After contaminated pet foods killed more than 8,500 U.S. cats and dogs in 2007, the Food and Drug Administration and its federal and state health partners decided they needed improved vigilance in watching for defective products, and to communicate more effectively during outbreaks of foodborne illness affecting companion animals.


The result of their collaboration is PETNet — the Pet Event Tracking Network launched this week — which the FDA describes as “a secure, web-based information exchange system” for government officials to share information about pet-food related incidents and recalls.

According to the news release, the system will be used by PETNet members. They are about 200 officials from four federal agencies, 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, who are responsible for the regulation of pet food products and the investigation of disease outbreaks.

This is how the FDA says the system will work: “Members will enter ‘events’ into the system when they have identified a trend or a suspicious incident associated with pet food products, as well as pet food product defects within their own jurisdiction that should be communicated to their regulatory counterparts. Once entered on the standardized form, the information will be immediately available to all other PETNet members. This will enable PETNet members to track the emergence of such data and to evaluate the need for action within individual jurisdictions.”

PETNet was developed by the Partnership for Food Protection, a group formed in the aftermath of the massive 2007 melamine pet food illnesses and recall. Melamine, an industrial chemical that can artificially boost protein content, was found in pet food ingredients imported from China and linked to severe kidney damage in pets. In China, a melamine scandal involving dairy products and baby formula sickened 300,000 people and killed six infants.