FDA approves irradiation of pet foods, animal feeds

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Effective April 10, the FDA has approved irradiation of bagged complete diets, packaged feeds, feed ingredients, bulk feeds, and animal treats and chews such as rawhide and pig ears to prevent microbial infection in handlers of the feed and animals alike.

Irradiation has been making astronauts' food safer since the 1970s. Products are exposed to sources of ionizing radiation that cause chemical, not nuclear, changes similar to other conventional cooking or preservation methods. Irradiated fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices have been available in grocery stores since the early 1990s, and irradiation has since been approved on meat, poultry, and eggs.

The approval came in response to a food additive petition filed by Sterigenics International Inc, now the IBA Food Safety Division, in 1999. The petition stated that Salmonella remained a threat to pet foods, animal feed, and people who handled those products. Contaminated food can sicken pets and other animals, but potentially, the biggest threat is to pet owners, especially children.

"This will protect children, seniors, and anyone with a weakened immune system," said Pat Adams, president of the IBA Food Safety Division. "Beyond this, irradiation of bulk feeds for cattle, swine, and poultry may also reduce the transmission of bacteria to these animals and reduce the risk of contamination in the human food chain when people eat these products. This is one more step in the ongoing fight for food safety."

The FDA was to accept written objections to this approval and any requests for a hearing submitted by May 10.