Questions and answers about how and why the Evangers Pet Food recall happened, how a euthanized animal got into a pet food. The short answer – FDA and each State Department of Agriculture do not enforce law with pet food.
First and foremost – thank you goes out to Nikki M, the ‘Mom’ of the 5 pug dogs who became ill one of which – Talula – died because they consumed Evangers pet food poisoned with pentobarbital. For more than 4 weeks you endured obsessive verbal abuse from nay-sayers – all while grieving your dog. You battled on and the result was a recall that very possibly saved many other pet lives. We thank you for your determination. We are so, so sorry for your loss.
How did a euthanized animal – full of a lethal drug – get into a can of pet food?
It got there because FDA and each State Department of Agriculture allowed it; very simply – lack of enforcement. A euthanized animal in any food (pet food or human food) is illegal – very, very illegal.
How dangerous is a pentobarbital euthanized animal carcass?
In 2002 the FDA released their report Risk of Pentobarbital in Dog Food, telling pet food consumers “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.” But at about the same time, sister federal agency the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had a completely different stance on euthanized animal carcasses. In 2002 FWS published a report titled “Secondary Pentobarbital Poisoning of Wildlife” which clearly warns of the risk of any animal consuming a euthanized animal carcass. This statement from the FWS report is most concerning (bold added)…
“When an animal is euthanized via pentobarbital injection, the drug is quickly distributed throughout its body. Well-vascularized organs such as the liver will have especially high concentration of pentobarbital, but other tissues will also contain residues. Large animal carcasses may contain enough accessible residues to kill at least two tiger-sized mammals.”
How many euthanized animal carcasses end up in pet food/animal feed each year?
We are not told this information. We do know that in 2003 the USDA reported “about three billion pounds of carcasses” from animal moralities need to be disposed of annually – though we do not know if none, some, or all of these animals are euthanized (all three billion pounds would be illegal – euthanized or not – to be processed into pet food). The USDA warns about endotoxin risk with this animal carcass material in pet food, the FDA (who regulates pet food) does not; USDA: “These toxins can cause disease, and pet food manufacturers do not test their products for endotoxins.”
ASPCA.org tells us “Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).”
Is this something new (FDA and each State Department of Agriculture allowing a euthanized animal in pet food)?
No, the FDA has been aware that the pet food industry sources illegal euthanized animals as ingredients in pet food since at least 2002 when the agency published their report “Risk of Pentobarbital in Dog Food”. In 1995 journalist Van Smith wrote a revealing account of what actually goes into pet food – “What’s Cookin’? Ever wonder what happens to dead animals?” (not for the faint of heart).
How can FDA and State Department of Agriculture ignore law?
Because no one stops them. No Republican, Democrat or Independent, no President, no Senator, no Congressman/woman, no Governor, no Inspector General, no State Attorney General lifts a finger to make certain FDA and each State Department of Agriculture is enforcing existing pet food law (and yes this is existing law – not new laws we need in place – this is existing law being ignored). Everyone looks the other way with animal food law and has for decades.
What are the laws they are ignoring?
The laws of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act are being ignored with pet food. Food is defined 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.”
An adulterated, illegal food is defined as (in part): “A food shall be deemed to be adulterated- (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 (full of pentobarbital) IS ‘an animal which has died otherwise than by slaughter’; a direct violation of federal law.
Fourteen U.S. states also have state law specific to animal food that include the same definition of adulterated food; Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota.
But the FDA – in direct opposition of federal law – tells the pet food industry: “No regulatory action will be considered for animal feed ingredients resulting from the ordinary rendering process of industry, including those using animals which have died otherwise than by slaughter, provided they are not otherwise in violation of the law.”
And specific to canned pet food (non-rendered ingredients): “Pet food consisting of material from diseased animals or animals which have died otherwise than by slaughter, … will not ordinarily be actionable, if it is not otherwise in violation of the law. It will be considered fit for animal consumption.”
All states follow the FDA lead in NOT enforcing law with pet food/animal feed.
Wasn’t law written after the 2007 pet food recall to protect the safety of pet food?
Yes…law was written by Congress after the deadliest pet food recall in history, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act Amendments Act (FDAAA). Congress wrote into law that FDA must update pet food ingredient definitions and establish standards of quality of ingredients – plus FDA must update pet food labels providing consumers with improved ingredient and nutritional information. Congress required FDA to complete this task by September 2009. But guess what? None of this has been completed (7 1/2 years past deadline). Had FDA completed pet food ingredient standards as Congress required (and enforced those standards), it could have prevented this recent Evangers recall.
What other laws are being ignored in pet food?
A lot. Just to explain a few…
Right now on the Evangers website is a page titled “About Our Products“. The headline on this page states “Human Grade”. Pet food regulation considers a website an extension of the pet food label, and requires that the claim Human Grade to only be made if: 1) all ingredients are human edible, 2) all supplements are human edible, 3) all ingredients and finished product is warehoused and transported according to human food law, and 4) the pet food is manufactured in a certified human food facility. All of these items must be met before a pet food is legally allowed to use the term “Human Grade” on their label or website. But…the Evangers pet food plant is not a certified human food manufacturing facility; it is a pet food facility. In other words, Evangers Pet Food does not meet the legal requirements to state ‘Human Grade’ on their website. Law is not being enforced.
Pet food law states an image on a pet food label cannot be misleading – “A vignette, graphic, or pictorial representation on a pet food or specialty pet food label shall not misrepresent the contents of the package.” But that law is never enforced. Pet food labels are completely out of control with misleading images of roasted chicken or grilled steak when the actual pet food contains no roasted chicken or grilled steak.
Pet food law states that the Made in the USA claim on pet food labels should mean “all or virtually all means” ingredients originate from the USA (and the product itself is manufactured in the US). Yet again, this law is rarely if ever enforced. Pet food labels frequently include the statement Made in the USA when multiple ingredients or supplements originate outside of the US.
Pet food ingredients are required to have a legal definition through AAFCO – or certified as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) through FDA prior to their use in the market. But that didn’t stop pea protein, pea fiber and pea starch. For years prior to a legal definition of these ingredients being made – pet foods that contained pea protein, pea fiber and pea starch flooded the market place. Not one regulatory authority enforced law and removed the pet foods from sale.
‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ would be an illegal claim on apples – even organic apples. FDA strictly enforces law that declares food cannot cure, treat, mitigate or prevent disease…that is except for pet food. Pet food – even pet food that includes illegal ingredients sourced from diseased or animals that have died otherwise than by slaughter – is allowed a loophole to law, allowed to claim it can cure, treat, mitigate and prevent pet illness. Pet food has ‘special privileges’ solely allowed by FDA that human food does not.
Not only are euthanized animals in pet food, but the FDA also allows animals that died in the field, condemned animals (not fit for slaughter into the human food chain), condemned animal parts (such as cancerous tissues or drug injected tissues), ground alive spent laying hens (hens no longer producing eggs killed through maceration), ground alive male chicks, and so much more into pet food. Every single bit of this animal material is illegal per federal law – law that is not enforced.
A euthanized animal is absolutely illegal in pet food. It was illegal in 1995 when Van Smith wrote What’s Cookin?, it was illegal in 2002 when FDA published Risk of Pentobarbital in Dog Food, and it is illegal in 2017 when pentobarbital poisoned meat was found in Evangers Pet Food. It is beyond criminal that it took 22 years to finally get a recall on a pet food using ingredients that all regulatory authorities know with absolute certainty are illegal (and know with absolute certainty have been used for decades in pet food). And we only got this recall because a little dog named Talula died – with a ‘Mom’ that would not give up.
This Evangers Pet Food recall is absolute proof the worst ingredients – right now, today – ARE being used in pet food and it is absolute proof pet food law continues to be ignored. How many more pets have to die to finally get FDA and State Department of Agriculture to enforce existing law? What is it going to take?
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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