Here is a picture – sent to me by a pet food consumer – of what appears to be rocks/pebbles found in three separate cases (all different lot numbers) of Natural Balance Cat Food.   This has been reported to FDA, State Department of Agriculture, and Natural Balance.  As well, the consumer has shared what Natural Balance has told her and I had a couple of insiders look at the picture – here’s what they said too.

First the picture…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe objects on the left were described as soft/chewy when found in the can, they dried hard.  The objects on the right (two rows) were described as hard when found in the pet food.

This pet food consumer – that found the above in various cans/cases of Natural Balance Cat Food is located in North Carolina.  She shared that she found some of this material in the first case of canned Natural Balance Chicken and Liver Pate Formula Cat Food.  As directed by Natural Balance, she returned that case of food to the pet food store in exchange for another case.

Problem number 1.  Natural Balance and the pet food store (not identified) should know that FDA and Department of Agriculture cannot investigate a pet food problem if the ‘evidence’ is gone.  In my opinion, it should become regulation that pet food manufacturers and pet food retail outlets are required to give a consumer proper instruction to hold a product (pet food/treat) until a full investigation is performed.  The consumer should get a prompt refund, but law should require all commercial entities involved to participate in an investigation.

The consumer was also not instructed by Natural Balance or the pet food store to document the lot numbers and best by dates of this first case of pet food.

Problem number 2.  Similar to problem 1; without a consumer being given proper instruction by the manufacturer and the retail outlet – to document a potential adulterated pet food…how can a prompt recall (if necessary) occur?

The pet food consumer then was provided with a replacement case of pet food – same food (Natural Balance Chicken and Liver Pate Formula Cat Food can).  And she found similar hard rock like substances and chewy like substances in this case of cat food.  NBCCL  08:50 Best By Jul  22, 2016.

She then returned to the pet food store for yet another case of cat food – NBCCL  06:04 Best By Sep 22, 2016 – and found more chewy chunks and rock like pieces in even more cans.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture told the consumer “they didn’t have labs with the ability to test things but he would send out this report across NC to notify others and see if there were any other complaints”.  As well, NC Department of Agriculture told the consumer to ‘let him know if Natural Balance was not providing the information’ she needed.

Problem number 3.  I do not understand…how can a State can sell a product (earning income from sales tax), yet not provide the consumer with any type of protection that the product is safe.

Once, in a rather heated conversation with a State Department of Agriculture representative (different State), I was told that States don’t have the funding to investigate many problems – that some states have only two or three employees doing everything (meaning all approval of products for sale in the state and investigating all reports of problems – pet foods and animal foods).  I told this person…”well, if you don’t have the means to protect consumers, then you shouldn’t allow the products to be sold.”  And shockingly – this particular State Department of Agriculture representative told me it is the consumers responsibility – I was told “then people shouldn’t buy the products if they aren’t safe.”

Just yesterday I received the following update from this (wonderfully determined) pet food consumer…

“FDA finally called me on 1-15-14 and took down some information. I thanked her for getting back to me and she said they have so many complaints coming in each day. She told me that if I did not hear anything back from them in six months that I could throw the unopened cans out. She then asked me to please call her if I did hear anything back from Natural Balance and gave me her number.”

“NC Dept of Ag emailed me today 1-16-14 and said….
I spoke with the Customer Care center today at Natural Balance, and they are going to notify both you and I of the status and results of the sample.  Hopefully we will hear from them by next Monday. If not, please let me know and I will call them back.  Could you please confirm for me that you have sent the sample of product back to Natural Balance and on what day did you do so.  Thanks.”

And she told me…”As I was typing this I got a call from Stephanie at Natural Balance and she said they had received the pebbles that I sent and referred them on to their quality control department. She then started to tell me that birds sometimes eat pebbles when they pick for food and stopped and said, just a minute I will be right back. When she came back she just went on to, I should hear something back from them by the end of the month if not sooner. I said you were mentioning birds and she immediately said, that really is of no concern to our investigation and we just need to forget that comment and focus on our investigation instead. I pursued it and asked if bird stomachs were ground up in the cat food and she replied with we put muscle meat in our food, so I asked if the stomach was considered muscle meat and she answered yes. Then she said again that she had just mentioned birds to explain them which has no bearing on the investigation and that is what we need to focus on.”

More problems.

FDA stated “they have so many complaints coming in each day”?  Whether these complaints are people food or pet food, ‘so many complaints coming in each day’ is alarming.  Again, if FDA and States do not have the budget to properly investigate potentially dangerous foods (human or pet or animal) – why aren’t these people screaming to the media that this is a huge problem?  Why isn’t FDA and all States that don’t have employees to investigate and remove dangerous products from store shelves knocking on federal and state government’s door each day saying there is a problem?  Must we wait for another massive recall and countless pet deaths for any change to occur?

Natural Balance’s explanation that chickens eat rocks…is (so to speak) difficult to swallow.  Though perhaps Natural Balance sources chicken from free range birds that might be in a pasture that has pebbles on the ground…I personally find it unlikely.

I spoke with two insiders – showed them the picture.  One stated that the chewy chunks that dried later found in the food were – his guess – skin of an animal.  Referred to as ‘cracklin’.  This person also felt the other objects were indeed rocks (again, his guess).  The other insider felt the objects on the right side of the image were rocks too (his guess).  But his explanation of how this could occur is even more concerning.  I was told that truck drivers that haul ingredients to pet food manufacturers also haul other things…including gravel – in between their deliveries to the pet food company.  This insider shared that he’s seen gravel many times in pet food ingredients because many of the truck drivers don’t clean out their trailers from previous loads.

There must be a huge overhaul of pet food regulations.  Ingredient definitions need to be clearly defined to tell the consumer exactly what they are purchasing (as example – right now the definition of ‘chicken’ could mean nothing more than chicken skin and bone is in the pet food – no meat).  Regulations should require pet food manufacturers, veterinarians, and pet food retailers to assist a pet food consumer in properly reporting a tainted food or sick pet (due to a potential tainted food).  Pet food manufacturing safety requirements need a massive update that includes ingredient suppliers and those that transport ingredients.  Perhaps if stricter laws were in force – with financial penalties in place for those that violate the law – FDA and States wouldn’t feel such a burden to investigate reports of potential adulterated pet foods.  And just perhaps our pets would be a lot safer.

If you have not sent FDA your comments on the proposed pet food regulations that would (hopefully) improve current conditions – please do so.  You can learn more about how to do that Here.

My sincere thanks to this pet food consumer for sharing her story and her diligence to demand an investigation.  If/when more is learned – such as an explanation provided by Natural Balance – it will be shared.


Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
Association for Truth in Pet Food

What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients?  Chinese imports?  Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 2500 cat foods, dog foods,  and pet treats.  30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee.



2014 List
Susan’s List of trusted pet foods.  Click Here


Have you read Buyer Beware?  Click Here

Cooking for pets made easy, Dinner PAWsible

Find Healthy Pet Foods in Your Area Click Here