It Shouldn’t Be This Much of a Fight
It shouldn’t be this much of a fight to get a pet food consumer voice with FDA, but it is. Here is the latest on our battle to provide pet food consumers a voice with FDA. Two Senators from Florida are trying to help, but the FDA is simply refusing to meet with pet food safety advocates.
Several weeks ago I sent the following letter to my Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio….
I ask for your assistance to help pet food consumer advocates establish open communication with FDA relating to the safety of pet foods and treats. I represent pet food consumers in Florida and across the U.S. through Association for Truth in Pet Food (as head advocate). Open dialogues/meetings has been provided to human food safety advocates for years, however no voice is provided to pet food consumer advocates with regulatory authorities.
Just a few examples of the desperate need for a pet food consumer voice with regulatory authorities…
Did You Know?
• FDA Compliance Policies allow pet foods to violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
• In the U.S. pet foods can make false or misleading claims in advertising and there is no regulatory authority to protect consumers.
• Pet food labels have completely different nutritional information as is stated on human food labels. Such as: in human foods, the nutritional content (such as protein and fat) is stated as ‘actual’; in pet foods, protein and fat is stated as ‘minimum’ (example: fat can be stated as 5% on the pet food label however the actual fat content of the food could be 20% or more).
• In human foods the ingredient ‘chicken’ implies meat; in pet foods ‘chicken’ can be only chicken skin and bones – no meat.
In February 2013, human food consumer advocate Tony Corbo – senior lobbyist for Food and Water Watch spoke with Sharon Natanblut (Communication and Public Engagement Staff FDA/CVM) at the monthly consumer advocate FDA meeting; Ms. Natanblut told Mr. Corbo CVM would be open to establishing regular dialogues with pet food consumer advocates. Taking action on this opportunity, Association for Truth in Pet Food quickly gathered numerous pet food consumer advocates (including several veterinarians) who were willing to volunteer their time meeting with FDA. A letter introducing the consumer advocacy representatives and requesting regular meetings with FDA was sent on February 25, 2013 (to Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine with copy to Sharon Natanblut).
Association for Truth in Pet Food representatives followed up with Sharon Natanblut in mid-March. After a 30 minute or so conversation, Ms. Natanblut asked the representatives to give her 10 days to “work things out” on FDA’s side. Ms. Natanblut asked for a reminder email be sent to her in 10 days.
In late March 2013 – as requested – a reminder email was sent to Ms. Natanblut. To date, no response has been received from Ms. Natanblut or Mr. Taylor.
In mid April 2013, another request was sent to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and CVM Director Bernadette Dunham; to date, no response.
It is clear the FDA is not interested in providing pet food consumers a voice. However just because the FDA has no interest in open dialogue with pet food consumer advocates doesn’t mean it isn’t vitally important and necessary. Remember, existing pet food regulations allow pet foods to violate federal food safety law, allows misleading and false pet food advertising, and forces pet food consumers to learn completely different ingredient definitions and labeling guidelines than human foods. Please contact FDA’s Dr. Margaret Hamburg and CVM’s Bernadette Dunham requesting pet food consumer advocates be provided with regular dialogues with FDA. Without your assistance, I am confident FDA will continue to ignore the pet food consumer voice.
One last note…as you are probably aware, the FDA has investigated thousands of pet deaths related to Chinese imported chicken jerky treats over the past six years. In January 2013, NY Department of Agriculture testing discovered illegal antibiotic drug residues in the imported dog treats; however FDA has not confirmed or denied the thousands of pet deaths is/was related to the illegal drugs found in the treats. In January 2013, Association for Truth in Pet Food provided FDA with scientific evidence linking the illegal drugs found in the treats to the thousands of pet illnesses and thousands of pet deaths; several veterinarians have also since confirmed the illegal drug connection. However to date, the FDA has not responded to the scientific evidence they were provided.
Again…without regular open dialogues provided to pet food safety advocates, pet food consumers and the pets they love are at risk from inferior pet food products. As one of my Representatives in Washington, I ask you to contact FDA for me. Please tell them to begin meeting with pet food consumer advocates including myself representing Association for Truth in Pet Food.
Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio very promptly responded to my plea. Senator Nelson stated he would inquire with FDA on our behalf and after a phone call to Senator Rubio’s Tampa, FL office, Senator Rubio agreed to inquire with FDA on our behalf as well.
We await to hear what FDA tells Senator Rubio, but Senator Nelson just provided me with the following response his office received from FDA…
Venkatesh, Ruba (Bill Nelson)
Subject: Inquiry regarding Ms. Susan Thixton
From: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Sent: Monday June 03, 2013 1:37 PM
To: Venkatesh, Ruba (Bill Nelson)
Greetings, Rupa- It was nice speaking with you today. As we discussed on the phone, FDA has communicated with Ms. Thixton on numerous occasions through her work as a blogger on her website, TruthaboutPetFood.com. Our communications with Ms. Thixton have included responding to her requests to FDA’s media contacts and coordinating a telephone meeting in December 2012 to discuss her concerns about FDA’s role in the regulation of pet food. We have also offered for her to join in on the semi-regular meetings we have with industry groups. Ms. Thixton’s request for individual meetings has been challenging to accommodate, as FDA is unable to meet individually with all groups, given the nature of the Agency’s regulatory breadth and limited resources. However, communication with interested parties is important to us, and we continue to work to determine how best to fulfill Ms. Thixton’s request.
Office of Legislation
Food and Drug Administration
Upon receipt of the above from Senator Nelson, I promptly called the Orlando office and spoke with Ms. Venkatesh (Senator Nelson’s office) informing her this FDA response to the Senator was less than truthful. She requested I explain the discrepancies of the FDA response and fax them to the Senator’s office (faxed 6/10/13). Below is that letter…
Senator Bill Nelson
c/o Rupa Venkatesh
First, I can’t thank you enough for your efforts to provide pet food consumers a voice with FDA. However you should be aware that the FDA’s response to your request was less than completely honest.
FDA’s response to you – from Melissa Stringfellow, Office of Legislation states “We have also offered for her to join in on the semi-regular meetings we have with industry groups.” This is completely false. FDA has never offered me (or any other pet food safety advocate) the opportunity to participate in regular meetings.
As I shared with you in my initial request for assistance, Sharon Natanblut (Communication and Public Engagement Staff FDA/CVM) spoke with Tony Corbo of Food & Water Watch in February 2013 asking if CVM was doing enough for pet food consumers. Mr. Corbo responded “No”. As an experienced consumer advocate, Mr. Corbo instructed us (pet food consumer advocate Mollie Morrissette and myself) to send FDA an official request for regular dialogue between pet food consumer advocates and FDA. This request was sent on February 25, 2013 to Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine with copy to Sharon Natanblut. To date – almost four months later – the FDA/CVM has not provided us a response to our request.
FDA’s response to you stated “FDA has communicated with Ms. Thixton on numerous occasions through her work as a blogger on her website.” It needs to be noted, that our request for regular dialogues between pet food consumer advocates and FDA was not sent from “a blogger”. The request was sent from our official pet food consumer stakeholder group Association for Truth in Pet Food – not from my personal pet food education website TruthaboutPetFood.com.
FDA meets often with “stakeholder groups” for input on various issues. As example on March 6, 2013 FDA announced they will hold public meetings with food-animal producers and veterinarians regarding use of antimicrobial drug use. The FDA scheduled five meeting across the U.S. with these stakeholder groups (April through June in Kentucky, Washington, Colorado, South Dakota, and Texas).
Pet food consumers are without doubt, the largest stakeholder group involved in the pet food industry. Yet the FDA continues to dismiss us as bloggers or emotional pet parents. We have done our part by officially establishing a consumer advocacy organization properly registered with the state of Florida. We have members all across the U.S., Canada, and Japan. We ask for FDA to do their pet and acknowledge our consumer advocacy association.
FDA’s response to you stated in December 2012 FDA provided a phone meeting with FDA “to discuss her concerns about FDA’s role in the regulation of pet food.” This is not correct information. FDA provided me, Mollie Morrissette, and Tony Corbo with a 45 minute meeting to discuss FDA’s ongoing (6 year) investigation of jerky treats imported from China linked to thousands of pet illnesses and deaths. Pet food regulation was not discussed during this meeting. The meeting was very helpful and we thanked FDA for the opportunity publically and personally at the time.
FDA’s response to you also stated I requested “individual meetings” with FDA. This is again incorrect. We asked CVM for regular dialogue – the same that is provided to human food advocacy groups and industry stakeholder groups – with various representatives of pet food safety including veterinarians and consumer advocacy. Some of the top and most pet food safety knowledgeable veterinarians in the U.S. have volunteered their time to participate with FDA, along with several pet food consumer advocates.
All we are asking for is regular open dialogue with FDA/CVM. This is provided to human food advocacy groups, various industry stakeholder groups including pet food industry stakeholder groups. It should be provided to pet food consumer stakeholder representatives and veterinarians. Pet Food consumer stakeholder groups and pet food safety advocate veterinarians might not have offices in Washington D.C. or have million dollar a year budgets for travel and woo-ing FDA, but that shouldn’t make us any less significant. We all have phones, access to Internet and a huge concern for the safety of pet food. If FDA truly wishes the safety of pet food to improve, then it is time they open their doors (and ears) to the other voice that has been pleading to be heard for years. The consumer voice.
Association for Truth in Pet Food
Sincere thanks to Senator Bill Nelson for stepping forward for pet food consumers with FDA. I’m very hopeful Senator Rubio is at this moment taking similar actions with FDA on our behalf.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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