My wife spoke with an AP reporter yesterday about the food recall. One question the reporter asked was whether the state veterinarians had asked local veterinarians to send in data on pets affected by the recall. Oregon’s state veterinarian has been collecting data in his state and released numbers earlier this week.
The reporter’s question got catmanager wondering about how the state veterinarians and state veterinary medical associations had responded to the pet food recall.
What I discovered was disappointing and might go a long way toward explaining why it’s been so hard to get official numbers: almost none of the states seem to want to collect the information (or if they do, they’re making it darned difficult to find out how and to whom to report data). I know Gina and the crew at Pet Connection have proposed a national, centralized system to which veterinarians could submit morbidity and mortality data during crises like the current one. This is a wonderful, long-overdue idea, and I urge pet owners to press the idea on their congressmen and -women. I also urge them to agitate at the state level. I see no reason why the states cannot develop their own reporting structures (perhaps in conjunction with the federal government). Doing so will allow local information to be disseminated more quickly (rather than waiting for the federal government to disaggregate data from around the country, states could release their own data) and will give states the information needed to more effectively manage crises like the present one. If you’re concerned about how the pet food recall has been handled, don’t forget to work for change at the local level as well as the national.
Before jumping into the results of my canvassing, some caveats:
- Catmanager is not a member of any of the state veterinary medical associations. So I was unable to access the members-only sections of their Web sites. Sites that had no publicly available information about the recall might still have information that is only available to the members.
- Also, although I have not heard reports of this happening, it is possible that some (or even all) state VMAs have contacted their members via e-mail, fax, or phone to alert them about the recall.
- In most states the state veterinarian is a position within the department of agriculture. Not all states have Web pages specifically for the office of state veterinarian. I’ve done my best to identify the appropriate Web sites for all the state veterinarians, but I might have missed some and thus missed information about the recall on their Web site.
- Furthermore, in many cases the state veterinarian’s primary responsibility is for food animals. Because of this, some might have deemed the pet food recall to be outside their purview and thus have made a conscious decision not to post information about it.
With caveats out of the way, onward to the data! As of 27 March,
- 24 state VMAs plus the Puerto Rico VMA provided (publicly accessible) information about the recall on their Web sites.
- Of these, 16 included only links to other sites (typically the AVMA, Menu Foods, and the FDA); and 8 included at least some original content, such as a summary of the recall or a press release generated by the VMA.
- In catmanager’s opinion, the Georgia and Oregon VMAs have done the best job of providing information to the public.
- 15 of the 50 state veterinarian Web sites (including Web sites of departments that comprise state veterinarians’s offices) provide publicly available information about the recall.
- 1 (Connecticut) addresses the need for the state veterinarian to work closely with the state VMA during the crisis
- Only 3 (4 if you count Connecticut) discuss what the state is doing to respond to the crisis (in each case: spot checking retailers to make sure they’ve pulled the recalled pet food; in the case of Georgia: also conducting lab testing of the recalled food)
- 1 state (Vermont) asks veterinarians to report deaths and illnesses that they suspect are related to recalled food. (We know that Oregon has been collecting this data, but I couldn’t find on the Oregon state Web site where they invite veterinarians to submit data.
The table that follows lists all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. From the left, the columns indicate state; whether I found publicly available information about the recall on the state VMA’s Web site; any comments I wanted to make about the state VMA’s Web site; whether I found information about the recall on the state veterinarian’s Web site (or the department or agency to which the state veterinarian’s office belongs); and any comments I wanted to make about the state vet’s Web site. To check out the state VMA Web sites, go here. To check out the state veterinarian Web sites, go here.
|State||VMA mentions recall||Notes||State vet mentions recall||Notes|
|Ak.||?||no Web site||no|
|Ariz.||yes||links to information elsewhere||no|
|Cal.||yes||links to information elsewhere, plus a client information sheet created by the CVMA and a fact sheet for veterinarians supplied by Iams||no|
|Col.||yes||links to information elsewhere||no|
|Conn.||yes||links to AVMA advice to pet owners||yes||press release urging pet owners to check their pets’ food and the Dept of Ag to work closely w/CVMA to ensure the public is getting “accurate information” about the recall|
|Fl.||yes||press release and links to information elsewhere||no|
|Geo.||yes||information for pet owners on main page; FAQ for pet owners; information for member veterinarians (not publicly accessible); one of the better responses||yes||a couple of hard-to-find press releases: one notes the state lab will be testing samples and inspectors will be checking that retailers comply with the recall|
|Ill.||Update, 3/28: Now recommends AVMA main page for info.||no|
|Ind.||yes||links to information elsewhere||no|
|Iowa||yes||information for pet owners (from AVMA); information for member veterinarians (not publicly accessible)||no|
|Kan.||yes||information from AVMA||no|
|Ken.||yes||links to AVMA||no|
|La.||yes||three press releases in .doc format||yes||press release on main Dept. of Ag and Forestry site|
|Md.||yes||mostly information for pet owners (from AVMA)||no|
|Mass.||yes||links to information elsewhere||yes||link to PDF|
|Mich.||yes||several documents in .doc format; links to information elsewhere||no|
|Minn.||yes||“Information about Dog Food Recall” (which links to the original FDA press release)||no|
|Miss.||unknown||no Web site||no|
|Mo.||yes||links to AVMA||no|
|Neb.||yes||brief description on Web site; links to information elsewhere||no|
|N.J.||yes||links to FAQ in .doc format (same as La.)||yes||reprints FDA’s original news release|
|N.Y.||no||no publicly available information; possibly information available for members only||yes||press release announcing discovery of toxin (seems to be the only mention)|
|N.C.||no||yes||on main Dept. of Ag page|
|Ohio||no||yes||on main Dept. of Ag page (link to Menu Foods)|
|Okla.||yes||links to information elsewhere||no|
|Ore.||yes||plenty of information, most on the site; one of the best||yes||link to FDA’s original press release|
|Penn.||Update, 3/28: Now has page dedicated to recall information, including alerts sent to PVMA members and links to information elsewhere. One of the better state VMA responses.||yes||press release and links to information elsewhere|
|P.R.||yes||links to Menu Foods||?||no Web site|
|R.I.||yes||links to AVMA press releases; site mentions only the Iams and Eukanuba recall||yes||press release (notes officials will be spot checking retail outlets for compliance with recall); links to FDA, Menu|
|S.C.||yes||links to information elsewhere (link to VIN actually goes to the Veterinary News Network)||no|
|Texas||yes||links to AVMA and Menu Foods||no|
|Vt.||no||yes||press releases on main Agency of Ag page; one asks vets to report deaths and notes inspectors have been checking retailers for compliance with the recall|
|Wash.||yes||press release; links to information elsewhere||yes||overview (written for pet owners) and links to information elsewhere|
|W.V.||no||yes||press release on main Dept of Ag page|
|Wisc.||no||information might be available in members-only section||yes||info on main Dept. of Ag page with more info here, including links and advice for pet owners, vets, and retailers [This is the most informative state vet site I found.]|