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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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PETNet: An Information Exchange For Pet Food Related Incidents

by Alfan Dangin, Jenny Murphy, and Christopher Melluso, DVM, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks and responds to outbreaks of human disease. Similarly, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tracks and responds to outbreaks of foreign animal diseases and endemic diseases of economic importance to livestock. However, no federal agency is responsible for monitoring, tracking, or responding to outbreaks of food-borne disease in companion animals (ex. dogs and cats).

During the 2008 “Gateway to Food Protection” meeting sponsored by FDA, the Outbreaks/Food-Borne and Feed-Borne Investigations Workgroup addressed the lack of federal monitoring and tracking of companion animal diseases. The Workgroup came up with the idea for a Pet Event Tracking Network, or PETNet, as a monitoring system that can be used by FDA, and other federal and State agencies.

To carry out the ideas of the “Gateway to Food Protection” meeting, FDA created the Partnership for Food Protection (PFP). The purpose of the PFP is to bring federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal representatives with expertise in food, feed, epidemiology, laboratory, animal health, environmental and public health together to develop an Integrated Food Safety System (IFSS). Under the leadership of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), a workgroup was formed that included members from FDA, several state agencies, CDC, USDA, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), leading to the development and implementation of PETNet.

The nationwide recall of melamine-contaminated pet food in 2007 was a key discussion point for the PETNet workgroup. The melamine incident revealed that FDA and State officials responsible for regulating pet food need a better way to collect and share information related to pet food incidents. The workgroup decided that the primary function of PETNet is information sharing, as this is the main concern of both FDA and State officials. PETNet’s goal is to disseminate information to regulators so those in the best position to take quick action to protect the health of pets – typically State officials – will have access to information as soon as it becomes available.

PETNet is a secure, web based network that allows information to be exchanged more freely and efficiently between FDA, and other Federal and State regulatory agencies. PETNet allows the exchange of information about pet-food related incidents, such as illness associated with the consumption of pet food or pet food product defects. PETNet gives equal data access to all members. Using the shared information, State and Federal agencies can work together to quickly determine what regulatory actions are needed to prevent or quickly limit adverse effects associated with pet food products.

In August 2010, CVM sent letters to animal health and feed control officials in all states encouraging them to take part in PETNet. At this time, regulatory agencies from all 50 states, 3 U.S. territories, and 4 Federal agencies have agreed to participate in PETNet and have provided the names of over 150 government officials to be members of PETNet.

How PETNet Works:

  1. PETNet is a secure, web based system.
  2. A PETNet member completes a reporting form and submits the completed form electronically to PETNet.
  3. The report is entered into a searchable database which is accessible to members.
  4. All PETNet members will be able to input data into and extract data from the network.
  5. PETNet members can customize the system to send them email alerts notifying them of new reports.

Because PETNet members are experts in pet food regulation and safety, they have a good understanding of the information they receive from other PETNet members. They also know which types of issues in their states merit reporting to PETNet. Because PETNet is for government employees only, consumers cannot submit reports through PETNet; however, the information in PETNet will be used to provide more useful, timely, and accurate information to consumers. Consumers can report pet food complaints to their state pet food regulators. Consumers can also report pet food problems to FDA by contacting an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator or using the Safety Reporting Portal.

For more information about PETNet, see Federal Register notice volume 75, number 143 (Docket No. 2010-N-0368) (July 27, 2010).