FOIA Request finds only 11 Consumer Complaints Beneful Dog Food
A Freedom of Information Act request sent to FDA provided results of only 11 Consumer Complaints for Beneful Dog Food over a two year period (March 18, 2013 through March 24, 2015). Two lawsuits against Beneful and thousands of complaints online against the pet food, but FDA only provides 11 consumer complaints? What’s going on?
With a lot of media attention over consumer lawsuits against Beneful Dog Food and thousands of consumer complaints posted online about the pet food, last month I wrote FDA asking if Beneful pet food had been tested by the agency. I was told “yes” Beneful had been tested, but for specifics about that testing I would need to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to FDA. I did just that, and while I was at it I also asked for all of the consumer complaints filed with FDA on Beneful Dog Food over the past two years.
Last week, I received a phone call from FDA regarding my FOIA request. This call was just to confirm what information I was requesting of FDA. What I found most interesting in the conversation was that this very nice representative of FDA (honestly, he was very nice and very helpful) told me “there are so many divisions of FDA, it’s sometimes hard to locate records”. This statement from FDA was in regards to testing of Beneful.
During our conversation, when curiosity got the best of me, I asked about FDA testing Beneful Dog Food. I was curious to know what possible toxins FDA had tested the pet food for – what perhaps was causing all of the serious illness reports and pet death reports linked to this pet food. The FDA representative told me Beneful had only been subject to a random Salmonella testing of pet food (one test – part of a pet food Salmonella monitoring program). Because a different representative of FDA had told me Beneful had been tested (in reference to all of the consumer complaints), I asked ‘are you sure?’ This is where his statement “there are so many divisions of FDA, it’s sometimes hard to locate records” came to be. But he assured me he searched everywhere, and this was the only testing of Beneful Dog Food done by FDA during the two year time frame. In other words, Beneful has not been tested due to consumer complaints received on the pet food.
So…when the FOIA request was received, it was more than puzzling as to why FDA only provided 11 consumer complaints from Beneful Dog Food over a two year period (there are 13 entries, two entries are duplicate identification numbers with different information posted). Only 11? Over two years?
Click Here to view consumer complaints of Beneful Dog Food received in FOIA request.
Click Here to view test result of Beneful Dog Food received in FOIA request.
In March of 2013, FDA told me they received 8 consumer complaints (that month) with Beneful Dog Food. Yet the FOIA request only listed one consumer complaint during March of 2013. In January of 2013 FDA received 45 consumer complaints on Beneful, February of 2013 FDA received 50 consumer complaints on Beneful (both January and February are prior to our FOIA request). Did consumer complaints on Beneful suddenly slow down to a crawl after March 18, 2013 (the date our FOIA request began)?
Veterinary Information Network (Vin News) reported in March 2015 that FDA told them “since January 2011, the FDA has received approximately 400 reports about Beneful pet foods. FDA spokeswoman Megan Bensette said the reports reference approximately 480 sick dogs and 140 deaths, including one cat.”
Again – FDA told VIN News the agency received (over 4 years) reports of 480 sick dogs and 140 pet deaths linked to Beneful – but the food has not been tested by the agency investigating a possible cause of these illnesses and deaths (per our FOIA request).
It is at FDA’s discretion to test a pet food based on a consumer complaint or not. In March of this year, Primal Pet Food – a raw meat pet food manufacturer – issued a voluntary recall of one product after FDA testing found low thiamine levels. FDA performed this testing based on one single consumer complaint. Also based on this one single consumer complaint, FDA inspected the Primal Pet Food plant in depth. But on the other hand, FDA has (reportedly) received over 400 consumer complaints (140 of which resulted in a pet death) of Beneful Dog Food and the agency has NOT done one single test on this pet food or (to my knowledge) has inspected any Beneful Dog Food manufacturing plant. Why would a pet food that has a tiny market share be tested when one of the leading pet foods (sales) in the U.S. not be tested?
Why did FDA tell me in March 2013 dozens of consumer complaints were coming in each month of Beneful Dog Food, why did FDA tell VIN News over the past four years the agency has received “approximately 400 reports” of sick and dead pets linked to Beneful – when a Freedom of Information Act request provided only 11 consumer complaints of Beneful Dog Food? Where are all those reports? Freedom of Information Act requests should provide all information received by FDA. What is going on?
Follow up questions have been sent to FDA regarding the huge discrepancy between our FOIA request and information FDA provided to TruthaboutPetFood.com and VIN News of consumer complaints with Beneful Dog Food. That information will be shared when answers are received.
In the meantime, the statement from the FDA representative keeps echoing in my head; “there are so many divisions of FDA, it’s sometimes hard to locate records”.
Is FDA so unorganized that one department hasn’t a clue what the next department is doing? Could this unorganized mayhem cause important records to mysteriously disappear at FDA? Or if the records are there, why would they be so difficult to find when needed/requested? Is a system where the left hand hasn’t a clue what the right hand is doing effectively protecting consumers?
It would certainly benefit industry – especially in the midst of a lawsuit – for FDA consumer complaints against a product to disappear or be difficult to find when requested.
I hope FDA will provide an explanation as to why our FOIA request only resulted in 11 consumer complaints over a two year period. I hope this is just a simple error. I hope FDA will begin to take a uniform approach to testing pet foods based on consumer complaints. I hope.
Pet food consumers deserve much better from FDA.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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