If it is This Bad for Employees, What is it Doing to Pets?
The Centers for Disease Control just released a shocking report of the health risks to employees at a pet food plant in Missouri. Mention of dangers in grains (aflatoxins), flavor additives (diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedion), and pesticides (phosphine) to employees certainly makes one wonder…if the manufacturing of pet food is dangerous to employees, what does eating the pet food do to our pets? Is commercial pet food not nearly as safe as industry and regulatory authorities want us to believe?
Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) just released a startling report of employee health hazards in pet food manufacturing. This report titled “Evaluation of health concerns at a pet food manufacturing facility – Missouri” – looks at employee (bold added) “concerns about vomiting, seizures, and breathing difficulties, as well as problems with their kidneys and livers, possibly related to substances used in the manufacture of pet food and dog biscuits and/or possible phosphine exposure,…”
Though it is not specifically stated in the CDC report – it is assumed this report is based on conditions at the Mars Petcare plant in Joplin, Missouri that closed in summer of 2013; the report states numerous times of the plant closing and states the plant was located in Missouri. To my knowledge, this Mars Petcare plant is the only plant that closed in Missouri recently.
Quotes from this CDC report…
“In September 2012, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a confidential health hazard evaluation request from employees of a pet food manufacturing plant in Missouri. The requesters expressed concerns about vomiting, seizures, and breathing difficulties, as well as problems with their kidneys, livers, and lungs possibly related to substances used in the manufacture of pet food and dog biscuits and/or possible phosphine exposure, which is a fumigant applied to bulk materials prior to arriving at the facility.”
Note: Employees of this pet food plant suffered from “vomiting, seizures, and breathing difficulties, as well as problems with their kidneys, livers, and lungs possibly related to substances used in the manufacture of pet food and dog biscuits”. Who is looking at what the “substances used in the manufacture of pet food and dog biscuits” is doing to the dogs and cats eating these foods and biscuits?
“In the first half of 2012, this worker was evaluated seven times for chest pain or shortness of breath, with no cause identified. At the last of these evaluations, the chest x-ray showed abnormal thickening of the lining of the lungs, and a possible nodule, so the employee was referred for further evaluation, including a computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest. At this time, the employee was told to use a respirator at work but reported that the request was denied by the company.”
“The breathing tests indicated asthma or an asthma-like condition, and bronchodilators were recommended. On December 24, 2013, the physician indicated there was reasonable medical probability that the worker’s respiratory condition was due to his workplace exposures at the pet food manufacturing facility.”
“Approximately two-thirds of the workers interviewed reported symptoms they felt were work-related. Some reported respiratory symptoms (cough, sneezing) around mill room dust or ingredients (such as flour, potassium, sodium metabisulfate, Cat Trace, or gravy powder). Some workers reported that ingredients irritated their eyes or nose, worsened their allergies, or that they coughed up colored sputum or had nasal secretions that appeared to have dye colors used in manufacturing. We also heard the term “bag house flu,” described as a flu-like illness with achiness and sore throat, which some workers experienced when working in the bag house, and for which they occasionally pretreated themselves with over-the-counter medicine such as Advil® or Nyquil®.”
“A few workers mentioned work-related symptoms of fatigue, tiredness, light-headedness, dizziness, headache, stomach ache, nausea, and/or vomiting associated with being in the mill room or in the railcar/truck unloading area. The majority of the workers attributed these symptoms to phosphine, as workers felt symptoms were more common in the summer months and after the opening of railcars that had been fumigated. “
Note: Again, what about the pets that consume phosphine (pesticide)? Has there been a thorough investigation proving that any residue of the phosphine pesticide left in the pet food is safe for our pets to consume?
“Review of Company Phosphine Monitor Data
We reviewed the company’s phosphine gas monitor data collection sheets from August 4 to December 17, 2012. The personal phosphine monitors were set to alert at threshold levels of 0.2 ppm and 0.3 ppm (which corresponds to the time-weighted average OSHA PEL). From August 4 to October 29, 2012, personal phosphine monitor measurements ranged between 0 and 5.85 ppm. On two days, there was a personal monitoring reading of 5.85 ppm around the auger. One of the confirmatory Draeger tube measurements for these instances was 0. For the other 5.85 ppm alert, the Draeger tube measurement was not recorded; there was a comment on the log sheet that it took the supervisor 15 minutes to collect the confirmatory measurement.”
“Review of Company Mold Sampling Results
Results showed airborne mold concentrations exceeded the measurement range of the sampler on four days for a total of 26 out of 377 samples (6.9%). Among the four days, every location sampled had at least one result that exceeded the measurement range.”
Note: Mold “that exceeded the measurement range”? Who’s been testing pet foods for molds that could pose a serious risk to pets?
“In the face of these limitations of the walk-through and investigations to date, we felt that we needed to further evaluate this question of possible work-related disease by conducting population-based symptom questionnaire interviews and medical testing of the plant population to see if clustering existed by exposure categories. Unfortunately, we were not able to schedule this evaluation in the face of plant closure.”
Note: Hmmm…one does wonder if this plant closed because CDC wanted to “further evaluate” conditions and the health of employees of the plant or if the pet food plant closed due to “A Mars PetCare official says there’s simply been less demand in stores for dry dog food. The official says the market has shifted towards smaller dogs.”
“Serious attention should be given to environments that have the potential for mycotoxin-containing airborne particles. Although many reports of aflatoxin exposure have been associated with ingestion of food, evidence exists that airborne mycotoxins can also produce disease [Saad-Hussein et al. 2013; Autrup et al. 1993; Dvorackova and Pichova 1986].”
Note: How high of levels of mycotoxins were in the raw ingredients that would cause ‘airborne exposure’ to be detected at this plant – so much so that CDC asks for “serious attention” to be given? And once again, what about the exposure of mycotoxins in the pet foods and treats? What about the pets exposed to these deadly molds?
Elimination and Substitution”
(bold added) “Elimination and substitution of a toxic/hazardous process material have traditionally been highly effective means for reducing hazards. However, these may not be feasible approaches in this facility, because the potential hazards are inherent to the production of pet food. If sampling confirms elevated diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione when certain flavors are being used (such as hickory), and these chemicals are “naturally” produced, elimination of the flavoring may be considered.”
Note: “Potential hazards are inherent to the production of pet food.” Ugh.
This document has been forwarded to FDA (by me) in hopes that we can get some answers to what in the world really goes on behind closed doors in pet food manufacturing. Pet food consumers deserve to know. We deserve to be able to purchase safe, quality pet food for our furry family. It is very concerning that the health of employees of pet food manufacturing would be put at risk by simply working at a pet food plant – needless to say the concern we likely all share of the pets consuming these foods. The question remains…if there is this significant risk to employees of pet food manufacturing – what is pet food doing to the pets that consume the foods day in and day out?
When more is learned about this situation and/or the potential of similar conditions at other pet food manufacturing facilities – of course I will share with all of you as soon as I can (and I intend to be asking a lot of questions about this!). To read the full CDC report (recommended) Click Here.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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