FDA warned Mars Petcare a roach infested pet food plant is a “regulatory violation”, but then the agency just walked away taking no enforcement action.
One year ago (7/11/2017 through 7/26/2017), the FDA inspected a Mars Petcare manufacturing facility in Columbus, Ohio as follow up to a Mars Cesar dog food recall that occured 9 months prior. The Cesar recall only covered two lot codes of the dog food. This pet food plant manufactured multiple brands of wet pet food for Mars; Pedigree, Cesar, Whiskas, Nutro, Iams.
The following are excerpts from the 2017 FDA Establishment Inspection Report of the Mars pet food facility. The report discloses the ugly truth in pet food; if you are a Big Dog in pet food, the FDA takes little to no regulatory action against you – no matter the violations you commit.
Bold added in quotations for emphasis.
1. Failure to inspect, segregate, or otherwise handle raw materials and ingredients used in manufacturing under conditions that will protect the animal food against contamination and minimize deterioration.
2. Failure to take effective measures to exclude pests from your plant and protect against contamination of animal food by pests (Discussion Item from 10/27/2016 EI).
The FDA inspection found that Mars Petcare ‘failed’ to “minimize deterioration” of pet food raw ingredients. This ‘failure’ was not specific to just one brand of pet food, the ‘failure’ was for the entire plant and all pet foods made there.
And the FDA inspection found Mars Petcare ‘failed’ to prevent the pet foods from being contaminated by pests. Again, this ‘failure’ was for the entire plant and all the pet foods manufactured there.
This Mars pet food plant had a significant problem with “German cockroach infestation” that was present in the 2016 inspection AND the 2017 inspection. During the previous FDA inspection of this Mars pet food plant (9 months earlier – October 2016), the FDA investigator “reviewed the firm’s pest control deviations – most notably the firm’s German cockroach infestation (which is most prominent on production lines).”
But, in the 2017 follow up inspection, FDA noted “a significant German cockroach infestation of the firm persists.“
The 2017 Mars inspection report included multiple pages of a “Pest Sighting Log” maintained by the pet food manufacturer. Below is one page. Take note of the “Comment(s) from Employee” dated 12/13/2017.
“Millions of Roaches.”
The inspection report stated: “The failure to take adequate measure to exclude and prevent pests from the manufacturing and related areas of the firm poses a significant public health safety concern while also being a regulatory violation.”
“A regulatory violation” – but…no recall occurred because of roach infestation. Five different brands of wet pet food are manufactured at this pet food plant (Pedigree, Cesar, Whiskas, Nutro, Iams). Again, not one product made in this plant that was documented by FDA to be infested with roaches, documented by FDA to be a “regulatory violation” was recalled.
Mars Petcare ignored the violation and warnings. FDA ignored the violation and allowed roach infested adulterated pet products to be sold to unknowing consumers.
And…Mars did not cooperate with FDA investigators during the inspection.
During the July 2017 inspection “Ms. Webster-Long led each day of the inspection and refused our requests for photocopies of documents citing corporate policy and instruction from the firm’s regulatory department. After each request for complaint logs and photocopies of documents, Ms. Webster-Long replied that either the regulatory team was not available, or the team refused the request. These numerous requests, delays in responses, and subsequent refusals delayed the completion of the inspection until 07/26/2017. Ms. Webster-Long led each of our walk-throughs of the manufacturing area, while often denying complete access to all areas of the firm. Most notably, Ms. Webster-Long appeared to intentionally avoid lines of the firm when we requested to observe those specific areas.
Besides denying FDA access to areas of the pet food plant the agency requested to visit, Mars also denied the FDA access to customer complaints.
“On 7/14/2017, following our repeated requests to review the firm’s consumer complaints – specifically those complaints involving the inclusion of FO’s (foreign objects) in the firm’s finished products – Ms. Webster-Long reported the Consumer Care Team in Franklin, TN, agreed to share their top three consumer complaint categories with us.”
Even though the FDA requested consumer complaints involving foreign objects in the pet foods, Mars instead provided the agency complaints on “Packaging, damaged or dented”, “Growth of mold”, and complaints regarding “Low meat/excess gravy or gel”.
The Mars managers interviewed by FDA assured the investigators there were no consumer complaints involving foreign objects in the pet food.
Ms. Webster-Long indicated the firm had not received any consumer complaints involving the white, plastic FO’s that were the concern for their previous, formal Class I Recall, initiated 10/07/2016.
Repeated verbal requests were made for the firm to share information they had regarding any FO’s – plastic or otherwise – the firm may have received. Ms. Webster-Long and Mr. Oskin refused to provide complaint information for FO inclusion in finished product, or complaints regarding adverse reactions occurring following exposure to the firm’s products.
But after FDA provided Mars Petcare with evidence of consumer complaints regarding foreign objects in the pet food, Mars employees changed their story…
During the inspection, we presented the firm with 13 consumer complaints reported to FDA, from 05/02/2016 to the present. After reviewing the information already available to Ms. Webster-Long; she confirmed she was aware of seven of the 13 consumer complaints FDA had received regarding products the firm manufactures. Of these seven consumer complaints, two involved white, plastic FO’s in the firm’s finished product; although Ms. Webster-Long and Mr. Oskin reported several times when questioned the firm had not received additional consumer complaints regarding white, plastic FO’s in the product they manufacture since they closed their investigation into the recall referenced above.
“During the inspection, we requested information from the firm for a consumer complaint received by FDA, on or about 11/06/2016, involving white plastic in the firm’s product. When questioned, Ms. Webster-Long reported the firm had also received this complaint and she initiated a formal PRIMP.”
PRIMP is a Mars Petcare internal acronym that stands for “Product Related Incident Management Process”. PRIMP is a Mars Petcare internal investigation of a consumer complaint regarding one of the pet foods made at the plant. Mars initially told the FDA they had NOT received consumer complaints regarding foreign objects in the pet food after the October 2016 recall. BUT, when FDA presented the pet food manufacturer with evidence, Mars admitted to receiving a consumer complaint AFTER the recall. In fact, Mars admitted “the firm is aware their incoming [redacted] utilized in the manufacture of many of the firm’s products, often contains plastic FO’s.” Mars admitted full knowledge of plastic foreign objects in raw materials used in the pet foods.
At the end of the FDA Inspection Report – under the section of “General Discussion With Management” is the following statement from FDA:
It was reiterated several times during the inspection the firm needs to share information requested by FDA during inspections. Refusing to provide requested records and information for review prevents FDA investigators from being able to thoroughly evaluate the firm’s manufacturing processes to ensure the safety of the firm’s products and determine compliance with applicable FDA law, rules, and regulations.
Consumers deserve to have a similar ‘General Discussion with FDA’. Consumers cannot trust the safety of pet foods when the FDA cowers to a pet food manufacturer. Why would FDA allow any company to refuse to cooperate during an inspection? Why wouldn’t FDA force a recall of every single pet food in that plant due to roach infestation that continued for at least 9 months?
Who is more at fault? Mars Petcare for ignoring law and safe manufacturing procedures or FDA for allowing adulterated pet food into the homes of unknowing consumers?
To read the full FDA Establishment Inspection Report of the Mars Petcare facility, Click Here.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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