The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which goes into effect starting next month, introduces tough new rules for food producers, including companies that make chow for pets and other animals. Now the FDA is trying to ease the transition, announcing several draft guidances that clarify the rules–and, importantly, give makers of animal feed up to two additional years to comply.

The FSMA requires food manufacturers to have an official safety plan, along with a plan for implementing it and verifying that it’s working. All facilities must meet “current good manufacturing practice” requirements–which have long existed for human food production but not for makers of animal feed. So the FDA is releasing three draft guidances meant to help food producers institute preventive controls.

Extending the requirements to makers of food for animals was vital, wrote Susan Mayne, director of the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and Tracey Forfa, acting director of its Center for Veterinary Medicine, in a blog post. “Concerns about incidents of food contamination that were sickening and killing pets were among the driving forces behind the enactment of FSMA,” they wrote.

Indeed, the agency has been inundated in recent years by reports of pets becoming sickened by food and treats. Last summer, for example, the agency issued recalls on several raw pet foods, and it fielded complaints about an outbreak of kidney disease in dogs that was linked to chicken treats. Upon passing the new rules for makers of animal food, the FDA cited one study that reported the presence of Salmonella in 80% of raw chicken food for dogs.

Still, the need to prove compliance with strict food-safety rules will be new to many producers of animal food, which is why the FDA is extending the deadlines for some companies. The deadline for small makers of animal food was extended from September 2018 to September 2020. Large producers will have until September 2019 to comply.

The FDA plans to release three additional draft guidances meant to provide further advice for animal food manufacturers on complying with good manufacturing processes, according to the blog item. They will offer baseline food safety and sanitation standards, as well as tips on hiring and training personnel. One of the documents will be devoted to the topic of how to properly use byproducts from human food production in animal feed.

The FDA is collecting comments on the draft guidances for 180 days. It plans to issue an additional 9 guidance documents on the FSMA, say Mayne and Forfa.

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