Is it coincidence that a representative of Missouri Department of Agriculture rose through the ranks at AAFCO quickly after his Department ignored violations of law at the Mars Petcare plant in Missouri? You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours?
When I first met Stan Cook – August 2013 – his attire at AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) meetings was blue jeans and plaid shirts. Casual attire is common for most in attendance at AAFCO. But things began to change dramatically with Mr. Cook’s wardrobe over the years; coincidentally – or not – today he wears business suits to AAFCO. In August 2012 Stan Cook was a new member of AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee (his first participation on any AAFCO committee). It takes years to learn the ropes at AAFCO…well, for most it does. Stan Cook rose through the AAFCO ranks very quickly. From a full fledged ‘newbie’ in 2012, to co-chair of AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee in January 2015, to becoming the President of the entire AAFCO organization three months from now (January 2018). From blue jeans to business suits, from no experience to ‘running the show’ in six short years.
Coincidentally – or not – an active advisor to AAFCO during the same time frame Stan Cook rose to power at AAFCO was Jill Franks – Director of Government & Industry Affairs, Mars Petcare. Ms. Franks was extremely involved in the AAFCO process – a seasoned professional, she knew State Department of Agriculture members on a first name basis. She knew Stan Cook.
Coincidentally – or not – Missouri Department of Agriculture ignored multiple violations of state and federal law at the Mars Petcare plant in Joplin, MO during the same time frame Jill Franks was an active participant at AAFCO and Stan Cook began his rise to power. Evidence provided proves Jill Franks was in contact with Missouri Department of Agriculture during the investigation of the Joplin plant.
The documents shared below were obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Missouri Department of Agriculture specific to the Mars Petcare plant in Joplin, MO. Missouri provided 880 pages in the FOIA request, however many of the documents were duplicates. Employees of the plant have shared with me they provided Missouri Department of Agriculture with thousands (over 5 thousand) documents, including video and photographs as evidence to violations of law. Missouri did not provide any video content in the FOIA request, some of the documents were redacted so heavily they were blank pages.
Mars employees have shared the company strongly pushes “The Five Principles” to all “Associates” (employees). The Mars Five Principles are: “Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency, Freedom.” Of significance to what happened at the Mars Petcare plant in Joplin, are the Principles ‘Responsibility’ and ‘Freedom’.
Mars defines the ‘Responsibility’ principle as (in part – bold added): “Our company is complex, with brands, businesses, and operations around the world. How could we continue to thrive if every decision were made centrally? For this reason, we give all Associates freedom to act with full responsibility for doing their assigned jobs. In return for accepting responsibility and delivering superior results, Associates receive respect and support, and are appropriately rewarded in line with their performance.”
Joplin Mars Petcare employee Lonnie Boyd ‘acted with full responsibility’, requesting doctor ordered breathing protection at work. He was told “there was no way any better respiratory protection would be provided to any Mars workers.”
Eric Bocher – mentioned above – was a Mars Petcare manager at the Mars Joplin plant. Note that the Mars manager cancelled the employee’s follow up doctor visit – work related follow up doctor visit. Responsibility?
Again quoting the Mars Responsibility Principle -“In return for accepting responsibility and delivering superior results, Associates receive respect and support, and are appropriately rewarded in line with their performance.” In return for accepting responsibility for his own health, and trying to protect the health of others – Mars employee Lonnie Boyd was fired.
Many employees of the pet food plant were seriously ill…
The government agency which should have been responsible for protecting the health of employees – making certain Mars properly protected employees was OSHA. In a previous post on this pet food plant written from Freedom of Information Act documents received from OSHA, we learned that OSHA did little to nothing to protect these employees (Click Here to read). However these employees continued their personal battle for a safe workplace and the manufacture of a safe pet food. After OSHA failed them, employees contacted Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Missouri Department of Agriculture had legal authority to investigate misuse of pesticides within the Mars pet food plant AND any manufacturing concerns of the pet food. But, just like every other government agency the Mars employees contacted, Missouri Department of Agriculture failed to protect them and the pets consuming the pet food.
Pesticide Law Missouri Department of Agriculture
Missouri law states (in part):
281.101. Unlawful acts.
- The following are determined to be unlawful acts:
(1) It shall be unlawful to recommend for use, to use, or to supervise the use of any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling required by labeling requirements of FIFRA, Missouri pesticide use act or Missouri pesticide registration act;
Early in the Missouri Department of Agriculture investigation – there was clear evidence of a serious problem…
Missouri Department of Agriculture had employee statements of pesticide misuse…
Missouri was provided with Mars supervisor Steve Smith’s incident report verifying the employee’s statement…
Knowing the severity of the employee accusations, knowing the severity of the health issues reported by employees due to pesticide misuse – Missouri Department of Agriculture sent a ‘first timer’ for samples of pet food a week later…
Missouri pesticide law also states:
(3) It shall be unlawful to make any false or misleading statements during the course of an investigation into the sale, distribution, use or misuse of any pesticide;
Missouri Department of Agriculture caught Mars managers violating the above law. Managers Robert Arnold, Eric Bocher and Brad Otter of Mars told the agency during the investigation the pet food plant “does not fumigate at the plant in Joplin.”
Employees provided Missouri this invoice proving the Mars manager’s statements were false…
Missouri Department of Agriculture had evidence that 3 Mars managers directly violated Missouri pesticide law, “(3) It shall be unlawful to make any false or misleading statements during the course of an investigation…”
But, Missouri Department of Agriculture did nothing. In fact, Missouri Department of Agriculture decided to refuse any more evidence provided by employees desperate for someone to help them…
Pesticide concerns aside, one huge pet food concern was ignored by every single Missouri Department of Agriculture representative that visited the pet food plant in 2012 and 2013. The six foot hole in the roof directly over the pet food mixer (where all ingredients are mixed prior to extrusion). Multiple Missouri representatives were in the plant – not one of them noticed the gaping hole. The agency was provided with images and video footage (not provided in the FOIA request) of water running through the equipment, over and on ingredients when it rained. But they did nothing.
A hole in the roof of a food or feed manufacturing plant – especially a hole this large – is a direct violation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). A severe violation of GMPs like this should have resulted in a recall of all pet foods made at the plant.
But Missouri Department of Agriculture never bothered to enforce pet food regulations or pesticide use regulations. Missouri Department of Agriculture took no enforcement action against Mars Petcare.
At the August 2013 AAFCO meeting (shortly after Missouri Department of Agriculture investigation into the Mars plant ended) – I asked Missouri representative Stan Cook (our soon to be AAFCO President) why nothing was ever done about the conditions at this pet food plant, the pesticide risk to employees? He told me…
Everything we saw was in favor of the company.
He made this statement in full knowledge of Missouri law and in full knowledge that evidence proved violations of law.
So then I asked Stan Cook (our soon to be AAFCO President) why was the pet food was never recalled from that plant? The hole in the roof? The Good Manufacturing Practice violations? And to this he responded…
It wasn’t raining the day we inspected.
One last piece of evidence…
The documents provided by Missouri Department of Agriculture Freedom of Information Act request included the following safety information of the phosphine pesticide used on the grains and meat and bone meal at the plant. Note the company logo (left top).
The manufacturer of the pesticide used on ingredients in Mars pet foods was manufactured by the company “Degesch”. From Wikipedia: “Degesch had the patent of the infamous Zyklon B, a pesticide that was used to execute people in gas chambers of German extermination camps during the Holocaust.” The labels below were introduced as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials. Note the same company logo.
The fifth ‘Principle’ of Mars is “Freedom”. The Mars website proudly proclaims (bold added) “The freedom of Mars depends on the creation of profit. Because Mars is profitable and generates cash, we need not borrow money to the extent that we might lose control over our affairs. As long as Mars remains free, our well-being can always come before any other financial priority.”
With the full assistance of Missouri Department of Agriculture, OSHA, and FDA (NIOSH was the only government agency that tried to help these employees) – “Mars remains free”; Mars did not “lose control over their affairs”. But at what cost? How many people became ill? How many pets became ill? And to what lengths did Mars go to to ‘remain free’?
“As long as Mars remains free”… [fill in the blank]. Depending on who you ask, there are a lot of different endings to that sentence.
To read the other posts written based on Freedom of Information Act requested documents on this Mars pet food plant…
Mars Petcare Protecting Their Billions
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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