Lots of interesting information to share from Day two. Here’s a brief overview and one detailed description of an ‘event’ from today.
My morning at the meetings started off with a presentation by Dr. Dan McChesney – FDA Director, Office of Surveillance & Compliance and Mr. Joseph Reardon, Director – Division of Federal State Relations.
Dr. McChesney’s presentation was first. As you might imagine, Dr. McChesney shared information about the progress of FDA towards food safety. As I listened to Dr. McChesney bragging on the efforts of FDA, I kept thinking about Pet Owners. I kept wondering how all of you would feel if you were here listening to Dr. McChesney brag on the FDA. There was an opportunity for questions following his presentation and I thought about asking him about pet food, but at that moment I considered that perhaps my question would embarrass the FDA in front of the 300 or so at the meeting and perhaps I should try to catch Dr. McChesney in the hall and ask him my question discretly.
Then I sat through Mr. Reardon’s presentation on the Federal – State relations improvements in animal food/pet food. I kept thinking about Pet Owners. And then I thought about one particular pet owner that sent me a donation to go to this event even though her husband was laid off from his job in October and she is on permanent disability…she wrote me that regardless of her situation, she HAD to contribute money for this. I started thinking about another pet owner who recently shared she’s up to $20,000 in vet bills treating sick pets since 2007. And I remembered the many heart breaking stories that many of you have shared with me about pet foods killing your furry best friends. All of these thoughts went through my head in an instant – and then I realized that discreetly asking the FDA Representatives my question in the hallway wasn’t good enough.
So, after Mr. Reardon’s update I raised my hand. Below is how the conversation went…
Susan: First off I want to say I thank both of you for coming and reporting on the progress the FDA is making in strides towards food safety. On that note, know that I am here representing consumers.
My question is pet food related. With a vivid memory of the 2007 recall still in the minds of consumers, How can pet owners have trust in the FDA, in that they are really making pet food safer…when there are FDA Compliance Policies that allow illegal ingredients – illegal according to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act – in pet food? How can we believe that you – the FDA- truly has pet owners best interest in mind?
Mr. Reardon: Dan I’m going to let you answer this one (crowd laughs)…
Dr. McChesney: I think the answer is that we are still looking – there are even some that might say we disagree with your view…
Susan: I can read you the compliance policies if you’d like – I have a copy of them with me.
Dr. McChesney: I’m just saying that we are looking at safety and moving towards a risk based program and I think we are looking at risks.
Melamine was an intentional contaminant – it was put in there – should we have seen that coming, well hopefully with preventive measures we can see that coming. There are a lot of things out there, its very difficult to predict something like that.
I think we are seeing movement in industry of ways to look at that, look at what is in a product, pet food or human food – what’s the profile on that, try to look at that some way with instrumentation or chemical to try to see what is in there. So I think we are trying to move towards stopping things like that. And we are also moving towards risk based products. With recent legislation there are numerous things in there that says FDA will look at the risk associated with products, or ingredients or a variety of things. They can put them on a list they think have high risk associated with it and then we would have additional controls.
I think we are moving in that direction – could we move faster, maybe. But I think we are moving slowly and we’ve looked at the food supply across the nation whether its human food or animal food or pet food and I think the history is that its the very same product. And we’re not seeing large amounts of ill humans or ill animals.
Susan: Can I interpret what your saying is that the FDA compliance policies that allow 4D meat in pet food will be removed?
Dr. McChesney: I didn’t say that – I said we are looking at a risk basis…
Susan: But isn’t the law the law?
Dr. McChesney: Well, we’re just looking at the risk. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree then. We’ll look at the risk. And if we think there are risks with certain products then we’ll do something about it. Whether the CPG’s will stay in place, I think they can be modified based on risk. We are moving towards risk based food system both on the human side and the animal side – we are going to look at risk and we are going to use a scientific basis for that and we’ll see how we come out.
Was I happy with Dr. McChesney’s response? Not in the least. But I was more than happy that Pet Owners were represented face to face with the FDA. I’m sure this wasn’t a pleasant moment for Dr. McChesney, to be honest it probably ruined his day. But regardless of how Dr. McChesney felt, we deserve to be heard. It is long past time of FDA ignoring Pet Owners; we deserved this moment (and many more until we know for certain our pets are FDA priority). I wish all of you could have been there.
I had a great conversation with the President-elect of AAFCO (next years President) and the newly appointed President of AAFCO made a special trip over to me during the afternoon presentation to arrange a time for us to chat tomorrow.
Several other issues of concern – one being the very strong presence of the Pet Food Institute. I’ll give you all the details of this soon. The AAFCO folks I spoke with today were great to me again and were open to hearing ideas about the wants and needs of Pet Owners.
Another full day tomorrow. I’ll try to post something again tomorrow night or Thursday morning.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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