I hate pet food recalls as much as anyone but another way to look at recalls is that the system that is suppose to be keeping our pet food and human food too for that matter safe is working. I would much rather a company issue a recall for a product that they can't guarantee is 100% safe then to allow it to stay on the market while pets sicken and die from it. Only a small percentage of Food Recalls affect Pet Food as compared to Human Food.
What happens when there is a Pet Food Recall. A Communications Director (PR People) for the business, will orchestrate a recall along with representatives from manufacturing, marketing, research and development and the sales team. The Communications Director writes the press release as well as makes sure that all the individuals in the company get the pertinent information so they can answer the consumers as well as their trade partners questions.
Two hours before the public is notified they start a dialog with their trade partners to get the news out to the distributors and retailers letting them know how to behave in removing the product from the market place and how to handle the product if the merchant can destroy the product themselves or if they need to send it back to P&G, this information is shared with the FDA. They also share the information on VIN (Veterinary Information Network) and have a dedicated line in their call center for Veterinarians.
Almost all recalls are voluntary, pre the FSMA, Food Safty Modernization Act (January 4, 2011), the FDA did not have the power to issue a recall. With the FSMA they now have the power to issue a recall on their own, but most companies voluntarily recall their products and work closely with the FDA. A product should be recalled any time it has the potential to do harm to a consumer. Many times the manufacturer discovers the problem and notifies the FDA. Investigation allows the company to determine the window for the recall. In other words when the issue began and when it ends. Glitches happen and there has to be a mechanism where the manufacture can fix them. A Class I recall involves a problem that can cause potential harm to the consumer, other classifications can be given to problems that are not likely to cause harm, a misprinted label for example, and consumers are not necessarily notified of the recall. Class I recalls all look the same as there is a form that is dictated by the FDA, the APA style guide also determines what the press release will look like.
P & G constantly monitor their consumer call lines. In 2007 three complaints to their consumer relations line triggered an investigation which lead to the Pet Food Recall. The cats in their inhouse research facility were no longer being feed the canned food, therefore did not become ill due to the recall. The recent 2013 recall was uncovered through their constant monitoring which lead to an internal investigation, when they determined there was a potential problem they notified the FDA ( by filling a Reportable Food Registry as well as calling them and speaking with them) and issued a recall. You get cascading recalls when the company doesn't use a conservative enough window (date), P & G choose to use a very conservative window and included dates well before there was an issue and after the issue was resolved, just to be safe. They have the option to just recall the product on the dates the data indicates a problem. It is more expensive to use the more conservative window but it is the best way to insure no pets are harmed.
Recalls seldom affect the whole country at once as multiple plants produce the product and service certain regions of the country. P & G attempts to buy locally as much as they can. The recent recall originated at the plant in North Carolina, so mostly states along the Eastern seaboard were affected. Capabilities to trace products allow them to pinpoint what retailers are selling the affected product. Lot numbers are important as they tell you what plant the product was made at and what date it was made. Whenever there is a recall check the LOT NUMBER to see if the product you have was on the recall list. The UPC code merely tells you the name of the product as is the same across the nation. Jason Taylor strongly recommends that you save the lot numbers from the bags if you dump them in a bin to feed.
P & G owns all their dry food plants, but canned food is manufactured at Simmons Pet Food Inc, due to the specialized equipment needed for canning food. Iams & Eukanuba test incoming raw materials, they do an in process testing, environmental food contact and non-contact testing as well as finished product testing. Now P& G is changing the way it ships product. They are transitioning to a Test & Hold or Positive Release which means they will not ship any product until the test results are back. They feel it is the next step in ensuring that the product in the market place is up to their standards. The Test & Hold or Positive Release should be in place now, they were transitioning to it when I conducted the interview.
As a consume if you suspect there is something wrong with your pets food, cease feeding it immediately and call the companies care line as well as the FDA. Also treat pet food as you would any food product you bring into your home and practice good hygiene.
I want to thank Jason Taylor Communications Director for Proctor & Gamble for speaking with me and Bev Van Zant Community Manager, P&G Pet Care North America for sitting up the interview.
~Alasandra, reporting for ATCAD