Pet food inspections infrequent

April 13, 2007 at 11:08 AM

WASHINGTON, April 13 (UPI) -- Only about a third of U.S. pet food plants are inspected every three years, regulators said at a congressional hearing in Washington.

"Less than one-third of pet food processing facilities have been inspected once in the last 3 1/2 years?" Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Stephen Sundlof, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration, the Chicago Tribune reported. "The frequency of your inspection of pet food facilities leaves something to be desired."

Durbin called the hearing to examine the FDA's response to the recent discovery of tainted pet food that has been linked to the deaths of cats and dogs and prompted the recall of nearly 100 brands of pet food.

"The industry is highly regulated ... but it's not effectively regulated," veterinarian Elizabeth Hodgkins said. "We don't have products that are as safe as the labels suggest."

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., said pets are "our companions, our soul mates, and our hedge against emotional turmoil.

"When the FDA protects our pets, the FDA protects the health of millions of Americans as well."

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