PetFAST: A pet-first approach to food safety

We all feed our pets the best food we can for good reason: to fulfill their daily needs and safeguard their health. But what happens on occasions when things go wrong, and their health suffers? Who is accountable?

This is where PetFAST helps.

What is PetFAST?

PetFAST is a joint initiative of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA). This means that the voice of all vets in Australia is combined with the voice of the companies responsible for much of the food that feeds the dogs and cats of Australia. Both groups take responsibility and have representatives in the PetFAST team, who oversee an early warning system for adverse events which are suspected to be associated with the feeding of pet foods.

A suspected adverse event can be described as an event where an unintended consequence, which may be mild, moderate or severe, may be linked to pet food. Whether it be biscuits or kibble, wet foods, liquid foods, raw food, supplements or treats – all types of food are tracked in the PetFAST system, which collects reports submitted by veterinarians across Australia.

The PetFAST team collects the details of a suspected adverse event in a confidential manner, investigating independently, recognising any trends in reporting, and can recommend product withdrawals and recalls where necessary.

Veterinarians are critical to the PetFAST system, as their expertise is needed to recognise the adverse effect on pet health, to quantify the extent of any illness, and to conduct any diagnostic tests. Vets who submit a PetFAST report will be able to give objective information regarding the pet, they will help map out their dietary history and give a clinical opinion on the potential connection to the pet food. A veterinarian’s medical experience combined with their knowledge of a pet’s history is a key factor in the PetFAST process.

What PetFAST isn’t

PetFAST is a veterinary reporting system and it is not a portal for pet owners to log complaints and pet food issues. Responsible pet food manufacturers should be the first contact point for complaints and feedback, and the contact details of the manufacturer or distributor should be on the packaging.

PetFAST focuses on the health of pets as a priority and the investigation of any suspected link with pet food. By submitting a report the vet and the PetFAST team work together to investigate. A PetFAST report is not evidence of a causal link, but a call-to-action to investigate.

So, what should pet owners do?

If you’re an owner and your pet is unwell, always take your pet to your veterinarian to be assessed. Here are some tips to help you make this decision.

If you suspect your pet’s illness may be linked pet food, remember to take all relevant details to your visit, including the product name and brand, batch and best before details (usually a string of numbers and letters printed on the back).  It’s useful to note the details of all other foods that your pet has consumed should be included. Sometimes taking the bags to the vets can often help too. Keep any remaining food, as this may be needed for testing purposes.

Feel free to mention the PetFAST process to your vet, who will likely know of it, and submit a report if they suspect a link to pet food.

What can veterinarians do?

Veterinarians assessing a cat or dog who they suspect has an adverse effect to pet food, should submit a PetFAST report. Details of the information needed to complete a report can be found here.

What is expected of pet food businesses?

PFIAA members are required to respond to and investigate a PetFAST Report as part of their Audit Program. Non-members responsible for the manufacture and/or marketing of a pet food are asked to investigate all PetFAST reports and respond to the PetFAST Team. PFIAA members would like to see regulation that would ensure all companies in the pet food industry comply.

The PetFAST System is an important tool to safeguard the health and wellbeing of Australia’s pets. It’s a confidential and co-operative approach which combines the expertise of vets, industry experts, manufacturers, who pool their nutritional know-how to ‘do what’s best’ for pets.

Another useful article for pet owners can be found here.

Further details on standard pet food safety measures taken by manufacturers can be found here.

For more information specifically about PetFAST, FAQs can be found here.