Food & Nutrition
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Dog Food Watch: Recalls

Though the FDA continued to claim that “there is no evidence that raises health concerns, and that these results are highly unlikely to be related to the reports of illnesses,” the findings were enough to convince the slow-moving food industry that they needed to get the products out of circulation. The FDA, which still considers this to be an open investigation, notes that they “welcome additional information about New York’s testing methodology …” To date, the treats are thought to have contributed to the deaths of roughly 500 dogs and nine cats. If New York’s state inspectors had not found the illegal antibiotic residue, those treats would still be available. Chalk one up for the state team!

Over the past few years, consumers have learned to look for “Made in the U.S.” to guide their food purchases. So it was a surprise when a U.S. manufacturer of jerky and other “animal-parts” treats like bully sticks and pig ears issued a large-scale recall. This time, salmonella —a group of bacteria responsible for most cases of human food poisoning— was the culprit. Again, inspectors from a state department of agriculture, this time in Denver, Colo., were responsible for identifying the problem. In September 2012, during a routine check of the Kasel Associated Industries processing plant, inspectors found evidence of salmonella contamination. The firm issued three recall notices that year, one in September and two in October.

In February of this year, Kasel had the dubious distinction of being the first pet food manufacturer to possibly face a first-ever FDA/FSMA mandatory recall notice, a threat based on inspections by an FDA team that found a number of infractions: “All of the finished pet treat product samples and 48 out of 87 environmental samples collected during the inspection tested positive for salmonella. More than 10 different species of salmonella were found in the firm’s products and manufacturing facility, indicating multiple sources of contamination.” The jerky treats were sold through a number of big-box retailers, including Target, Petco, Sam’s Club and Costco.

Other jerky products made in Kasel’s Denver plant were drawn into the recall as well. Bixbi, an up-and-coming independent brand from Boulder, had batches of their products swept up, and Nutri-Vet, a more established brand, was also named, although it was noted that none of these products had tested positive for bacteria. (I contacted the owners of Bixbi and Kasel, who responded to my questions; I also placed numerous calls to Nutri-Vet, who didn’t reply.)

Treats aren’t the only products in which salmonella has been found, however. Natura, a premium holistic brand now owned by Procter & Gamble, had its first recall experience this year after one of their dry-food products tested positive for salmonella by Michigan inspectors. When I spoke in late March to Jason Taylor, a P&G spokesperson, he said the company was still in the process of trying to recreate the production situation at the time the contamination happened; they were, however, sure that it had occurred during a post-extrusion step. “We have an extrusion [cooking] process that is scientifically proven to kill pathogens … So it probably happened either at the dryer or packaging line.” According to Taylor, the company has a complex manufacturing process in place to ensure that their products are contamination- free. Their microbial-mitigation process, which has more than 100 steps, addresses each step the food goes through, from raw material through packaging.

Taylor said that the company was fairly confident that the problem was limited to products manufactured during the two-week period beginning December 17, 2012, and ending January 2, 2013. Since then, we learned that they extended the recall for products manufactured up through March 24, 2013— making this a larger-scale recall.

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Submitted by Frances | June 8 2013 |

I would expect anyone handling raw meat - whether direct from the local butcher or a frozen complete dog food - to take the basic hygiene precautions we were all taught as children. Avoid cross contamination, wash hands and implements well, etc, etc, with additional, more stringent precautions if anyone in the household is at high risk of infection. Kibble is very definitely another matter altogether, but surely anyone feeding a raw diet should have the sense to know how to handle raw meat?!

Submitted by Anonymous | June 11 2013 |

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a wealth of information pertaining to Claudia's article. Explore the links located on their website. I'll mention a few items:

1. Pet food can make pets and people sick

Pet ownership has many positive benefits. Pets comfort us and give us companionship. But as much as we love animals, there are simple precautions we need to take to keep our family members, including our four-legged members, safe and healthy. Here are some tips to help protect you and your family.

Shopping for your pet? Here are some purchasing tips:

Look at the package:
Buy bagged food with no visible signs of damage to the packaging, such as tears or discolorations.
Avoid buying canned food with dents.
Avoid raw diets for your pets:
CDC recommends against feeding raw food to dogs and cats because of the risk of illness to the pet as well as to people living in the household.

2. Do not feed your pet a raw diet
Here is why:

Raw diets consist of foods such as meat, poultry, milk, and eggs that have not been cooked or treated to remove harmful germs.
These food items can carry harmful bacteria including Salmonella and Campylobacter.


Submitted by Jill Hawley | July 10 2013 |

Just wanted to comment about the comment against raw food.

Raw food is great for keeping your dogs and cat on their natural diet. No grains, extremely low amount of veggies which need to either be lightly cooked or run through the food processor, since dogs don't have the long digestive tract needed to break them down and small amounts of fruit.
Lots of people say that the risk of contamination is too high. Well that's why you take measures to keep them low, such as sanitizing your work area and food bowls, washing your hand. BTW salmonella is found in processed pet food too! Although I haven't heard of any dogs getting sick just the owners.

Next the source of the food is of great importance, hormone free,organic, free range,pastured animals are the best options especially when it comes to liver since it filters out all the bad. You want to make sure that those animals are on their natural diet too, so no grains for them either. Cows eat grass for a reason, so why feed them grain?

Then we have the great debate on bones, don't use bones that are cooked, ever, they will splinter and can cause blockages or perforations. Then you want to make sure you're using none weight bearing bones only as, they will be easy for your dog to digest.

I want to know EXACTLY what is in my pets food and where it came from. Buy local when you can but be sure the food is GMO and hormone free.

And just wanted to add in how unlikely it is for your dog to be the one who gets sick, my dogs used to feed on the carcasses of deer we had hunted then butchered when we lived in the country.

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