Detecting Pet-Foodborne Illness
The FDA website states each year 1 out of every 6 people in the U.S. suffers from a foodborne illness. Pet owners can safely assume, similar statistics exist for pets suffering from a pet-foodborne illness. The bad news is, unlike human doctors who are provided on-going training to detect a (human) foodborne illness, veterinarians are on their own. To protect our pets, this must change; veterinarians need training to properly detect a pet-foodborne illness. Your help is needed to force change.
The FDA website states that each year, “48 million people in the United States suffers from a foodborne illness; more than a hundred thousand are hospitalized, and thousands die.” Sister government agency, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates the number significantly higher. The CDC states “estimates that each year 76 million people get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 Americans die as a result of foodborne illnesses.”
Comparing the number of people in the US (313,628,208) to dog and cat estimates (164,600,000) – and based on the CDC estimates (for human illness), the seriousness of pet-foodborne illness in the U.S. could be…
Each year 38 million pets get sick, more than 150,000 are treated by a veterinarian, and 2,500 will die as a result of pet-foodborne illness. This is in sharp contrast to what is stated on almost every pet food recall press release; “no report of pet illness has been reported.”
The CDC provides education to human physicians; “a teaching tool to update primary care physicians about foodborne illness and remind them of their important role in recognizing suspicious symptoms, disease clusters, and etiologic agents, and reporting cases of foodborne illness to public health authorities.”
To the contrary, nothing is done to guide veterinarians to detect pet-foodborne illness.
Could lives of pets be saved if veterinarians were provided with tools to detect pet-foodborne illness in dogs and cats?
I’ll let the CDC provide the answer to this question as it relates to human cases of foodborne illness…
“Physicians have a critical role in the prevention and control of food-related disease outbreaks. This primer is intended to help physicians in this role by providing them with practical and concise information on the diagnosis, treatment, and reporting of foodborne illnesses.”
Actually, in light of the human illnesses linked to the recent Diamond manufactured pet food recalls, not only would an effort to guide veterinarians to detect, treat, and report pet-foodborne illnesses save lives of pets – the effort could also help to prevent human illness.
In 2011, the FDA announced their program PETNet; a web based information exchange system that allows FDA, Federal and State Agencies to share information about pet-food related incidents. The PETNet program tries to be similar to the CDC’s tracking of human food related incidents but falls well short in two significant areas – detection and awareness.
Without ongoing education to practicing veterinarians on how to diagnose, treat, and report a pet-foodborne illness – PETNet can never property track pet-food related incidents or protect pets and their humans. PETNet as well, is limited to FDA, Federal and State agency employees – where can veterinarians (and pet owners) turn to when searching for other suspect pet food related illnesses or pet deaths? Veterinarians can turn to numerous vet forums – however there are many and what vet has the time to search all of the numerous sites? Veterinarians need access to the PETNet database to aid in searching for similar pet illnesses believed to be related to pet foods and treats.
To protect our pets, this must change and your help is needed. We need an active and ongoing educational program developed for veterinarians to diagnose pet-foodborne illness. We need practicing veterinarians to be provided with the latest treatment and reporting procedures once a pet-foodborne illness is suspected/detected. And we are probably going to need to push VERY hard to get this accomplished. Please realize, that Big Pet Food donates heavily to most of the veterinary organizations…Big Pet Food will not be in favor of a program that helps to diagnose pet-foodborne illnesses. Again, we will all need to push to protect our pets.
Please, copy the letter below or compose your own and write to the CDC, FDA, AVMA, AAHA, AHVMA, and the CVMA. Without veterinarians being provided the latest information to diagnose, treat and report a pet-foodborne illness, the proper tracking of pet food related illness and deaths will never happen and nothing will change. Please take a few moments to email each individual listed below.
American Animal Hospital Association
Dr. Michael R. Moyer President
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
Mr. Jost AM Rhyn Executive Director
FDA/Center for Veterinary Management
Bernadette Dunham Director CVM
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH Director
As a concerned pet owner, I am writing to bring your attention to a gaping hole within the veterinary community. As background/foundation of my concern, please read the following information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)…
“estimates that each year 76 million people get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 Americans die as a result of foodborne illnesses.”
Current estimates of dogs and cats in U.S. homes are about half of the 300 million humans in the U.S. Thus we can safely estimate that each year 38 million pets get sick, more than 150,000 are treated by a veterinarian, and 2,500 will die as a result of a pet-foodborne illness.
The gaping hole in the veterinary community…unlike human physicians, veterinarians are not provided with on-going support/education to properly diagnose, treat, and report a pet-foodborne illness. The FDA developed PETNet for state and government authorities to track pet food related incidents, however the training necessary for proper veterinary diagnosis of a pet-foodborne illness has not been addressed.
The CDC states “Physicians have a critical role in the prevention and control of food-related disease outbreaks. This primer (one of the documents provided to physicians by CDC) is intended to help physicians in this role by providing them with practical and concise information on the diagnosis, treatment, and reporting of foodborne illnesses.”
We are asking for veterinarians to participate in the same critical role for the prevention and control of pet food-related disease outbreaks as human physicians.
The human foodborne illness detection, treatment, and reporting initiative was developed collaboratively by the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. As a concerned pet owner, I ask your organization to immediately initiate a team in partnership with the CDC, FDA, and all U.S./Canadian veterinary organizations to develop a proactive educational program to help veterinarians detect pet-foodborne illnesses.
I also ask that a representative(s) of pet owners be a member on this pet-foodborne illness detection, treatment and reporting development board; no one is more aware of the risks involved of pet-foodborne illness and the results of non-detection than a pet owner. Please do not dismiss the valuable input pet owners can provide.
I ask your organization to develop this educational program with the utmost urgency. Without proper detection of pet-foodborne illnesses – as circumstances currently are – the lives of countless pets and their humans remain at great risk.
Here’s hoping we can get the decision makers to listen, and that they will take prompt action to develop a pet-foodborne illness detection program.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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