If FDA or State Comes Into Your Pet Food Store, Do You Know What Procedure Is?
The FDA came into a small pet food store in Pennsylvania and took more than $1,000.00 worth of pet food without payment. Would you know what to do in this circumstance? Knowing the law is vitally important to protect your pet food business and your pet owner clients.
In November of 2015, Sandy (owner) and Kelly (manager) were new to operating a pet food store – Sandy’s Pampered Pets in Indiana, PA. They received a few complaints of sick pets from customers all relating to one pet food – Big Dog Natural raw pet food. Doing the absolute right thing for their customers, Sandy and Kelly sent some of the pet food off to be tested AND they reported the pet illnesses to FDA. Unfortunately – doing the right thing doesn’t always turn out right.
FDA was very interested in learning more about the pet food. The agency sent two representatives to the store, who were pleasant, even appeared grateful to Sandy and Kelly for their reporting a potential issue to FDA. FDA collected all of the Big Dog Natural raw pet food they had in stock (more than $800.00 worth wholesale cost). The agency did not pay for the pet food they took from the store. When questioned how they would be paid for the products taken, FDA told Sandy and Kelly they would need “to file a claim with the Attorney General”.
Did the FDA follow procedure for collecting pet food for investigation/testing? No, they did not. Not even close.
For every independent pet food store: Do you know what the required procedure is for FDA or State Department of Agriculture if they come into your store to purchase/take pet foods for testing?
If you don’t know EXACTLY what is required of regulatory authorities, you might find yourself in the same boat as Sandy and Kelly…still trying to get FDA to pay them for pet food products taken from their store 2 1/2 years ago. Whether you are a pet owner, store owner, or small pet food manufacturer – if you don’t know the regulations that govern pet food, if you don’t know the required procedures for regulatory authorities – you can be taken advantage of by unethical individuals and a corrupt system.
For pet food store owners:
If any regulatory authority (FDA or State Department of Agriculture) comes into your store to purchase pet foods for sample testing – the first thing you should do is pull out your cell phone and video record everything. Yes, it is a little intimidating to have a regulatory official in your store – BUT for your protection you must take this step. The representative probably won’t like being recorded, but it’s your store and your right to do this.
Next, if the FDA takes products from your store that total less than $100.00 retail – they have authority to pay you for the products at time of purchase. Under $100.00 the FDA will pay retail price for the products. But, if the products they want/take total over $100.00, payment will be delayed. The FDA will ask the store to provide a wholesale price and retail price breakdown of all the products they collect for sampling. Most often the agency will negotiate a purchase price somewhere in between retail and wholesale. The FDA will provide you with a document (required) listing all the products purchased/taken. The FDA will fill out the form, and ask you to sign it. Before you sign it, read EVERY SINGLE WORD on the document. FDA will provide you with the original, file this document someplace safe. This document, along with your wholesale and retail price breakdown is supposed to be filed by the FDA representative with their superiors that will send you payment for products purchased.
Here’s what can go wrong if you don’t know exactly what is required by authorities…
This was the form provided to Sandy’s Pampered Pets:
Do you see what the FDA representatives did? If you were handed this document by FDA to sign, would you have noticed a problem on the page? (I didn’t.)
Unknowingly to Sandy and Kelly – the FDA representatives checked the tiny box in Section 10 that said the pet food was “Provided at No Charge”. They had no idea FDA would do something like this – it was a first time experience with a regulatory authority in their store. But to be certain, Sandy and/or Kelly did NOT donate the pet food to FDA. This is a small pet food store in a very small town in Pennsylvania (population 13,000) – they could not afford to gift FDA with more than $800.00 worth of pet food wholesale cost. That tiny little check mark in Section 10 of this FDA form went unnoticed by Sandy and Kelly and it was NOT explained to them at the time. Again, Sandy and Kelly directly asked the FDA representatives at the time how they would be paid for the products taken, they were told “to file a claim with the Attorney General for payment.” (And by the way, Sandy and Kelly DID file a claim with the Attorney General – which was ignored.)
Sandy and Kelly have since read the FDA’s Investigations Operations manual (Click Here to read – every pet store owner needs to read this document). Now they understand what is required of FDA the next time a sample of pet food is taken from their store. And when FDA revisited their store recently (follow up after our contact about lack of payment), they took my advice and video recorded the representatives in their store.
The good news of this story is that Sandy, Kelly and myself are working with FDA to get this very bad situation resolved, we have hope that FDA will make this right. Sandy and Kelly graciously share their story with the public to help alert other store owners to the proper procedures required of any regulatory authority – they don’t want others to learn the hard way as they did.
Two lots of two different products of Big Dog Natural pet food were recalled about 2 months after FDA took samples from their store (Click Here to view recall notice).
The Big Point:
Everyone involved in pet food MUST understand the laws that govern the industry and the procedures that govern those that enforce the law. No one ever thinks that a regulatory authority will take advantage, not follow procedure – but…they don’t sometimes. Laws are boring and often close to painful to read and understand, all too often this is a detail neglected. You learn only what you have to learn to get by. And then when something happens, bad things can happen quickly.
My suggestion to Sandy and Kelly was – and to EVERY INDEPENDENT PET FOOD STORE is – to join the trade association newly started for independent pet food stores by Chelsea Kent (a store owner herself – https://herospets.com/). Chelsea already has attended several AAFCO meetings and is actively involved in numerous regulatory issues regarding pet products. On behalf of her members she will be requesting advisory position to several AAFCO Committees (same as our consumer association has). Chelsea is VERY informed and will be a great spokesperson for independent pet food retailers. I cannot express how important it is for retailers to join together and be informed to all the issues surrounding pet food. Store owners can email Chelsea at FoodRegulationFacts@gmail.com for more information.
And I cannot emphasize enough that small quality minded pet food/treat manufacturers MUST do the same. If you think what happened to Sandy and Kelly is unique, think again. I know with certainty that FDA and State Department of Agriculture representatives have NOT followed proper procedure on multiple occasions during an inspection/investigation. Numerous recalls that occurred over the past several years happened without the regulatory authority following the procedures they are required to follow. These manufacturers were pushed into a recall because they did not know the legal procedures regulatory must follow. As well, small manufacturers might not fully understand all that is required of them with existing and future regulations (Food Safety Modernization Act as example). They owe it to their customers to be well informed of all the regulations that govern pet food. I encourage every quality minded small pet food or treat manufacturer to join Next Generation Pet Food Manufacturers Association (http://www.ngpfma.org/) and get fully informed.
All parties involved in pet food should abide by law; regulatory and manufacturer.
My thanks to Sandy and Kelly for allowing this story to be shared. Pet owners in Indiana, PA are very lucky to have such a caring store in town. You did everything right for your customers and were taken advantage of by a regulatory agency that should have never treated you this way. Please keep us all posted if FDA does the right thing and pays you for the products they took from your store.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
Become a member of our pet food consumer Association. Association for Truth in Pet Food is a a stakeholder organization representing the voice of pet food consumers at AAFCO and with FDA. Your membership helps representatives attend meetings and voice consumer concerns with regulatory authorities. Click Here to learn more.
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