A spokeswoman for the US Food and Drug Administration says media coverage of a recent FDA announcement that it will sample petfood, pet treats and supplements for possible Salmonella contamination has been misleading to pet owners.

Laura Alvey, a spokeswoman in FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said the focus on Salmonella in petfood was planned as a part of FDA's fiscal 2012 assignments.

“I'm afraid that what has been reported in the media on this topic has been a bit disingenuous,” Alvey said. “This is a routine surveillance sampling assignment that we have been doing since 2007.”

According to Alvey, the sampling surveys have been used every year, with the only change this year being the title of the survey, which she says may be a cause of the sudden media interest. The previous Salmonella surveys were entitled Nationwide Assignment to Collect and Analyze Samples of Direct-Human-Contact Feed from Interstate Commerce in the United States for Salmonella. “Direct-human-contact feed” includes petfoods, treats and supplements, as well as food for animals in petting zoos and agricultural fairs. The new Salmonella survey is titled Nationwide Assignment to Collect and Analyze Samples of Pet Foods, Pet Treats, and Supplements for Pets from Interstate Commerce in the United States for Salmonella.

Alvey said the FDA sampling is not in response to previous Salmonella outbreaks or to previous journal articles.

“Our goal here is to get an idea of how common Salmonella is in dry petfood, and then to determine which serotypes are most common and whether they are disease-causing pathogens,” she said. “There is no reason to believe petfood is unsafe.”

In this latest FDA survey, samples are being collected from nationwide outlets where petfood, treats or supplements are offered for sale or for consumption. Imported products and canned petfood are not included. The sampling was scheduled to begin in October 2011 and run through September 2012. The agency did not give a timetable for reporting results.