Cleveland.com is reporting that the recent Iams/Eukanuba recall was due to equipment failure. An insider shares equipment operators at pet food plants fail when they don’t notice a problem. Failures in pet food manufacturing hurts everyone.
Jason Taylor, Iams/Eukanuba spokesperson told Cleveland.com “the recall stemmed from the company’s discovery of a malfunctioning seal on a piece of equipment called an “extruder” at a plant in Henderson, North Carolina. The extruder cooks the kibble and kills bacteria in the meat, Taylor said, and when the seal failed the food may not have been fully cooked.”
Mr. Taylor said this particular Iams/Eukanuba plant has not had any problems in three years – and the “malfunctioning seal” on the extruder was found by company inspections.
An extruder is the equipment used to make kibble. It is a type of pressure cooker which involves high pressure and steam to cook pet food. Why did no one notice a bad seal in the extruder?
Have you ever had to change a seal in anything? As example, the washer in your garden hose. When the seal is worn or damaged, the hose leaks. In other words, you know when the seal is bad…especially with a high pressure nozzle on the hose; the pressure causes the damaged washer (seal) to leak. So…why didn’t anyone at the Iams/Eukanuba plant notice a leaky seal with a piece of equipment that is high pressure?
I spoke with a pet food industry insider whose job it is to operate an extruder. This insider explained to me there are two seals on an extruder. He shared that if one seal malfunctioned, it could leak oil into the pet food. If the other seal malfunctioned, it would cause the pet food to cook improperly. I asked if the equipment would leak steam or if it would be apparent there is a problem with a seal. He stated ‘the guy operating the equipment should have known – it operates differently when something is wrong’.
The recalled pet foods from Iams and Eukanuba were manufactured over a ten day period; best by dates from November 6 through 14, 2014. Iams/Eukanuba ‘best by’ dates are 16 months past the date of manufacture. This would mean the recalled pet foods were manufactured July 6 through July 14, 2013. However the recall was not announced until one month later – August 14, 2013. If the malfunctioning seal was found by “company inspection” as Mr. Taylor told Cleveland.com, why did it take one month to recall the products?
The Eukanuba website states “We implement a 7-point microbial mitigation program. 100% of released finished product lots are safe and comply with specifications.” Is salmonella testing part of this 7-point program? If it is, how did multiple batches of pet foods manufactured over ten days fail this safety system?
Iams/Eukanuba spokesperson Jason Taylor spoke with me at length (8/27/13). He was unable to answer questions about why the extruder operator did not notice a problem – he stated he wasn’t familiar enough with the equipment to answer this. But he did share that this particular extruder was “down” the entire month of June for maintenance. When production started back, in house testing (between July 6th and July 14th) showed some batches of pet food “to have the potential for salmonella” and others did not. He stated that out of precaution the company recalled all production runs that could have any possibility of contamination.
As I understand it, in house (Iams/Eukanuba own laboratory) testing found the problem and then the company recalled the pet foods. Iams/Eukanuba informed FDA of the problem (not vice versa as with some recalls). And Mr. Taylor stated that not all of the products recalled were distributed to store shelves.
Certainly – Iams/Eukanuba did the right thing by recalling the product. But…the fact remains, some of that pet food was on store shelves and it was not as their 7-point microbial mitigation program states…”100% of released finished product lots are safe and comply with specifications.”
One more thing about this recent Iams/Eukanuba recall…
Iams/Eukanuba representative Heather Wilkins sent friend and fellow pet food safety advocate Mollie Morrissette a rather strong-arm email asking her to change her notice of the Iams/Eukanuba recall. Mollie’s response to them…
Dear Ms. Wilkins:
Thank you for your observation.
Although, I am puzzled because I did not find any “errors” in my article regarding the recall on August 14 of more than 120 lots of Iams and Eukanuba brand cat and dog foods.
Nor, as you suggest, was my article meant to “mislead” my readers – I simply chose not to include the terms used in P&G’s press release. I feel terms such as “voluntary recall”, “limited quantity”, “potential to be contaminated” and “possible health risk” are used to minimize the negative impact recalls have on consumer perceptions.
Whether the recall was voluntary or mandatory is irrelevant to my readers.
I found several inaccuracies in P&G’s press release and media statements regarding the recall.
First, there have been reported illnesses associated with the recalled food. Further, due to the time involved in tracing illnesses back to specific food products, it is impossible to say whether or not any humans or animals have fallen ill. Jason Taylor, a P&G spokesperson, said regarding reported illnesses: “There have been calls and we’ll certainly investigate all those cases to make sure our product is not involved.”
Second, in order to determine what to recall P&G would have had to have know precisely when the seal on that piece of equipment on the extruder began to malfunction. Otherwise, how did P&G know what production dates were affected and that contamination occurred only during a 10 day period?
Third, since the FDA has a strict “zero-tolerance” policy for Salmonella contaminated food, the recall was a necessity and it is disingenuous to describe the recall as “voluntary” when the law states that a food that is contaminated with Salmonella is adulterated.
Meanwhile, I feel comfortable with my article as it stands, and since I found no errors I have no plans to alter it as you have suggested.
It is a huge failure when there is a pet food recall – regardless of the reason. It is a failure when manufacturers are not immediately upfront to the cause of a recall and try to minimize the severity. It is a failure (and an insult) to consumers when pet food companies continue to claim ‘no pets have become ill’.
It is so simple…all consumers want is the truth.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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