be overwhelming to your business, Avert can help you mitigate the risks. Our experienced team will conduct a PCAF gap assessment, identifying areas of improvement and needed corrective actions. Then, we’ll work with your team to develop an action plan tailor-made to protect your company, your customers, and the pets they love.

Be the brand they can trust. Contact Avert FSA today!


Matthew McClure provides sound strategies that instill cost-effective methods for building robust food safety, operational and quality assurance programs. Along with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Microbiology from The University of Akron and an MBA in Finance from Louisiana State University, Matthew brings over 20 years of experience in the food safety industry to AVERT Food Safety Advisors. His knowledge spans many areas including FDA food processing facilities, USDA meat and poultry plants, dietary supplement manufacturers, retail, cannabis manufacturing, and food service operations.

Contact us for more information: | Tel: +1 702.706.6574

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