Pictures speak a thousand words. The pictures provided in the FDA Freedom of Information Act request regarding the Mars pet food plant speak volumes to who FDA was actually protecting. Hint: it’s not pets.
FDA provided a mere 35 pages in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding the Mars Petcare plant in Joplin, MO. As reminder, regarding the same pet food plant, the same Freedom of Information Act request made of each agency – NIOSH provided 1,136 pages, OSHA provided 164 pages, and FDA provided only 35 pages. All three agencies (NIOSH, OSHA, FDA) were originally provided (by employees) with thousands of pages of evidence. But FDA decided they would only shared 35 pages in this FOIA request. In this request, FDA did not provide one page of the original complaint employees filed with the agency – not one mention of the thousands of pages of original evidence of toxic pet food and dangerous manufacturing conditions employees provided to the agency in mid 2012. The FDA FOIA request provided just 3 documents. But…we learn a lot from these three documents.
One of the few documents that FDA provided was an inspection report from 2012 – a required BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy – Mad Cow Disease) inspection performed by Missouri Department of Agriculture for FDA. These inspections are required by law to prevent the spread of deadly BSE/Mad Cow Disease.
Missouri Department of Agriculture performed a BSE inspection at the Mars Petcare plant on 1/25/2012. Of significance to pet food consumers, this inspection report verified that this Mars pet food plant received and used in their pet foods “prohibited material” as pet food ingredients.
What is “prohibited material” that this inspection confirmed Mars used in their pet food? Prohibited material refers only to meat ingredients used in the pet foods. Federal law defines this prohibited material as…
(i) The entire carcass of BSE-positive cattle;
(ii) The brains and spinal cords of cattle 30 months of age and older;
(iii) The entire carcass of cattle not inspected and passed for human consumption as defined in paragraph (b)(2) of this section that are 30 months of age or older from which brains and spinal cords were not effectively removed or otherwise effectively excluded from animal feed;
Federal law also requires the above “prohibited material” be properly tracked – including requirements for pet food/feed manufacturers IF the company utilizes prohibited and non-prohibited material (such as human grade meat) in the finished pet food. The inspection report confirmed that this Mars pet food plant ONLY utilized “prohibited material” type ingredients in the pet foods made at this plant. It is unknown if other Mars pet food plants uses the same ‘prohibited material’ type ingredients.
Thus, this FOIA document confirms Mars pet foods made at this pet food plant clearly used feed grade ingredients – prohibited material is as far removed from human grade as it gets.
Also provided in the FDA FOIA documents was one consumer complaint of two sick cats linked to Royal Canin cat food manufactured at the Mars plant in Joplin, MO. This complaint was received during the same time frame that employees of this pet food plant had shared with OSHA, Missouri Department of Agriculture and FDA concerns of a deadly pesticide (phosphine) being included in the pet food, concerns of mycotoxins in grains used in the pet food, and concerns of poor manufacturing conditions (hole in the roof). Excerpt from the consumer complaint:
Adverse Event Date 3/2012
Complainant believes Royal Canin Special 33 dry cat food is cause for his pet’s symptoms. Cat one is 8 year old make Tabby weighing 13 lbs. Cat two is 8 year old make Tabby weighing 13 lbs.
Cat one was first one to exhibit symptoms around 2/12. He had vomiting, diarrhea and lost of appetite followed by excessive water intake and excessive urination. In last three weeks cat has had a rapid weight lost, hemorrhaging in left eye diagnosed as detached retina and showing neurological symptoms by dragging his foot.
Cat two had similar symptoms beginning around the same time. He had symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, lost of appetite and excessive urination. He was diagnosed with early states of kidney failure.
FDA never investigated, never performed any testing on the pet food. ‘Cat One’ listed above died three months later – diagnosis from necropsy was lymphoma (it appears FDA did the necropsy). No further information was provided on ‘Cat Two’ listed above.
The last set of documents provided was a second reporting of the conditions at the Mars Petcare plant in Joplin, MO to FDA. The first reporting of the manufacturing conditions and potential risks to pets took place in mid 2012 – around the same time employees reported conditions at the plant to OSHA and Missouri Department of Agriculture. The FDA FOIA request did not provide even one page of documents from that first reporting – even though those documents were specifically requested.
In the FOIA request FDA provided documentation of a meeting between myself and several Mars employees. These employees reached out to me regarding concerning conditions at several Mars pet food plants – including the Joplin plant. I arranged a meeting with FDA for the employees to share their concerns; this meeting took place in December 2013 – 6 months after the Joplin plant closed. Although it was not noted by FDA in these documents, I can attest to the fact that during this meeting the conditions at the closed Mars Joplin plant was not the only pet food plant discussed. During this meeting employees on the call shared with FDA serious conditions of risk at multiple other Mars plants. Information shared – which I witnessed – was evidence of mycotoxin contaminated grains being used in pet foods made at other Mars plants. Names and contact information was shared with FDA of employees to contact at each plant to confirm the toxic ingredients. To my knowledge, FDA never investigated any of the conditions at the other Mars pet food plants that was provided that day. FDA never tested any pet food made at these Mars plants, never tested ingredients, never spoke to the whistle blowers willing to provide evidence.
In other words, FDA did the very least they could. They wrote up an investigation of the second reporting (meeting above) including only information on the closed pet food plant (plant in Joplin closed in June of 2013).
Again, another FDA documentation that the conditions at the pet food plant were reported to the agency a year earlier.
Some of the Mars employees on the phone meeting of December 17, 2013 (above meeting) provided FDA (Dr. Dan McChesney – head of FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine Office of Surveillance and Compliance) with follow up evidence. Again – evidence was provided not only to the conditions ignored of the closed Joplin Mars plant – but as well employees provided evidence to concerning conditions in other currently open Mars pet food plants. However the FOIA documents ONLY included information on the closed plant.
Below are some of the pictures employees of the pet food plant provided to FDA regarding conditions of the Mars Joplin pet food plant. Keep in mind that these pictures (and many more) were also provided to FDA in mid-2012 when FDA field inspectors met employees in their homes (employee homes) – when the plant was open and producing pet food. No FDA investigation took place when the plant was open. FDA did nothing to protect the pets consuming the pet food manufactured with dangerous ingredients or in filthy conditions. FDA waited until the plant was closed to show the slightest interest in the dangerous pet food.
Note: markings on photographs and comments are mine used as explanation to consumers.
A hole in the roof of ANY food or pet food manufacturing facility would immediately FAIL inspection per required Good Manufacturing Practices. But not with this Mars pet food plant.
In 2009 the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) recalled thousands of peanut products that were linked to “salmonella poisoning that has sickened nearly 600 people in more than 40 states. Eight may have died because of it.” This human food peanut plant had holes in the roof just like the Mars pet food plant. Just as employees of the Mars Joplin plant explained to regulatory authorities – production of pet food continued regardless of rain, an employee of PCA stated “It was coming in through the roof and the vents, but that didn’t stop them from making the paste.”
The FDA inspection report of PCA noted the roof leaks; “There were open gaps observed as large as 1/2 inches x 2 1/2 feet at the air conditioner intakes located in the roof of the firm.” The FDA inspection report of the Mars pet food plant never mentioned the six foot hole in the roof directly over the mixer – even when images of pooled water were provided to them.
A full investigation took place with PCA including a Senate Committee investigation resulting in Owners/Managers being sent to prison for their crimes. No investigation took place of the Mars pet food plant, managers walked away with no accountability.
And one last picture. Below from the FDA FOIA documents is a picture of an employee’s phosphine meter – this reading was taken from within the pet food plant. These devices were set to alarm (as warning) at 0.2 ppm. Federal law requires the area to be evacuated at a reading of 0.3. This dangerously high reading – provided to FDA – was 4.46 ppm.
Why wasn’t there a full FDA investigation of the manufacturing conditions at this pet food plant? Who was FDA really protecting? I think the evidence above makes it very clear who FDA was protecting.
To read the first part in this series (NIOSH information), Click Here.
To read the second part in this series (OSHA information), Click Here.
One more government agency yet to report on regarding this pet food plant – Missouri Department of Agriculture. Soon.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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