Reporting adverse pet food events: consumer advocates or fearmongers, part 2

Pet owners can report adverse pet food events directly to regulatory agencies, and it’s important for pet food companies to know the process, too.

Ryan Yamka Headshot
Courtesy of Jim Galovski, co-founder of Guardian Pet Food Co.
Courtesy of Jim Galovski, co-founder of Guardian Pet Food Co.

In my most recent blog post, Pet food consumer advocates or fearmongers: you decide, I discussed the differences between pet food consumer advocates and fearmongers. I explained what makes a true consumer advocate, plus the types of consumer advocates, including organizations (advertising and food safety) and individuals.

I also discussed the traits of a fearmonger (consumer advocates in disguise), including the utilization of scare tactics, tearing down of agencies and individuals, pushing and selling lists of approved foods, exaggeration, lack of transparency in allocation of donations (are they a nonprofit?), and their self-serving goals versus actually helping the consumer. For examples of fearmongers, you can simply check out the comments section of my last blog

Still confused as to who’s who? Never fear … Super Blogger is here! Just kidding. As an individual consumer, you can take matters into your own hands and report an adverse event, without having to spend a great deal of time researching and determining if you are working with a fearmonger or a consumer advocate. This post will focus on how to report an adverse pet food event to regulatory agencies as an individual — which is also important for pet food companies to know in case such an event involves one of their products.

What is an adverse event?

In the pet food industry, an adverse event is considered any potential negative experience associated with a food product. Events leading to a negative experience could include items like foreign objects present in the pet food (i.e., pieces of metal, plastic, bugs or mold), medical issues (i.e., deficiency, toxicity, Salmonella, etc.) and even death. 

What to do if you have an adverse event

If you should be unfortunate enough to have an adverse event, there are multiple things a consumer will need to have in order to provide the proper information to file a formal complaint with a regulatory agency. Failure to have any of this information makes it difficult for a regulatory agency to open an investigation. Information they will need includes but is not limited to:

  1. Name of manufacturer or distributor
  2. Exact name of product from the label and format (i.e., dry, wet, frozen or treat)
  3. Product code, lot number, date code and/or best-by dates. The lot number is very important yet can be difficult to read and find. It can be a combination of numbers and letters and is usually near the best-by date if there is one.
  4. Additional descriptors of the food (i.e., bag, pouch or can size)
  5. UPC code
  6. Location of where purchased and date
  7. The adverse advent if known (i.e., plastic, metal pieces, swollen can, bad odor)
  8. Did you dispose of the food in question, or do you have food remaining? Do not throw away the food; keep it in the bag or container.
  9. Dog or cat’s background (i.e., age, sex, any pre-existing medical conditions)
  10. Medical records documenting the adverse event (if applicable)

For a complete list of questions that will be answered, please refer to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website. Once you have all the information, you should contact a regulatory agency.

Whom do you contact?

Once you have the necessary documentation, you can report your adverse event to your local state feed control official (click on state), FDA state complaint coordinator or, 24/7, through the FDA Food Safety Portal. Once the report is received, the state or federal official will open an investigation. A consumer should realize that investigations do not happen overnight. Depending on the adverse event, the regulatory agency may perform site inspections and investigate all documentation tied to the open case. Additionally, they may ask for other production records and information. In general, the depth of the investigation will determine how long it takes to come to a conclusion.

A special note to consumers

FDA and state regulatory agencies always recommend that consumers save and maintain the original packaging because it contains all the vital information to answer the above questions to open an investigation. Often, consumers like myself will transfer dry pet food into other containers for easier handling. The regulatory agencies suggest that you put the entire bag into the container if possible. If not, then you should save the packaging or take pictures of the product before disposing of the packaging, since one bag of dry food could feed your dog or cat for an entire month. 

In summary

Contrary to the beliefs of fearmongers, the federal and state agencies are food safety consumer advocates. Unlike fearmongers, these agencies do not have any bias in favor of the consumer or the manufacturer. As a result, if provided the proper information, they will investigate the complaint to the fullest extent and try to identify the root cause.

Got topics?

If there are topics you would like to have discussed, feel free to comment below or reach out via LinkedIn:

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