Restaurants closed for COVID-19 may sell unused food items as animal feed, FDA says
Restaurants forced to closed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may consider selling unused food items as animal feed if they are unable to sell the food for its intended use, according to new guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
While the preferred option is to find human uses for surplus food items, the FDA has put in place a temporary policy allowing the use of some surplus food items in animal feed, an agency spokesperson said in an email. On March 27, the agency released a fact sheet outlining guidelines for the safe distribution of surplus food items as animal feed.
The fact sheet encourages “restaurant(s), restaurant supplier(s), food warehouse(s) or grocery store(s)” with unused human food items to avoid letting food go to waste by finding a potential use as animal feed. Food items repurposed for animal use must still be safe, but perhaps could not be sold due to current issues with supply chains, markets or food quality.
“You may send it directly to a farmer, or other animal caretaker,” the fact sheet says. “You may also send it to another person who either supplies ingredients to animal food manufacturers or who manufactures animal food for pets, livestock or other animals.”
Human food that is stale or past a quality date are good examples of restaurant surplus that could be used in animal feed, according to the FDA. But the fact sheet cautions that food with certain ingredients, such as xylitol and chocolate, may be unsafe for animals. The fact sheet also indicates that food containing meat items may require special consideration to avoid the spread of animal disease, and still needs to be stored properly to prevent spoilage or contamination. Food items sold as animal feed must be labeled with a list of ingredients, but don’t necessarily need to comply with the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection act.