What if a veterinarian or health care team member suspects a pet food is contaminated or unsafe?


  • If a food-borne illness is suspected in a patient, appropriate tests should be performed to confirm the food-borne illness diagnosis (and rule out other diagnoses).
  • Once the diagnosis is confirmed, detailed information should be collected and recorded1,2:
    1. Retain food samples for analysis (4 cans or 1 kg of dry food, when possible).2
    2. Retain food samples for analysis (4 cans or 1 kg of dry food, when possible).2
    3. Document the product name, type of product, and manufacturing information. Keep all packaging.2
    4. Identify date codes or production lot numbers.2
    5. Retain purchase receipts.2
    6. Document the dates the food was fed.2
    7. Date and time of onset of the pet’s clinical signs.2
    8. Detailed dietary history (e.g. all products fed and feeding methods).2
  • Veterinarians should notify clients of potential exposure to contaminated foods or product recalls and recommend that clients discontinue feeding the food.3
  • Veterinarians should contact the manufacturer and the FDA Consumer Complaints Coordinator for their state or region. A list of telephone numbers for each state/region is available at:
    http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm.1 Or, submit a report electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal (SRP). The SRP streamlines the process of reporting product safety issues to the FDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at this website1:https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov/fpsr/WorkflowLoginIO.aspx?metinstance=24B5E6C413DDD1C8634576902DBE3473EC6B7C5B.
  • Veterinarians should examine all pets with known or suspected exposure to contaminated foods. Initiate prophylactic or therapeutic treatment as indicated.2
  • Once the contaminated or unsafe food has been reported to the pet food manufacturer and FDA, an investigation will be conducted. If a recall is indicated, it will occur in one of three ways:
    1. The pet food company removes a product from the market on its own initiave.3
    2. The FDA requests the product be removed from the market.3
    3. Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the FDA orders a recall under statutory authority.3
  • In every case, the FDA’s role is to oversee a company’s strategy and assess the adequacy of the recall.
The Science Behind our Recommendations
1. Eirmann LE, Cowell C, Thompson L. Pet food safety: the role of government, manufacturers, and veterinarians. Compendium. 2012; 34(1): E1-E3. https://www.vetlearn.com/compendium/focus-on-nutrition-pet-food-safety-the-roles-of-government-manufacturers-and-veterinarians. Accessed July 31, 2013. 3. Stenske KA, Smith JR, Newman SJ, Newman LB, Kirk CA. Aflatoxicosis in dogs and dealing with suspected contaminated commercial foods. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2006 Jun 1;228(11):1686-91. 4. FDA 101: Product recalls - from first alert to effectiveness checks. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Website. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm049070.htm. Accessed July 18, 2013.