In 2012 Mars Petcare sold $16,650,000,000.00 worth of pet food. A lot of other things happened in 2012 too, apparent attempts to protect that $16 billion dollar a year income. TAPF has obtained thousands of pages of government records disclosing inside information regarding the Mars Petcare plant in Joplin, MO. Here are some snippets from those documents.
In August of 2012, employees of the Mars Petcare plant in Joplin, MO filed a lawsuit against their employer. Many employees of the pet food plant told me the lawsuit had to happen, because not one government authority protected them, not one government authority protected the pets from the pet food. After four long years, the lawsuit was set to go to trial in January 2017. Then the case was suddenly settled in late December 2016 – weeks prior to trial. Telling evidence against Mars Petcare was sealed in that settlement. But…not everything was sealed.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides the opportunity for any individual to request correspondence, documents, evidence from a government entity. FOIA requests were sent to Missouri Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for any and all correspondence, documents, evidence relating to the Mars Petcare plant in Joplin, MO. After months of waiting, documents have finally been received, thousands of pages worth.
This is a very detailed story. Some agencies heavily redacted the information provided, others did not. In other words, this is a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces blank. As pieces are put together, they will be shared. It is unknown at this time how many parts/pieces to this story there will be.
Note to the individual(s) who have threatened others and myself for years: be aware that the documents I have received are public information provided to me within full provision of law. Any future threats, texts, spying will be reported to authorities and will be fully disclosed to pet food consumers.
Documents show sick pets were reported to authorities regarding the pet food manufactured at this Mars Petcare plant; it is unknown how many pets became ill or died. It is well documented that many employees of the pet food plant and subcontractor employees have suffered serious health consequences including heart disease, lung disease, and cancer. At least one former employee (to my knowledge) has died (liver cancer). Multiple former employees and subcontractor employees have shared that area doctors will no longer treat them – outright refusing patients who used to work for Mars. One former employee – now too sick to work (lung disease) shared when he recently went to a new doctor, at the first meeting the doctor entered the room and said “Did you work at the Mars plant, because I can’t get involved in that.” The former employee lied – he told the doctor “No, I didn’t work there” in order to receive treatment.
This pet food plant closed in June of 2013. Mars Petcare told KOAM TV of Joplin, MO the pet food plant closed because “there’s simply been less demand in stores for dry dog food. The official says the market has shifted towards smaller dogs.”
But records obtained tell a different story.
In September 2012 – less than 9 months prior to plant closing – the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a “confidential health hazard evaluation request from employees of Mars PetCare in Joplin, Missouri. The requestors expressed concerns about vomiting, seizures, and breathing as well as problems with kidneys, liver, and lungs related to substances used in the manufacture of pet food and dog biscuits.”
Per hand written notes received through Freedom of Information Act request, NOISH had serious concerns regarding this pet food plant:
“Most of people working in mill room are sick – 6-7 sick.
2 full time employees + 1 temporary times 3 per shift.”
With regards to phosphine (pesticide commonly used to kill insects and rodents on grains and meat meal ingredients of pet food), NIOSH research notes stated:
“Slightly heavier than air.
Phosphine – recover or die.
No antidote – only fresh air.
Nausea, sweat, flu like symptoms, CV collapse, breathing problems.”
NIOSH held a phone conference meeting with Mars Petcare lawyers Mark Anstoetter and Pat Fanning on October 19, 2012 requesting an inspection of the pet food plant as well as requesting to interview employees. Dates offered for inspection by the Mars lawyers during that meeting were November 2, November 13, 14, and/or November 31. The inspection was delayed until December 17 – 19, 2012.
From the October 19, 2012 meeting notes – Mars attorney Mark Anstoetter told NIOSH:
“Don’t add it. Not in raw ingredients.”
However NIOSH did find diacetyl in the pet food plant. “We found that one of the ingredients used at the facility that we sampled had the potential to release diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione into the air under certain circumstances.” (Quote from NIOSH final report linked at the bottom of this post.) Diacetyl is a flavor additive linked to serious lung disease (popcorn lung).
NIOSH notes dated November 5, 2012:
“Prior to inspections – shut down and clean everything.
Sometimes not even running when inspector comes through.
Very seldom was plant ever running when inspector at plant.”
And just as they were told, cleaning of the pet food plant began about 1 month in advance of NIOSH’s arrival at the plant (inspection to begin December 17, 2012). (Less than 7 months prior to closing, the plant was producing pet food 24/7.)
“November 15, 2012.
Mars announced that they will be running 7 days per week now.
Holiday party cancelled.
People will work 13 days/1 off.
No new hiring.
People are getting called in early to clean.
Normal work hours 11 PM, come in at 7 PM or stay over to help temporary workers clean.
Get paid overtime, but can’t say no.”
NOISH performed their plant inspection, sampling tests and employee interviews December 17 – 19, 2012. On February 13, 2013, NIOSH provided Mars Petcare and their attorneys with “Interim Letter 1”. The letter from NIOSH to Mars went over various concerns including the risk to employees of phosphine poisoning (Phosphine is a commonly used pesticide to kill bugs and rodents on grains and meat meal ingredients.) Company records provided to NIOSH showed “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.” Note: personal phosphine monitors worn by some employees were set to alarm at 0.2 ppm. A reading of “5.85 ppm” inside the plant would certainly put employees at risk for exposure to a deadly poison.
The same February 13, 2013 Interim Letter 1 from NIOSH requested Mars to place “copies of this letter be posted in a prominent place accessible to the employees for a period of 30 calendar days.” This was requested to warn/alert employees to NIOSH findings. But per internal emails from NIOSH, Mars Petcare did not comply:
A meeting was held between NIOSH and Mars Petcare on “Friday, May 17, 2013 at 1400”. On the call for Mars was “Mark Anstoetter, Attorney, Shook Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P.” and “Robert Arnold Plant Manager, Mars PetCare, Joplin, Missouri.”
NIOSH records documenting the meeting state: “1) First we discussed the absentee data.”
“2) After this, we discussed our desire to return to complete a medical survey. We mentioned the high percentage of workers interviewed during the site visit who complained of pulmonary symptoms, allergic symptoms, and GI problems (44%, 33%, and 28% respectively).”
“3) Mark (Anstoetter – Mars attorney) stated that he was surprised and saw no evidence to support our desire to return. He stated that continuing this investigation would be “abusive” to the company.”
“7) Mark stated that he did not feel the company should have to be investigated further, and implied that [redacted]. He furthermore said that he could not consent to further follow-up. In light of the fact that the litigants are filing for health concerns, Mars insists that no further data collection is necessary and believes it will only intervene with the case.”
The above meeting when Mars refused to give consent for medical survey on their employees was May 17, 2013. It was just a matter of time that Mars would have been forced to consent to NIOSH medical survey of employees (cannot legally be refused).
On June 3, 2013 – two weeks later – Mars Petcare announced to employees that the Joplin pet food plant was closing that day – no advance warning was given to employees. On that same day – June 3, 2013 – employees of the pet food plant were offered a 6 month pay severance package – in exchange for their signature on a document releasing Mars from any future health claims against the company.
November 15, 2012 – production of pet food was 3 shifts 7 days a week.
December 17 – 19, 2012 – NIOSH inspects plant, performs testing and interviews employees.
February 13, 2013 – NIOSH sent response letter to Mars regarding inspection highlighting serious concerns with pesticide use (phosphine). NIOSH requests Mars to post “several copies” of this letter in prominent places to alert employees of their findings.
March 5, 2013 – Mars refuses to post NIOSH response letter to warn/alert employees.
May 17, 2013 – Phone meeting with Mars attorney – refuses to allow follow up medical survey’s of employees.
June 3, 2013 – Mars closes the plant with no warning to employees. Employees are forced to sign a health claims release in order to receive severance package.
June 4, 2013 – Mars tells media plant closed due to “less demand in stores for dry dog food“.
NIOSH could have/should have returned to Joplin, MO to do the medical survey on employees even after the plant closed. Data could have been collected from these recently laid off pet food employees that could have helped these people obtain treatment for their own illnesses – as well as help to prevent employee illness in many other pet food manufacturing plants. But that did not happen. Plant closed, the investigation ended.
NIOSH published a final report on the inspection – Click Here to read that document.
The above is just a few pieces of more than 1,000 pages received from one government agency (NIOSH). Many more pages to piece together, 3 other government agency documents to go through. Numerous former employees (not part of the lawsuit) and witnesses are helping me put the pieces together. More soon.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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