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How to File a Complaint About a Pet Food

If pets appear to be sick, pet owners should immediately seek veterinary care and advice for sick pets before doing anything else. 


AAFCO and its members as feed control officials are not practicing veterinarians. AAFCO does not provide veterinary medical advice or recommendations of any type.


After a pet has received treatment, the pet owner may wish to file a complaint if they suspect that a pet food has negatively affected their pet’s health or was otherwise adulterated or misbranded. The pet owner may also choose to file a complaint if they suspect handling a pet food product has hurt a human’s health.


Complaint actions can help regulating authorities’ find problems they wouldn’t have found otherwise and can prevent other pets and owners from becoming affected.


The effectiveness of a complaint is directly related to documentation of evidence supporting the complaint and proper complaint processing. 


Where to File Complaints

To file a complaint, a person should contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or individual state feed-control programs. (There are a couple additional routes to go for help, but the correct regulatory authority has the ability to apply law and rule to investigate and correct adulteration and misbranding.)


Due to pet food manufacturing and distribution processes, it is almost certain that the FDA’s interstate authority covers a commercial pet food. State feed control programs, usually administered under a state’s department of agriculture, specifically address animal feed (including pet foods) distributed within their borders.


Steps to Take

1.    Gather materials and information.

The FDA and state feed control officials will want specific information for their investigations. They will probably need specific information about:

·         The food

o   type (dry, canned or frozen) 

o   brand name

o   specified variety (such as "puppy formula" or "chicken recipe") 

o   size of the package

o   manufacturer

o   best-by date

o   any other production codes stamped on the label

o   retailer it was bought from

o   appearance (such as foul odor or visible mold)

o   container condition (signs of damage)

(It is best if you can still access the original product and container.)

·         The pet

o   age, breed and sex

o   medical conditions and medications

o   housed indoors or outdoors

o   normal diet, including treats and supplements

o   other pets and whether they seem to be affected

·         The problem

o   first signs of a problem

o   symptoms

o   when problems began in relation to last feeding of suspect product

o   owner response/veterinary treatment


2.    Contact the FDA.

The FDA’s district offices are responsible for regional inspection and investigation. Each district office covers several states.


Begin on this page of the FDA’s site, which includes an accurate and thorough list of documentation to have available for filing any pet food-related complaint.


This page offers two options: “Safety Reporting Portal,” which is where the electronic complaint filing options can be accessed, and “FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators,” where contact information for the correct consumer complaint coordinators can be found by location. 


(A word to the wise regarding the Safety Reporting Portal: After entering, users should be careful to select the correct option, “Pet Food Report: A consumer or concerned citizen who is submitting a product problem and/or adverse event report involving a pet food.”  Other options lead users to areas intended for veterinarians and businesses.)


3.    Contact the state feed program.

Individual states each have separate budgets, unique priorities and capabilities and varying ability to investigate pet food complaints. Some states have very good pet food programs and, in many cases, can respond much more quickly than an FDA office.  To find state feed program contacts, click here.



Other Approaches

Contacting the store where the product was bought and the guarantor could help pet owners glean information, especially if other customers have had similar experiences.


The guarantor, as the responsible party for the food, has a vested concern in protecting their interests. If by chance the guarantor requested to be sent the product, documentation and container, the pet owner may be giving up evidence useful to a regulator in determining if the problem is related to pet food.