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Ask Dr. Jenn: Pet Food Recalls

It seems like there are a lot of reports of pet food recalls. What does that mean? Why are the foods being recalled? How do I know my pet’s food is safe?

Ask Dr. Jenn: Pet Food Recalls

Pet food recalls can be scary. You do all you can to keep your furry family member healthy only to find out his food may make him sick. However, for the most part, recalls are a good thing. They show us that our pets’ food is being closely monitored to ensure it is safe. When a recall is issued, the food is off the shelf immediately and, in many cases, before your pet has consumed enough of the food to cause a significant health problem.

In the United States, pet foods are monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unlike medications, FDA approval is not required to be sold. However, the FDA regulates what ingredients can be used in pet foods. The FDA also oversees the manufacturing and labeling of pet foods.

The FDA requires that pet food is safe to eat and free from harmful ingredients. The food must be produced under sanitary conditions and properly labeled.  If any of these conditions are not being met, the FDA may issue a recall.

In addition, many food companies run quality control tests on their food. These tests ensure the food has the proper balance of nutrients, no contamination during the production process, and the product meets their standards.

There are three types of pet food recalls:

Voluntary recall – this occurs when a pet food company recalls a pet food on their initiative.

FDA request – the FDA may contact a company and request they issue a recall of one of their pet foods.

FDA order under statutory authority – This is the most serious recall, and the food is taken off the shelves immediately.

Recalls may occur because of problems found in quality control tests, client complaints to either the FDA or the pet food company, or inspection from the FDA.

If the FDA requests or orders a recall, they will monitor closely to ensure the reason for the recall has been corrected before the company can distribute the food again. If the company discontinues the food permanently, the recall will be closed. For voluntary recalls, the FDA releases information about the recall and lists it on their website but they allow the company to determine when the reason for the recall has been corrected.

There are many reasons why pet food may be recalled. It may be something minor, such as there is a mistake on the pet food label. An improper balance of ingredients may prompt a recall, such as high levels of Vitamin D. Most recalls arise from contamination of the pet food – this may be alfa toxins, Salmonella, E.coli, or plastic or metal pieces from the machines that produce the food. Very rarely, recalls may occur due to contamination of a toxic substance, such as the Melamine contamination in dog and cat foods in 2007.

You will likely hear about the most serious recalls through news channels. If you purchased pet food through our veterinarian or a pet food store, they might contact you if you recall the food you have purchased. However, the quickest way to learn about recalls is through various websites. The FDA lists all foods recalled, the manufacturer, the reason for the recall, and if the recall is resolved. You can also report Pet Food Complaints on the FDA website. Other websites, such as The Dog Food Advisor, monitor recalls and send an email whenever a dog food is recalled.

To keep your pet safe, make sure you feed high-quality food. Use a company that uses veterinary nutritionists to make sure the food is well balanced for your pet. Ensure the company is doing quality control tests on their foods to find issues before it becomes a major problem. Follow the FDA pet food recall site. If your pet’s food shows up on the list, stop feeding immediately and contact your veterinarian for further guidance.

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