Tracking Food-Borne Illness in Pets- PETNet

The Partnership for Food Protection and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcedTracking Food-Borne Illness in Pets- PETNet the launch of the Pet Event Tracking Network (PETNet) on August 1, 2011.  The Partnership for Food Protection (PFP) was established by the FDA in 2008 in an attempt to bring federal, state, local, territorial and tribal representatives with expertise in food, feed, epidemiology, laboratory, animal health, environment and public health together to develop an Integrated Food Safety System (IFSS).   PETNet was established by the PFP to meet that goal.

Click here to review a complete description of this system.

The concept for PETNet was developed in response to the 2007 melamine pet food recall.  At that time, there was poor communication between the federal and state regulatory agencies about this health problem.   PETNet was designed to enable the sharing of information between Federal and State officials about occurrences of food borne illness in companion animals, as well as product defects that may lead to such outbreaks.

General description of Pet Event Tracking Network

PETNet is a system that will allow FDA and Federal and State Agencies to share information about pet-food related incidents, such as contaminated pet food or pet food products. It is designed to allow timely and efficient communication of possible problems related to pet food nutritional products. The system is not accessible to the general public.  Only PETNet members, who are Federal, State, and Territorial government officials responsible for the regulation of pet food products and responsible for the investigation of disease outbreaks in companion animals, can access the system. PETNet is currently made up of over 200 representatives from 4 Federal agencies, all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

How Pet Event Tracking Network functions.

PETNet members enter “events” into the system when they have identified a trend or a suspicious incident associated with pet food products or pet food product defects. Once entered, the information will be immediately available to all other PETNet members. This allows PETNet members to track the existence of potential problems and to evaluate the need for action within their communities.

How a pet owner can report a pet food product problem

The general public cannot report complaints about pet food products through PETNet, but can do so electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal.   Another option is to call your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator. The following information is generally requested when submitting your complaint:

  • Exact name of the product and product description (as stated on the product label)
  • Type of container (e.g. box, bag, can, pouch, etc.)
  • Product intended to be refrigerated, frozen, or stored at room temperature
  • Lot number – This number is often hard to find and difficult to read.  It is stamped onto the product packaging and typically includes a combination of letters and numbers, and is always in close proximity to the best by/before or expiration date (if the product has a best by/before or expiration date).  The lot number is very important as it helps us determined the manufacturing plant as well as the production date.
  • Best by, best before or expiration date
  • UPC code (also known as the bar code)
  • Net weight
  • Purchase date and exact location where purchased.
  • Results of any laboratory testing performed on the pet food product
  • How the food was stored, prepared, and handled
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Dr Stephen Atwater

Stephen W. Atwater, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (oncology) is a board-certified veterinary oncology specialist. His professional interests include utilizing emerging therapies for difficult to treat cancers.

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