A new federal program to report, track and monitor cases of pet food contamination and health-related incidents could help states and federal agencies better coordinate in their knowledge and responses to these occurrences. Up until now, the process of reporting pet food contamination has been on a very individual basis, says Lynn White-Shim, DVM, Assistant Director in the Scientific Activities Division of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The new online program, dubbed PETNet, or the Pet Event Tracking Network, will change that and will “enhance the process of coordinating across states," says White-Shim.
For pet owners, that could lead to faster and more conclusive information on pet food-related incidents.
“Right now pet owners can really just act on a scenario to scenario basis," explained White-Shim. “If their pet gets sick and they think it could be a result of the pet food they are feeding their pet, they can contact their veterinarian or they can contact the manufacturer of the food."
“Or if the vet locates a trend that he or she thinks is the result of pet food, they can also talk with federal authorities or a manufacturer and that can help take a step to get things resolved."
The PETNet program, which is still being developed as a secure, web-based information exchange system, will act as an early alert information system for regulators, including more than 200 representatives from four U.S. federal agencies, all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
If regulators identify a problem — meaning a potential contamination of pet food — they can create “events" into the system, which will then be shared with other regulators.
PETNet members can then track the emergence of relevant data and trends and evaluate the need for further action. In the case of the need for a public alert, all consumers would then be notified through “appropriate public channels," like recall notices, according to Laura Avery, of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
PETNet developed following the widespread melamine pet food recalls in 2007, when the FDA and its state partners struggled with timely sharing of information.
Pet owners right now can rely mostly on media coverage of pet food contamination and recalls of dangerous pet food.
But there are other more sources that can be used as a regular knowledge hub, especially if lower-scale recalls don’t make it into the mainstream media coverage.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has a website that offers comprehensive information on how to report an “adverse event" associated with pet food to the FDA, up-to-date listings of company pet food recalls and a full database of pet food recalls from 2009-2011.