Be careful: Pet food – raw, frozen, processed – can be contaminated

My new best friend – Ted, the dog – came from a breeder in Toowoomba, about 90 minutes away, atop Australia’s Great Dividing Ridge.

ted-grass-nov-16He weighs less than our cats, but is feisty and loves a walk.

Or a run.

The breeder (we went to the local shelters, but they had dogs that were not deemed appropriate by our townhouse body corporate) so we got the little one rather than make a rush decision to buy an $800K house so we could have a bigger dog.

Besides, this one’s got personality.

The breeder insisted that dogs do better on a raw meat diet.

I just wanted to get the dog, go visit our friends, and go home, so didn’t belabor the point.

But any raw product carries the same risk of Salmonella and E. coli and other things that are not fun to inflict on your dog.

Natures Menu is recalling its ‘Country Hunter 80% Farm Reared Turkey with Wholesome Fruit and Veg’ frozen pet food, because the product contains Salmonella.

The UK Food Standards Agency is issuing this product recall notice because we are responsible for animal feed regulations and their enforcement through local authorities.sorenne-ted

Fancy dog food ain’t safe dog food: A ‘spoonful’ for Serena Williams edition

Serena Williams tried her 3-year-old dog’s hotel dog food and got one whopper of a stomach ache afterward, according to a Snapchat video.

“That looks better than my food,” reasoned Williams in a video, now available on YouTube, in which she explains why she decided to have a bite of her dog’s gourmet meal. “I’m like, what the heck, I’m gonna try a piece. It looks good.”

Williams, who uploaded the video to Snapchat to avoid “hating,” knew exactly what people might think about her taste test: “Don’t judge me, I ate a spoonful.”

Turns out, this was definitely no delicious spoonful. Two hours later, she said, “I just ran to the toilet like, like I thought I was going to pass out.”

The “force-swallowed” bite tasted “a little bit like house cleaner,” she said, adding with a laugh, “Chip liked it and it looked good … I don’t think it’s consumable for humans.”

The star sighed at the end of the video, and said, “So now I feel really sick.”

Williams managed to qualify for the Italian Open hours later (and won yesterday.

Walking the walk

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes:

A company should be able to survive and improve in the wake of a major food recall; it’s an opportunity to reevaluate and strengthen what’s great about an operation and fix what has gone impossibly wrong.2014-03-10 17.23.50

In 2013, my dog Chloe’s (right, exactly as shown) food was recalled due to Salmonella contamination. After some struggles with refunds, we haven’t returned to feeding her any of the Natura brands foods. After trying multiple brands, we landed on the Diamond Naturals Grain Free Chicken kibble and she’s been consuming it for more than a year already. I am a fan of its ingredient list (lots of fats and proteins) and nutritional content (probiotics, omega-6 and 3, complex carbs, antioxidants), as well as its price point; Chloe seems to find it delicious.

Diamond Pet Foods had a 2012 recall due to Salmonella that resulted in 49 cases of foodborne illness in humans in 20 states due to contamination at a single production facility, discovered via a routine check. Two years later, Costco (a distributor of the Kirkland product, also recalled) settled claims for over $2M initiated by the death of Barbara Marciano’s dog, which ate the contaminated food purchased from Costco. The contaminated food had not yet been recalled. Part of the settlement included “new and improved quality control procedures and therapeutic reforms that had not been implemented prior to the recalls.”

During the investigation, the FDA observed the following: 1) All reasonable precautions are not taken to ensure that production procedures do not contribute contamination from any source. 2) Failure to provide handwashing and hand sanitizing facilities at each location in the plant where needed. 3) Failure to maintain equipment, containers and utensils used to convey, hold, and store food in a manner that protects against contamination. 4) Failure to maintain equipment so as to facilitate cleaning of the equipment.

Now, the Diamond website depicts its commitment to food safety and mentions: on-site product testing, mycotoxin control, microbial testing, water quality, air quality, and its test-and-hold program. To the average consumer (including myself), its difficult to decipher what this means and how it is different from the pre-recall era.

I called Diamond for an explanation.

The customer service person answered all my food safety questions without stumbling. She explained since the 2012 recall, they’ve made a lot of changes. Some of her descriptions remained a bit vague; others came with more detail. She said all ingredients are tested (a series of tests, she explained) and then multiple times as they are manufactured. There are on-site labs at each facility—one of the biggest changes since the recall. For each batch of food, they retain samples to test for Salmonella. Each batch must be tested and held before it is released; if it comes up as Salmonella-positive, they will not distribute it. She explained that they used to send samples out for testing, but not hold the product – so the dog food could be consumed by the time Salmonella was detected.

Additionally, there are new safety protocols in each of the plants; incoming products are segregated from final product, not just within a space, but also by room through the use of walls and dividers. The result, she told me, is less cross-contamination. I also asked about how manufacturing might have changed, if there were any major changes in how the food was processed and she said no.

It’s hard to know what any manufacturer is doing to reduce risk of contamination, it’s all about trust; I appreciate that Diamond answered the call and my questions. It’s important to me to believe that a company can learn from bad experiences and improve its operations in the face of a recall, rather than attempt to cheat the system or disagree with the recommendations. But I also pay close attention to pet product recalls (there are so many!); if there’s another recall like the one in 2012, there’s a good chance Chloe will get to try another brand.

Looking for risk reduction info and finding little

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes,

After last year’s extended recall of my dog’s food, I switched brands. The recalls kept piling up and I did not want to put Chloe, my dog, at an increased risk as I repeatedly switched out bags of food.IMG_5238-225x300

Our pet food store gave me all sorts of samples for her to try before I committed to a new 30-lb bag. This time, I decided look up all the brands I had samples for in the FDA recall database. I initially considered ruling out companies with a history of recalls because repeated problems demonstrates a company that can’t get it right.

But what to do about businesses that may have had one health-related recall? Or none?

What I want to know is what a company does, or has done in response to an event, to improve their systems to reduce the risk of dogfoodborne illness.

It’s really hard to find information from dog food producers about what they do to keep Chloe’s potential food safe. It’s time for producers to step it up.

Providing consumers with risk reduction plans and systems, whether a company has had a contamination event or not, should be the industry standard but only a few companies provide this information.

That gluten-free bar is for dogs, not humans

The whole gluten-free thing has jumped the shark, if it already hadn’t two years ago.

According to the New York Times, about 15,000 plastic-wrapped copies of The Hollywood Reporter arrived on desks in Los Angeles. Inside these special copies of the publication, which has a subscriber base of about dogsbar70,000, was a “gluten free” nutrition bar — seemingly no big deal, just another of the magazine’s advertiser-related giveaways.

The president of one television studio chomped into it, as did one of his subordinates. A senior publicist at PMK-BNC tossed the bar into a drawer and started eating it a week later for a snack. This reporter did the same thing.

It was dog food.

“Yes, we heard people ate the dog bar thinking it was for humans,” said a clucking Lynne Segall, The Reporter’s publisher. “On the plus side, it was gluten-free.”

The “stunt,” as Ms. Segall called the giveaway, was part of a $45,000 ad purchase by Dog for Dog, a pet food company backed by the comedian Chelsea Handler; the rapper Snoop Dogg, who now prefers to be known sadie.dog.powellas Snoop Lion; and Ryan Kavanaugh, the chief of Relativity Media. For every item bought, Dog for Dog says it donates an item to a needy canine.

The TV executives (right, not exactly as shown) and power publicist who privately acknowledged chowing down on the blueberry-flavored Dogsbars said they only glanced at the wrapper before taking a bite. (They refused to speak on the record, for the obvious reason.) Only when something didn’t taste quite right did they read the smaller print:

“All Natural. Gluten Free. Snack for Dogs.”

Poop Doggy Dog Part II

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes,

Two weeks ago, my dog’s food was recalled. After inquiring via the Natura consumer relations line, I was sent a voucher as compensation for the 30-lb. bag my dog Chloe had already consumed. So I got another one.IMG_5238

I recently read that Natura had expanded the recall of its products. From the website:

Out of an abundance of caution, we are extending our recall to include all Natura dry dog, cat and ferret food and treats that have expiration dates on or before March 24, 2014. We are sorry for the disruption, but we simply want to ensure that every product meets our highest quality standards.

I checked my new bag and it’s dated March 14, 2014 (and included in the expanded recall). I called Natura and the operator explained to me that Natura wanted a clean break and that they decided to be extra cautious in recalling the food. They want to know that 100% of what is on store shelves is safe. I didn’t get any details about what had changed for Natura, except that by expanding the recall, they would have more faith in the products left in the stores. They just weren’t sure about the products with expiration dates on or before March 24, 2014 and felt it was better to be judicious.

 I’ve decided to not use this product anymore; I am uncertain of their current ability to produce the safest product possible. I didn’t want a voucher (even though Chloe loves their food). Natura’s customer service understood, even agreeing to send me a refund for the bag I tossed in the trash.

 Chloe deserves to eat food that isn’t at increased risk of making her sick. I’m not confident that Natura is really addressing risks, as I still don’t have answers about the reasoning behind the expanded recall.

The company does its own internal testing. Make it public. Prove to consumers your product is safe. And if you have the data, market it at retail, cause I want food that won’t give my dog diarrhea or make my dog barf.

Ashley Chaifetz studies how the government influences what we eat (and keeps it safe), consumes too many carrots, and survived Campylobacter in 2011.

Toddlers head for the dog dish; 49 now sick from Salmonella in dog food

A total of 49 individuals (47 individuals in 20 states and two individuals in Canada) have, according to the latest update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis linked to dry dog food, up from 22 a month ago.

Among the 24 patients with available information, 10 (42%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic and laboratory investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies linked this outbreak to dry dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at a single production facility in Gaston, South Carolina.

The complete report is available at http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/dog-food-05-12/index.html.

22 now sick from Salmonella in dog food

A total of 22 individuals have, according to the latest update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis. Twenty ill persons have been reported from 13 states and two ill persons have been reported from Canada.

Among the 17 patients with available information, 6 (35%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Among persons for whom information is available, illnesses began between October 2011 and May 11, 2012. Ill persons range in age from less than one year old to 82 years old and the median age is 46.5 years. Sixty-eight percent of patients are female. Among the 17 patients with available information, 6 (35%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Multiple brands of dry dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at a single manufacturing facility in South Carolina have been linked to some of the human Salmonella infections.

Consumers should check their homes for recalled pet food products and discard them promptly. People who think they might have become ill after contact with dry pet food or with an animal that has eaten dry pet food should consult their health care providers.

Dog food Salmonella outbreak grows; family of infant files lawsuit

When I talk about toddlers learning to crawl and heading for the dog dish, I’m not thinking of 8-week-olds.

A federal lawsuit in New Jersey alleging an infant was sickened by salmonella-contaminated dog food may be the first in the nation to hit the courts in the wake of a recent pet food recall.

The New Jersey Law Journal reports at least 15 people in nine states and Canada have reportedly fallen ill as a result of contact with pet food made by Diamond Pet Foods, which announced the recall on April 6 and has since expanded it to additional brands.

Eisenberg v. Diamond Pet Food Processors, 12-cv- 3127, filed May 25 in federal court in Trenton, alleges that a two-month-old child became sick with diarrhea, fever and loss of appetite on April 11. A day later, his pediatrician sent him to St. Peter’s University Hospital, where he spent three days and was diagnosed with salmonella. A stool sample later tested positive for the same strain of salmonella that spurred the recall, salmonella infantis.

The child’s father, Nevin Eisenberg of Marlboro, alleges he bought a bag of a Diamond brand — Kirkland Signature Super Premium Healthy Weight Dog Food with chicken and vegetables — at the Costco Wholesale Corporation store in Morganville.

The complaint does not specify how the child, identified as C.A.E., became exposed to salmonella.

But, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned yesterday the multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Infantis infections continues to grow.

FDA became involved in early April when the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development reported detecting Salmonella from an intact package of Diamond Naturals Lamb and Rice Formula for Adult Dogs, collected during retail surveillance sampling. Diamond Pet Food was notified of the sampling results, and agreed to voluntarily recall this product on April 6, 2012.

At that time, there were no known dog illnesses reported.

An additional finding of Salmonella in a sample taken by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, from an opened bag of Diamond Brand Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula dry dog food collected from the home of an ill person, and an unopened bag of the product collected from a retail store led to a recall of that product on April 26, 2012

A sample of Diamond Puppy Formula dry dog food collected by FDA during an inspection at the South Carolina production facility also yielded Salmonella Infantis, which led to a recall of that product on April 30, 2012.

Public health officials used DNA fingerprints of Salmonella bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE, to investigate cases of human illness. CDC reports that this outbreak strain (Infantis) is rare, and typically only 0 to 3 cases are reported per month to PulseNet.

Through interviews by state public health officials, FDA’s review of consumer complaints, and from a comparison of pet products from human exposure, some brands of dry pet food produced by Diamond Pets Foods at a single manufacturing facility in South Carolina have now been linked to human Salmonella infections.

FDA, CDC, and state investigations are ongoing in an effort to determine if other brands of dry dog food produced at the South Carolina facility may be linked to confirmed human illnesses. FDA will provide updates on the investigation as new information becomes available.

Diamond dog food sickens 14 people with Salmonella

President Obama says he ate dog food as a kid, and there have been lots of outbreaks of Salmonella in pet food making humans ill, either through cross-contamination or direct consumption.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports 14 individuals have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis linked to dog food.

Among the 9 patients with available information, 5 (56%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Multiple brands of dry pet food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at a single manufacturing facility in South Carolina have been linked to some of the human Salmonella infections.

On April 2, 2012, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development detected Salmonella in an unopened bag of Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice dry dog food, which had been collected March 14, 2012, during routine retail testing of dry pet food. Public health investigators used PulseNet to identify recent cases of human illness with a PFGE pattern indistinguishable from Salmonella Infantis which was isolated from the unopened bag of dry dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods. In interviews, ill persons answered questions about contact with animals and foods consumed during the week before becoming ill. Seven of 10 (70%) ill persons interviewed reported contact with a dog in the week before becoming ill. Of 5 ill persons who could recall the type of dog food with which they had contact, 4 (80%) identified dry dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods that may have been produced at a single facility in South Carolina.

As part of this outbreak investigation, Ohio public health and agriculture officials collected and tested dry dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods. The outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis was isolated from an opened bag of Diamond Brand Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula dry dog food collected from the home of an ill person, and an unopened bag of the product collected from a retail store. A sample of Diamond Puppy Formula dry dog food collected by FDA during an inspection at the South Carolina production facility has also yielded Salmonella.

Randy Phebus and I talked about contaminated pet food and the risks to pets and humans in Sept. 2008.