ABSTRACT. One way in which pets are potentially vulnerable is through the food they consume. Pet food is big business in the United States where over 82.5 million households own at least one pet and pet food sales should exceed $22.6 billion in 2014. The overwhelming majority of pets are fed food purchased from a store, and when that pet food is adulterated both pets and their owners suffer. In 2007 contaminated pet food led to the deaths of thousands of cats and dogs in the U.S. and triggered the largest pet food recall in history, as well as contributing to public pressure for the government to improve overall food safety. Congress responded by adopting the Food Safety Modernization Act, which addressed several regulatory shortcomings in the law governing food safety. In the litigation arena, class action litigation arising out of the 2007 recall provided pet owners with a very modest recovery for their economic damages while denying those owners any recovery for the emotional distress and loss of companionship arising out of the deaths of their pets. Consequently, pet owners remain fearful of feeding their pets adulterated pet food and frustrated by the lack of any just damage awards for their noneconomic losses under current state and federal law. Congress should respond to this injustice by amending the federal law to provide pet owners with a private right of action against companies that violate the food safety law. If there is meaningful exposure to liability, manufacturers and marketers will have incentive to strengthen their own safety protocols. Further, Congress should strengthen the regulatory structure by amending the current law in several respects and, most importantly, by adequately funding the Food and Drug Administration so it has adequate resources to meet its mandate regarding food safety. pp. 17–39

Keywords: pet food recalls; regulation; product recalls; value of pets

How to cite: Fox, Mark A., and Robert Kenagy (2015), "Commercial Pet Food Recalls: Incentives to Improve Pet Food Safety," Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 7(2): 17–39.

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Judd Leighton School of Business & Economics,
Indiana University South Bend, United States
Judd Leighton School of Business & Economics,
Indiana University South Bend, United States

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