Senate Calls For Tighter Pet Food Standards

Wednesday, May 2nd 2007, 6:48 pm

By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Responding to the massive recall of cat and dog food, the Senate voted Wednesday in favor of stricter production and labeling standards so people have more information about what they are feeding their pets.

The 94-0 vote was on an amendment by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to broader legislation related to the Food and Drug Administration.

The amendment also called on the government to create a pet version of the system that now tracks food contamination and outbreaks of illness and death in people. The lack of such a system for pets became apparent in the recent recall of more than 100 brands of dog and cat food made with contaminated ingredients imported from China.

The FDA has confirmed the deaths of 16 pets that had eaten the contaminated food. The agency said, however, that pet owners have reported the deaths of about 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs. It was not known how many of those were linked to the recalled pet food.

The amendment would require the FDA to establish a registry to collect information on cases of suspected food contamination to improve surveillance and increase public awareness of potential problems with the food supply. Companies would face fines if they failed to report cases of suspected contamination for inclusion in the early warning system.

``Today it was your cat or dog, tomorrow it could be someone in your family you love,'' Durbin said in explaining the need to strengthen the food safety system.

The amendment was adapted from legislation introduced Tuesday in both the Senate and House. The amendment did not include a proposal, contained in the original bill, that would give the FDA the authority to mandate recalls of contaminated or dangerous food. Durbin said that provision would be taken up later.

The Senate is debating a bill this week to renew the fees paid by the pharmaceutical companies seeking approval for new medicines. Lawmakers have seized on the legislation to overhaul the FDA, offering amendments on everything from the importation of prescription drugs to pet turtle farming.

The bill will not include any mechanism that would allow FDA to approve generic versions of expensive biotech drugs. A Senate committee will take up such legislation June 13, lawmakers said.

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