policy issues

FAQs on COVID-19's Impact on Animal Food Industry

Last updated Nov. 22, 2021

Feed & Food Safety

1.  Is feed/pet food safe for animals to eat or can it transmit COVID-19 to animals or the people handling it?

Feed and pet food is safe. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is currently no evidence that food – including animal feed and pet food – is associated with the transmission of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal viruses (e.g., the norovirus), COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, spreading primarily from person-to-person through direct or indirect exposure to respiratory droplets. Thus, foodborne exposure is highly unlikely. That said, even without the threat of COVID-19, pet food manufacturers advise pet owners to thoroughly wash their hands and any surfaces coming into contact with pet food or treats upon feeding their pets, and to keep any utensils or food bowls used for feeding pets separate from utensils or bowls used for humans to avoid spreading foodborne illnesses.

2.  Is the packaging that pet food or feed comes in (e.g., canned pet food, bagged pet food/feed) a risk for COVID-19 transmission?

After almost two years since COVID-19 was declared a global health emergency, the FDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to underscore that there is no credible evidence that food or food packaging could be a source of viral transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19. COVID-19 is mostly spread through human-to-human transmission via direct or indirect exposure to respiratory droplets. Consumers should feel reassured that based on this currently available scientific information, which is supported overwhelmingly by international scientists, that the foods they eat and food packaging they touch, including feed or pet food packaging, are highly unlikely to spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19 disease. The CDC says that one of the best ways to protect yourself from the virus is frequent handwashing.

3.  Would feed/pet food need to be held or withdrawn from the marketplace if an animal food industry employee tests positive for COVID-19?

The FDA is not requiring that animal food products be recalled or withdrawn from the market if an employee tests positive. The FDA maintains that there is no evidence that animal food can carry the new coronavirus, thus, there would be no scientific basis for recalling feed/pet food should an employee at an animal food manufacturing facility test positive for COVID-19.

4.  Should feed or pet food manufacturers hold ingredients from high-risk in storage, similar to preparations used to thwart African swine fever?

No. The FDA maintains that there is no evidence that animal food can be a fomite for the new coronavirus, thus, there would be no scientific basis for holding ingredients in storage prior to use for reasons related to COVID-19. It is important that facilities producing feed for the swine industry continue to voluntarily maintain those protections against the ongoing threat of African swine fever virus.

5.  How is the animal food industry handling required state and federal food safety inspections?

During the height of the pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration altered its food safety inspection schedule to high-risk facilities only to limit the spread of COVID-19. While state and federal inspectors have resumed routine inspections, their procedures for doing so has changed. For example, the inspectors now call facilities ahead of time to ensure they understand visitor procedures prior to coming to the facility to keep everyone – both the inspectors and the plant personnel – safe. The FDA is conducting all Foreign Supplier Verification Program inspections remotely where that authority is given.