(Last Updated 09/13/2021)
Federal Animal Feed Policy
The use of food waste as animal feed has been commonplace for centuries. This practice declined in the 1980s when state and federal laws tried to limit the feeding of food waste to animals following several disease outbreaks linked to animal products in livestock feed. Recently, there has been renewed interest in the practice of feeding safe, properly treated food waste to animals. The federal government regulates the use of food scraps in animal feed by setting requirements which largely concern the type of animals that may be fed food scraps and the kind of food scraps that may be fed to them. The federal regulations function as a floor that allows state regulations to go beyond them.
Federal Laws and Regulations
The federal statutes and regulations on feeding food scraps to animals are encompassed in the Swine Health Protection Act, the Ruminant Feed Ban Rule, the Food Safety Modernization Act Rules on Preventive Controls, and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations regarding adulteration and misbranding. Each of these federal laws and regulations function as a federal floor for the feeding of food scraps to animals. Each is briefly described below.
Swine Health Protection Act
The Swine Health Protection Act (SHPA) aims to protect human and swine health by ensuring that food scraps fed to swine are free of diseases. SHPA requires that food scraps containing animal meat or animal by-products must be heat-treated in a manner that is sufficient to kill disease-causing bacteria, which generally means that such food scraps must be heated throughout at boiling temperature (212° F or 100° C at sea level) for at least 30 minutes by a person who holds a valid license or permit to treat food scraps fed to animals. SHPA also includes requirements for safely storing treated and untreated food scraps.
The FDA’s Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)/Ruminant Feed Ban Rule
The Ruminant Feed Ban Rule aims to protect humans and “ruminant animals,” including cows, sheep, goats, deer, elk, and antelopes, from transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), a group of fatal neurological diseases that includes BSE. The rule prohibits the use of mammalian protein (i.e., animal tissue, such as beef or pork) in animal feed for all ruminant animals. The rule also creates compliance requirements for the processing, inspection, labeling, and record-tracking of products that may contain mammalian protein.
The Food Safety Modernization Act Preventive Controls for Animal Food
The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) created a comprehensive reform of U.S. food safety laws. The FSMA Preventive Controls for Animal Food Rule specifically focuses on feeding food scraps to animals. The rule is complex, but generally focuses on the type of feed being produced and the facility producing it. The Rule requires animal food processing facilities to implement necessary food safety controls such as Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs), Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC), and the Supply Chain Program to prevent foodborne illness during food production and distribution. Facilities that are in compliance with the FSMA Preventive Control Rule for Human Food and who hold and distribute human food by-products for use as animal feed do not have to follow the above requirements, as long as the facility is in compliance with all human food safety rules under the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act, complies with all CGMPs, and does not further manufacture or process the by-products intended for use as animal food. FSMA includes certain exemptions for farms and small businesses.
Regulations Regarding Labeling and Adulteration
Under the federal Food Drug, & Cosmetic Act, any food, including animal feed, cannot be adulterated or misbranded. In order to avoid being adulterated, animal feed, like human food, cannot be filthy or decomposed, or packaged, or held in unsanitary conditions. Animal feed is considered misbranded if the information on the product label is false or misleading. Animal feed products are also subject to both federal labeling laws as well as state labeling laws.
In summary, although there are several federal laws applicable to the feeding of food scraps to animals, and facilities will need to follow all permitting and processing requirements, under federal law food scraps can generally be fed to animals, so long as food scraps with animal derived byproducts are heat-treated by a licensed facility before being fed to swine; and food scraps containing animal-derived by-products are not fed to ruminants.
Detailed information and requirements about all of the federal and state laws and regulations can be found in the legal guide Leftovers for Livestock: A Legal Guide for Using Excess Food as Animal Feed, by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Food Recovery Project at the University of Arkansas.
Keeping Food Out of the Landfill: Policy Ideas for States and Localities, a toolkit from Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic
Leftovers for Livestock: A Legal Guide for Using Food Scraps as Animal Feed, from Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Food Recovery Project at University of Arkansas School of Law