VIN unveils recall center for veterinarians, consumers

Site intended to act as information resource

Published: September 27, 2010
By Phyllis DeGioia

A recall center for veterinary medications and pet food is now available on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN).

Created in response to requests from VIN members, the VIN Recall Center is a tool that tracks food and product recalls that impact veterinary medicine. A standing link to the recall center will also be posted on the VIN News Service's public home page as well as its internal folder in the online community.

In the event of a major recall, notice will appear in a variety of locations with links to official information. The VIN Recall Center provides access to government and association websites that list recalls and information on where to sign up for electronic notifications.

The VIN Recall Center is designed to fill the profession's need for timely notifications. Although manufacturers usually make efforts to contact veterinarians, gaps in their communications systems sometimes mean that veterinarians do not learn of a recall until days or weeks after it's been instituted. Moreover, the way practitioners come across alerts appears to be random.

For example, one veterinarian reported on VIN that he learned of a recent recall of several Iams dry pet food products via the social networking site Facebook. Another practitioner reported seeing an alert on a television news crawl. Still, others didn’t know about it even though it was posted on VIN message boards because they didn’t read the discussions.

“In the past I have been caught with my clients notifying me of recalls, which sort of makes you look like an idiot in the client’s eyes,” writes Dr. Randy Davis of Evansville, Ind., in a VIN discussion. “What — you're the vet and don't know about this?” 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has tried to improve recall reporting by creating the Reportable Food Registry.

Mandated by Congress in 2007, the registry is a new electronic portal system that requires manufacturers, processors, packers and distributors to report to the government, within 24 hours, safety problems with food and animal feed, including pet food, that could cause serious health consequences if consumed.

Additionally, many veterinarians wonder what's behind an apparent surge in the number of recalls instituted.

Shannon Cameron, a spokeswoman for the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, agrees that recalls appear to be more commonplace, yet when it comes to pinpointing a cause, she can only speculate. Of course, the public's ability to file online complaints might be a factor.

“Because of the Reportable Food Registry, the violations or problems are being reported to us, whereas before it was up to an inspection to find it," writes Cameron in an e-mailed response to a VIN News Service query. "The registry has been in operation only since last September, so the number of reports regarding pet food is too small to draw meaningful conclusions yet. Also, the agency has hired more personnel to follow up on complaints.”

Among the 125 primary reports to the FDA registry, Salmonella accounted for 37 percent of hazards, undeclared allergens or intolerances accounted for 35 percent and Listeria monocytogenes accounted for 13 percent. Among the 11 different commodity categories involved: 14 animal feed or pet food, 12 seafood, 11 spices and seasonings and 10 dairy products.

A recent CNN Money article addressed a significant increase in recalls involving human medication. According to the article, the upswing is driven by several factors at drug manufacturing and repackaging levels that include, among others: manufacturing lapses, notably in the quality of raw materials; faulty labeling and packaging; and contamination.

In addition, some manufacturers rush to provide generic versions of drugs when a patent expires, making hasty mistakes along the way, the article added.

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