Some Answers to two Pentobarbital Recalls
Two pet food recalls, same manufacturer, one manufactured in December 2015 – the other manufactured in June 2016, both recalled due to contamination of a lethal drug. There have been many misleading things said about these recalls. Let’s get some facts straight…
This recall was voluntary, right?
Yes, most pet food companies willingly recall a pet food when they learn the food is the cause of pet illness or death. But…the voluntary part is a little misleading.
In most cases for a pet food manufacturer to ‘voluntarily’ recall a pet food, the company has been provided with evidence their food is at fault – such as test results (examples: lab results the food is vitamin/mineral deficient/excess or lab results the food is contaminated with risky bacteria or drug). In most cases the evidence test results are provided to the company by a regulatory authority (FDA and/or State Department of Agriculture). The testing of the pet food could be from random testing by regulatory or it could be part of an investigation that was initiated by a consumer or veterinarian complaint. The pet food company is presented with the evidence and asked by FDA to voluntarily recall.
If a company doesn’t volunteer to recall their pet food, the outcome could be worse than a recall. Here are a couple of examples of what regulatory authorities have done when a company does not volunteer to recall…
In 2012 when Nature’s Deli Jerky treats refused to recall one batch of treats (other batches were recalled), FDA issued a press release stating “Do Not Feed Nature’s Deli Dog Jerky Treats“. In other words, the FDA forced the issue with a very public warning against the company. And notice the FDA didn’t warn about just the one un-recalled treat – their warning was against the entire company. If a company doesn’t volunteer, they are at risk of FDA wrath.
In 2008 the FDA inspected a Petco warehouse finding it infested with rodents and birds. Petco was asked to ‘voluntarily’ clean up the facility. A month later FDA returned finding the facility had not been properly cleaned. Next, the FDA obtained a warrant and sent in US Marshalls to seize all of the products in the warehouse. Again, FDA forced the issue when the company did not do as FDA requested.
So yes, recalls are stated as voluntary – but in most cases pet food companies are voluntarily recalling because the alternative is a worse outcome.
How do I know if my pet food was made at Evangers?
Evangers Pet Food co-packs (manufactures) for many private label brands. Consumers are fortunate in this instance that Evangers has a very unique lot code/date stamp; the information is printed on the can curved (instead of a straight line). Below is a picture of the curved stamp unique to Evangers manufactured pet food.
Evangers/Against the Grain meats are human grade, is the human food chain is at risk too?
First – because the Evangers/Against the Grain manufacturing facility is a pet food facility and not a human food facility, regulation does not allow the company to state ‘human grade’ on the label or the website (a company website is considered an extension of the label).
Regardless to regulation, the Evangers website states “Evanger’s utilizes human-grade USDA inspected meats” and the recall notice (first recall) stated “All Evanger’s suppliers of meat products are USDA approved. This beef supplier provides us with beef chunks from cows that are slaughtered in a USDA facility.” (The second recall – Against the Grain – did not make this claim.)
What some pet food companies do is source meat ‘from’ a USDA facility, but the meat was not processed under USDA inspection. Often these pet food companies tell unknowing consumers – ‘yes, our meat comes from USDA inspected facilities’. But…unless an animal is slaughtered and processed under constant USDA inspection, it is not deemed human edible/human grade. Meat coming from a USDA facility does not guarantee the consumer the meat is human grade. Some meat for pet food is processed after hours – after the USDA inspector has left the building. This meat comes from a USDA inspected facility, but the meat itself is not USDA inspected and approved. The meat processed after the USDA inspector left the facility could be sourced from healthy slaughtered animals or it could be sourced from animals that were rejected for use in human food. Only meat that is certified USDA inspected and approved is human grade/human edible.
Actually Evangers and Against the Grain could put consumers mind at ease themselves. The pet food company could post on their website copies of the bill of ladings or invoices to the meats they purchased – providing the proof that USDA inspected and approved meats were purchased. Until the public receives this proof, we speculate.
With certainty, if meat is/was sold labeled as USDA inspected and approved for human consumption that had not passed inspection, it would be recalled. As example – in 2014 nearly 9 million pounds of beef was recalled due to lack of full USDA inspection. Numerous similar recalls of human grade meats have occurred over the years. In other words, it is unlikely that a pentobarbital euthanized animal would ever enter the human food stream. If it did, for certain there would be a full USDA investigation and more than likely a USDA inspector would face criminal charges for allowing illegal product (and a very dangerous illegal product) into the market.
Does the FDA have sufficient regulation in place over euthanized animals in pet food?
Federal law – the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act – states a food is adulterated (illegal) if (in part) “(5) if it is, in whole or in part, the product of a diseased animal or of an animal which has died otherwise than by slaughter;” A euthanized animal IS an animal that has died otherwise than by slaughter – a euthanized animal in a pet food would make the pet food adulterated/illegal.
Federal law defines a food as: “(f) The term “food” means (1) articles used for food or drink for man or other animals, (2) chewing gum, and (3) articles used for components of any such article.” Pet food falls under the legal definition of food.
Yes, a pentobarbital laced meat in human or animal food – even the tiniest portion – is a direct and clear violation of federal law.
Even though federal law says no, FDA tells pet food manufacturers yes…FDA through use of Compliance Policies tells pet food manufacturers (specific to canned pet food) “Pet food consisting of material from diseased animals or animals which have died otherwise than by slaughter, which is in violation of 402(a)(5) will not ordinarily be actionable, if it is not otherwise in violation of the law. It will be considered fit for animal consumption.”
While we (consumers) challenge the legality of FDA Compliance Policies (click here and here to learn more of our fight with FDA), the FDA policy specific to canned pet food includes a very significant statement (bold added): “CVM will also consider regulatory action against canned pet food on the basis of use of decomposed animal tissues or use of tissues containing violative drug residues.” Pentobarbital is certainly a ‘violative drug residue’. FDA (illegally) allows pet food to source meat from animals that have died otherwise than by slaughter, but the agency does not allow ‘violative drug’ contaminated meat in pet food.
But FDA allows/allowed pentobarbital contaminated rendered meats, why are these canned pet food containing pentobarbital being recalled?
In 2002 the FDA published a stunning admission – dry dog foods do contain pentobarbital, do contain euthanized animals. The FDA report – Risk of Pentobarbital in Dry Dog Food – provided the following test results (dry dog food only): 44 of 90 dog foods tested positive for pentobarbital.
Almost 50% of the dog foods tested contained pentobarbital…
50% of the dog foods tested contained an illegal euthanized animal.
Almost as shocking as the results, the FDA decided that the levels of pentobarbital in the dry dog foods was not dangerous for pets to consume. “For the purposes of CVM’s assessment the scientists assumed that at most, dogs would be exposed to no more than 4 micrograms/kilogram body weight/day based on the highest level of pentobarbital found in the survey of dog foods. In reality, dogs are not likely to consume that much. Thus, the results of the assessment led CVM to conclude that it is highly unlikely a dog consuming dry dog food will experience any adverse effects from exposures to the low levels of pentobarbital found in CVM’s dog food surveys.”
As hard as it is to understand how the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) could tell consumers that their pet would not experience any ill effects from consuming a pet food sourced from euthanized animals…for the answer to why was the Evangers and Against the Grain canned pet foods recalled we have to look beyond this FDA absurdity. The answer – we can very safely assume – is the level of pentobarbital found in the canned pet food. The level of pentobarbital found in FDA testing of dry pet food was “low levels”, CVM felt there was no risk – there was no recall of these 44 dog foods. We can only assume that the level of pentobarbital in the canned Evangers and Against the Grain dog foods was higher. We will will have to wait for FDA to confirm this assumption.
Is this a meat supplier issue or a manufacturer issue?
It could be that the meat supplier provided Evangers with multiple shipments (one in 2015 and one in 2016) of pentobarbital contaminated meat from a euthanized animal – without Evangers knowledge. But…ultimate responsibility of a safe pet food lies with the manufacturer. A pet food manufacturer MUST dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ – with every single batch of pet food. They must know their suppliers intimately and they must check, double check and triple check the safety of their ingredients.
Evangers has claimed in a video statement to the public “we didn’t even know about pentobarbital until this past Sunday” (video published 2/7/17). If this statement is true, it shows this pet food company was not aware of a very well known risk; euthanized animal meat is very common to pet food (per FDA testing). If true, it also shows this pet food company trusted their meat supplier way too much – it shows they did not check, double check and triple check the safety and quality of their ingredients.
If the supplier misled Evangers – and this could be the case – the pet food company was still responsible for the quality/integrity of the meats purchased. Consumers need all pet food manufacturers to be diligent in sourcing safe, quality ingredients.
I’m sure I’m joined by many consumers starting to become impatient waiting for news from FDA on this issue. While we certainly want the FDA to perform a thorough investigation, we deserve some answers…and soon.
We also deserve some answers to our Citizen Petition sent to FDA on October 27, 2016 asking the agency to finally and completely put an end to diseased and non-slaughtered animals being processed into pet food/animal feed.
The FDA Compliance Policy on canned pet food states “the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is aware of no instances of disease or other hazard occurring from canned packing house offal or the tissues of animals that may have died otherwise than by slaughter.” Well FDA…you can’t make that claim anymore. Now you are aware of an instance of disease and serious hazard (the death of a little dog named Talula) from canned tissues of animals that died otherwise than by slaughter. FDA – end these ridiculous Compliance Policies and enforce the law. No pet…no animal…should be consuming the carcass of a euthanized animal.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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