We who are about to call the FDA about a pet food recall issue blog for you

November 9, 2009 at 12:41 pm Leave a comment


In case you’ve been under an Internet rock, you might have missed the news that the FDA has issued an alert about Vetsulin, an insulin product for diabetic dogs and cats, warning that is formulation may be incorrect and it might thus fail to act correctly in patients who are using it — which in the case of diabetes is not a minor problem.

The short version: If you’re using it, call your vet. She might not actually know about the alert yet, so if you’re the first to tell her, you might want to have the alert handy, as well as this FAQ from the drug’s manufacturer, BigPharma giant Intervet/Schering-Plough.

So, I was mulling over the wording of the alert when an email popped into my inbox, cc’d to Marion Nestle. It was a reader, asking if either of us had any thoughts on the fact that Wysong Pet Food is saying that they didn’t issue an press release about their ongoing pet food recall because “the matter was of small enough consequence that we have even been told by the FDA that a news release is not necessary.”

Huh, I thought. Good question.

That was on Saturday, and I figured that Monday morning I’d talk to the FDA and see if that’s true. And then reality, in the guise of a “wake up and smell the coffee!” note from Marion, reminded me that getting comments from the FDA is getting to be right up there with getting them from, well… industry.

Worse, actually, because sometimes industry will actually talk to you. FDA? Not so much.

It’s not just us pet food junkies getting the cold shoulder. From the Society of Professional Journalists:

The Association of Health Care Journalists and SPJ are fed up with federal agencies’ use of public information officers to chill the flow of information. The two groups sent a letter this week to the FDA urging the agency to stop requiring interviews between reporters and government employees to be approved by PIOs and attended by PIOs.

This practice has become widespread throughout all levels of government, and it needs to stop. While PIOs play an important role in answering questions and facilitating interviews, they are hampering the flow of information when acting as delaying middle-men or go-betweens. Having information transmitted through a middle person is hearsay and fraught with accuracy problems – a disservice to the public.

If you cover an agency that practices this form of information control, don’t put up with it. Request that the higher-ups put an end to it. And if they don’t see the importance of direct communication, then circumvent the Big Brother channels and talk to people directly, as journalists must do to ensure accuracy. It’s our duty to get it right.

So wish me luck as I call a government agency and attempt to pry information out of it without having to file a Freedom of Information Act request.

Although, on the other hand, that’s not actually a terrible idea…


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