What could be the pet food industry’s worst nightmare will be played out in a courtroom in Joplin, MO beginning January 2, 2017. A pet food trial unlike anything we’ve seen before.
Pet food consumers are told very little about the manufacturing of pet food. ‘They’ tell us it’s safe, ‘they’ tell us pet food is highly regulated. But is it? A pet food trial set to start a little over 3 months from now might give us a glimpse into some of the darkest secrets of pet food manufacturing; specifically the trial might give us details of the darkest secrets of the largest manufacturer of pet food in the world – Mars Petcare.
The lawsuit is multiple former employees of a Mars Petcare kibble manufacturing facility in Joplin, MO against Mars Petcare and a few other businesses; a sort of ‘David(s) v Goliath’. The former employees of the Mars plant (‘former’ employees as the pet food plant was shut down in July of 2013) initiated the lawsuit in August of 2012 claiming Mars Petcare was ‘negligent and careless’ in preventing employee exposure to pesticides and other toxins used on pet food ingredients or in the pet food product.
Not much is known about the case, very little has been written about it thus far (I suspect that will change dramatically starting in January). In September 2013 KOAM TV spoke with a former employee of Mars Petcare stating “It’s huge. It’s going to be the biggest thing to hit this area. It’s going to be a corporate killer.”
One website post on the lawsuit (in 2014) spoke with a former employee of the Mars Petcare plant…
“The former employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, also said, “We don’t know how much. We know there was stuff coming in that was fumigated and was not listed as being fumigated that went straight into making pet food.”
“According to the former worker, “They said the way the drought is, the farmers would be putting stuff under gas to kill the bugs. And that’s when they gave us the meters. They would have logs where they kept track of what the readings were, and they started taking those. They wouldn’t let us know, and they forged our signatures, saying the levels were at zero.”
Putting pieces of this pet food puzzle together…“putting stuff under gas to kill the bugs” and “fumigated” quoted above would be phosphine gas per a Centers for Disease Control National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) inspection report of the pet food plant (from 2012). Phosphine is a pesticide and rodenticide. In other words, this employee stated a pesticide and rodenticide “went straight into” the pet food.
The NIOSH inspection report – published on the Centers for Disease Control website – stated company phosphine (pesticide) gas monitoring sheets were examined from August 4 to December 17, 2012. NIOSH found the reports were incomplete – (bold added) “For some days, there were no entries on the log sheets”. In other words, “no entries on the log sheets” – per the NIOSH report – appears to verify the former employee statement “they wouldn’t let us know”.
The NIOSH report also states company records indicated some days recorded dramatically high phosphine (pesticide) measurements within the pet food plant. Phosphine monitors sound a warning alarm at 0.2 ppm, company records indicated (bold added) “on two days there was a personal monitoring reading of 5.85 ppm around the auger.” Warning level 0.2 ppm – company recorded levels of 5.85 ppm; almost 30 times higher than safe levels for employee exposure. Once again, the NIOSH report seems to verify the employee statements of exposure to a dangerous pesticide.
The NIOSH report appearing to validate two of the employee statements…does make one wonder about the other statement; pesticides/rodenticides going “straight into” pet food.
The Joplin Globe (newspaper) posted a story in January 2014 also quoting the NIOSH report on the Mars Petcare plant. This story stated (bold added) “The company’s record for mold sampling…showed that airborne mold concentrations exceeded the measurement range…on multiple days at various locations in the plant.” Airborne mold within the plant “exceeding” measurement range. One more time, the NIOSH report appears to verify the foundation of this lawsuit – employee exposure to dangerous substances used to make pet food.
On the Joplin Globe Facebook posting of the above story was this concerning comment (name removed to protect the identity of this family)…
“I always said that placed killed my dad…”
I first learned of this lawsuit in February 2013. Since then I have had brief conversations with multiple plaintiffs, former employees of the plant not involved in the lawsuit, and several pet food ingredient providers to this Mars Petcare plant. These individuals provided me with little snippets of information (those involved in the lawsuit were not permitted to share details with me – protection order filed by Mars Petcare). What was shared with me – as stated by numerous former employees – was their concern to the safety of the pet food.
What I know about the case, from multiple conversations with multiple individuals since 2013…I was told…
- Pet food ingredients arriving at the plant and accepted by Mars Petcare were often a highly inferior quality;
- The pet food plant had a “six foot hole in the roof over the mixer” for years;
- Dangerous pesticides were applied to ingredients and those toxic pesticides were mixed into the pet food;
- All of these conditions were reported to multiple pet food regulatory authorities and no recall ever occurred.
Armed with just these snippets of information, in August of 2013 I confronted one of the regulatory authorities aware of the conditions at the plant at an AAFCO meeting; Missouri Department of Agriculture. I asked why there has never been a recall at this pet food plant (the plant closed one month prior to this AAFCO meeting).
He told me “everything we saw looked good for the company, no issues”.
I then asked “What about the hole in the roof? Are you familiar with the Peanut Corporation of America recalls? A hole in the roof at that peanut plant caused thousands of products to be contaminated with Salmonella. So what about the hole in the roof in this pet food plant?”
He stated “It wasn’t raining the day we inspected.” (I kid you not – that was his response.) And he followed that statement with “the plant is now closed, pet food is no longer being made there”.
Following this lack of concern, I reported what limited information I had on this pet food plant to FDA. FDA dismissed the issue with a similar statement as Missouri Department of Agriculture; “the plant is closed”.
From my perspective, this lack of concern is standard with regulatory authorities (though the statement ‘it wasn’t raining the day we inspected’ beats all!). In my experience, it is standard for pet food regulatory authorities to openly defend a pet food manufacturer (that is unless you are a raw pet food manufacturer). FDA and the State Department of Agriculture this pet food plant was located in had not one concern of the pets consuming the food employees told them contained dangerous pesticides – and no concern to the safety of employees reporting concerns to them. Criminal.
I will be in that courtroom January 2…I look forward to learning every detail of this lawsuit. I look forward to learning if criminal charges will result from this lawsuit…maybe even criminal charges against regulatory authorities. Every detail I learn will be shared with all of you. We all deserve to know.
I would assume that many in pet food manufacturing will be in that courtroom watching (allegedly) the darkest secrets of pet food being revealed. I suspect their trade associations (PFI) will be there too, grimacing with each testimony.
And by the way, any consumer can be there too. Law requires the courtroom to be open to the public, and law requires that citizens have access to all court documents.
And…should the accusations prove to be true, will the dots be connected down to sick pets consuming the pet foods containing “potential hazards inherent to the production of pet food”?
This certainly will be revealing. I suspect the pet food version of Erin Brocovich.
For consumers that would like to follow details of this case, go to the Missouri Courts website search page – https://www.courts.mo.gov/casenet/cases/nameSearch.do. In the search box (titled Last Name or Business Name) enter Mars Petcare. This case is #12AO-CC00301 and #12AO-CC00301-01, Lonnie Boyd et al V Mars Petcare US, Inc et al. When you click on the Case Number link a new page will open. At the top are multiple tabs, information about the case is listed under ‘Docket Entries’.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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