By Lisa Wade McCormick

May 25, 2010
Consumers can now report safety problems and concerns about human and pet food on a new website launched by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Consumers, manufacturers, researchers, and public health officials can also file reports about animal drugs and adverse events during human gene transfer trials on the government's new Safety Reporting Portal (SRP).

The website is designed to streamline the process of reporting safety concerns with food, medicine, and other consumer goods to the government before and after the products hit the market, the FDA said.

"The portal will be a key detection tool in improving the country's nationwide surveillance system and will strengthen our ability to protect the nation's health," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg. "We will now be able to analyze human and animal safety-related events more quickly and identify those measures needed to protect the public."

Where and how to report

The Web site's four reporting areas are:

• Pet food and treats: Pet owners and veterinarians can file complaints about adverse reactions to these products. "Consumers often transfer dry pet food into other containers for easier handling," the FDA said. "If possible, please save the original packaging until the pet food has been consumed. The packaging contains important information often needed to identify the variety of pet food, the manufacturing plant, and the production date." That information includes the product's lot number, which is stamped on the package and includes a combination of letters and numbers, the best by and expiration date, and the UPC or bar code;

• Reportable Food Registry: Food industry and public health officials can submit reports that are required by law. These reports include problems with food and animal feed that present a "reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals," the FDA said;

• Animal drugs: Animal drug manufacturers can report adverse reactions and events associated with their products;

• Clinical Trials: Biomedical researchers involved in human gene transfer clinical trials can report adverse events, indicating any "unanticipated consequences" of the products being tested. Trial sponsors can also use the Web site to prepare reports and send them the agency to satisfy the reporting requirements for investigational new drugs, the FDA said.

The FDA called the Web site "a first step" toward a common electronic reporting system that will ultimately offer one-stop shopping and a place where consumers can file a single report with multiple agencies that may have an interest in the event.

Until then, the Web site will redirect consumers who want to file reports about other products regulated by FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, or the Consumer Product Safety Commission to appropriate agency or department.

For example, consumers who want to file a complaint about restaurant food or sanitation are now linked to their local or state health department. And pet owners with concerns about flea and tick product are redirected to the EPA's website.