A Recent Slew of Pet Food Recalls

Merrick Beef Filet Squares May be Contaminated

Merrick Beef Filet Squares May be Contaminated

Pet food recalls are reaching another all-time high.

Many pet parents are now wondering how to cope with the possibility that they might be feeding Fido or Boots contaminated food. Even premium pet food companies like the Amarillo, Texas based Merrick Pet Care are experiencing problems from that pesky bacteria known as Salmonella. In a July 6, 2010 notification from the FDA’s Vet Tech Institute division an alert was emailed out about Merrick Pet Care’s recall of Beef Filet Squares treats for dogs in the 10 oz. bag (item #60016, Lot # 10084TL7) with a Best By March 21, 2012 expiration date. The recall involves 86 cases of possibly contaminated dog treats. In another instance, the United Pet Group of Cincinnati, Ohio voluntarily expanded its recall of nutritional supplements for dogs and cats due to the same possible Salmonella health risk. If that weren’t enough, Feline’s Pride of Buffalo, New York has issued a voluntary recall of its Natural Chicken Formula Raw Food for cats and kittens.

What exactly is the problem with the pet food industry? And why has Salmonella become so prevalent in pet food?

For the answer let’s look at the source of Salmonella. This hardy (dare I say, indestructible?) bacteria lives in the intestines of animals. Most animal feed contains parts of slaughtered animals and these parts include intestines. As a matter of fact, the AAFCO does not even require that an animal is slaughtered in the traditional way to become part of your pet’s food. The process known as rendering allows for any animal parts, regardless of the type of animal, to enter your pet’s food chain. In the AAFCO’s Q & A regarding pet food regulations the reply to question 4 is, “Animal by-products which may include materials from animals which died by means other than slaughter are explicitly defined as adulterated unless* the materials are rendered in compliance with animal health and protein product regulations to destroy any potential microorganisms which may be in the products. The processes used are deemed to be adequate to control risk of disease.”

What’s wrong with by-products?

The term “animal by-products” sounds benign doesn’t it? However, the definition of by-products is rendered meat. This consists of animal carcasses and intestines, it also contains other ingredients such as fat derived from other more non-traditional animal parts — yes, gulp! even euthanized animals from laboratories — that are then cooked together at a high temperature. This rendering process is the first step to producing the by-product meal found in your pet’s food. This process also creates the fat added to your pet’s food. Keep in mind that both the by-product meal and the rendered fat include multiple body parts and intestines. Despite the AAFCO’s claim that rendering is an adequate method to control the risk of disease heat will not kill all strains of Salmonella bacteria.

What role does the Association of American Feed Control Officials play in pet food manufacturing?

Another interesting fact is the AAFCO’s checklist entitled Best Management Guidance Document for Manufacturing, Packaging and Distributing Animal Feeds and Feed Ingredients (download a copy of this by clicking on this link AAFCO Checklist for Best Mangement Practices). In paragraph 3 number (a) and (b), the AAFCO checklist includes appropriate clean-out procedures such as sequencing, flushing, or physically cleaning to prevent cross-contamination that may endanger animal or human health. In other words, the AAFCO recommends that before a new batch of pet food is processed all equipment be shut down and thoroughly cleaned out and disinfected before a new batch is initiated. This is a costly and time consuming procedure for manufacturers. There are no enforcing agents on the premises, so is it possible that some manufacturers are skipping this important step?

Does Salmonella affect the United States Economically?

Salmonella is not going away anytime soon, its rise will escalate as demand for manufactured and processed food grows. This bacteria’s impact on industrial countries is reaching an astronomical high. According to the World Health Organization the economic cost of food-born Salmonella in the United States hit $3 billion annually in 2001. Additionally, in Denmark the annual estimated cost of Salmonella was $15.5 million in 2001. Denmark took action and instituted a Salmonella control program that costs about $14.1 million annually but its government estimates that this saves the Danes approximately $25.5 million annually in public expenditure. Yet, there is no similar program in the United States and I suspect this is because it would be too costly to enforce.

The bottom line is that consumers need to be aware of the risks when purchasing commercially prepared pet food.

High dollar brand names will not necessarily protect your pet. But there are methods that you can take to dilute the risk. If you are feeding your pet kibble, purchase a high quality brand name, one that does not include meat by-product meal (which is a generic term for saying the meat source is unknown). Instead be certain that the first ingredient on the ingredient list is a named animal protein and not a by-product. Avoid kibble that contains grains (even rice). Next, purchase at least three bags of high-quality kibble from different manufacturers and mix these together. If you feed your pet canned food along with kibble be certain to follow the same process, alternating between brands. By doing this you are ensuring that if a product is contaminated your pet will not receive a high dosage of contamination.

Is there a method to guarantee a pet receives uncontaminated food?

There is only one certain method to guarantee that your pet eats healthy, untainted food and that is by making it yourself. My grandmother and mother were right, they never purchased commercial pet food products. All our dogs ate human-grade meat and veggies and grandmother made these nightly for Puk, one of our family’s many Springer Spaniels. My mother followed in those footsteps and Duke, our poodle, received a homemade meal every night, right along with us. I am the third generation and after owning several herding dogs who were all fed commercial pet food I have finally seen the light. My three multi-mix dogs receive a homemade meal every day, consisting of human-grade raw meats and organic vegetables. They are thriving, beautiful and happy.

Lexi feeds the pups their evening beef ribs, as you can see they are all sitting at attention!

* Emphasis by author and not part of the original text

About the author:

Gyvel Young is a journalist with several published books and articles to her credit. Her passion is canine nutrition and animal behavior.

Salmonella: The new bane of the pet food industry?

What’s a Pet Parent to Do?

Salmonella has reared its ugly head again, this time in the Hartz Mountain Rawhide Chips. I am not a big advocate of feeding dogs rawhide or pig ears: They are indigestible, some occurrences of intestinal blockage have been reported, and some dogs (when left unsupervised) have choked on them. In addition, some of these products use animal parts from Asia or other third-world countries. These countries do not regulate pesticides, chemicals, or sanitation. Even if the hides are from the United States the chews could be processed in a foreign country. Arsenic is just one of the harmful substances used in rawhide processing, another is bleaching solutions (to make the hide white). Unfortunately, dog owners are blissfully unaware of this and they continue to give Fido these treats. It’s not that dog parents want to give their four-pawed pals something harmful, it’s just that most people believe these products wouldn’t be on the market if they were dangerous. And yet, time and time again the pet product industry breaks this trust.

You might recall that back in August another outbreak of Salmonella turned up in pet food. This time it was the Mars Petcare US company. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered a link between Salmonella Schwarzengrund, pet food, and an outbreak of Salmonella that affected sixty-six people and spanned 18 states. As it turns out, these people were affected by the exact same strain of Salmonella discovered in the Mars Petcare brand of Red Flannel Large Breed Adult Formula and the Krasdale Gravy kibble. The Pennsylvania Health Department also discovered traces of the strain at the Pennsylvania factory where the food was produced.

Mars was quick to act, recalling the food within a week of this discovery. Then once again in September another Mars Petcare US pet food recall was made. Again it was over “potential” salmonella contamination. This time a variety of their brands were affected and products in 31 states were pulled from the shelves.

No doubt about it, Salmonella is on the rise. In fact, the CDC reports that there are about 40,000 cases of Salmonella poisoning in the United States each year. That’s just the ones that are reported — milder cases are rarely reported — so it is difficult to state with certainty exactly how many cases actually occur each year. The problem is that Salmonella is highly transferable. That is, a person handling contaminated dog food can get it on their hands and accidentally ingest it. Another problem is that drug-resistant strains of Schwarzengrund Salmonella are increasing. And if a person contracts a drug-resistant variety they will require prolonged hospitalization. In some cases it results in death. As is usually the case with disease, the elderly and young are more likely to become victims. Furthermore, Schwarzengrund Salmonella can create multiple problems, even after a person recovers. One is Rieter’s Syndrome, an arthritis-like disease that causes painful joints, eye irritation, and painful urination.

On the whole, the frequency of Schwarzengrund Salmonella outbreaks is alarming. It reminds us to be cautious when handling all food products, including pet food. Certainly we need to take care in washing feeding bowls, utensils, and measuring cups. In addition, we want to caution small children about playing with pet food. Finally, as pet parents and consumers we want to educate ourselves about the food we are feeding our dogs and cats. Being enlightened will help us select the best quality of dog food or cat food for the four-pawed members of our family. It’s not just about our pets, Salmonella involves the human members of our family too. Let’s all wise up about pet food, take the time to investigate and research — after all, you wouldn’t put anything harmful into your baby’s mouth would you? By the same token, no loving pet parent would want to place harmful food into their furry baby’s bowl.

The Hartz Mountain Recalls Vitamin Care for Cats

March 8, 2008 by Editor  
Filed under CONSUMER REPORTS, Pet Product Recalls, Unsafe Pet Food

Date: March 7, 2008

The Hartz Mountain Corporation Recalls Vitamin Care for Cats Because of Possible Health Risk

Mr. John Mullane
(914) 391-0943

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — March 7, 2008 — The Hartz Mountain Corporation is voluntarily recalling a second specific lot of Hartz Vitamin Care for Cats due to concerns that bottles within the lot may have been potentially contaminated with Salmonella. Hartz is fully cooperating with the US Food and Drug Administration in this voluntary recall. Hartz recalled a specific lot code of Hartz Vitamin Care for Cats last November due to similar concerns. Both lot codes were manufactured for Hartz by UFAC (USA) Inc. in 2007, and were removed from distribution last November. However, bottles from the second lot had been shipped to customers prior to their having been removed from distribution.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems, all of whom are at particular risk from exposure and should avoid handling these products.

Salmonella symptoms may include fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea in both cats and humans. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek immediate medical attention. Owners of cats exhibiting these symptoms should also seek veterinary assistance.

The product involved is 739 bottles of Hartz Vitamin Care for Cats, lot code SZ 22771, UPC number 32700-97701. While normal testing conducted by Hartz and UFAC has not revealed the presence of Salmonella in any Hartz products, recent sampling conducted by the FDA did detect the presence of Salmonella.

Although the company has not received any reports of animals or humans becoming ill as a result of coming into contact with this product, Hartz is taking immediate steps to recover this product from consumers. Cat owners should check the lot code on their bottles, and, if the code is not visible, or if the bottle has lot code SZ 22771 or lot code SZ-16371 imprinted thereon, they should immediately discontinue use of the product and discard it in a proper manner.

Consumers can contact Hartz at 1-800-275-1414 with any questions they may have and to obtain reimbursement for purchased product.