Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mars Petcare Dog Food Recall: Follow-up

Why FDA Needs Mandatory Recall Authority

In 2007, 70 people in 19 states became infected with Salmonella Schwarzengrund. The first confirmed cases were reported in May in Pennsylvania. One month later, infections with the outbreak strain of Salmonella had turned up in Ohio and several other states.

Based on information uncovered by Pennsylvania health authorities and the CDC, suspicion fell on dry dog food as the source of the multi-state outbreak. Hot on the scent of the common link, investigators sampled 13 dog stool samples and 22 samples of dry dog food – and found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Schwarzengrund in 5 of the stools and in 2 dog food samples.

The implicated dog food was manufactured in the Pennsylvania plant of Mars Petcare. Pennsylvania Department of Health inspectors visited the Mars production plant on July 12th and collected 144 environmental swab samples for lab analysis. One of the samples yielded the outbreak strain of Salmonella Schwarzengrund.

Mars suspended production at its Pennsylvania plant for several months (July-November 2007) for a comprehensive clean-up and disinfection of the entire production facility. And it instituted a product recall – but only of the two specific products that were proven by FDA lab tests to be contaminated with Salmonella Schwarzengrund.

Mars Petcare's Pennsylvania facility produced dry dog food under 25 different brand names. Based on patient interviews and Salmonella-positive dog stools, some of these other brands – and some other production dates – also were implicated in the outbreak. The company, however, chose not to recall any products unless FDA could prove – based on Salmonella-positive lab results from unopened bags of dog food – that the products were contaminated.

Logically – given the scope of the outbreak, the confirmed presence of the outbreak strain in the production environment, the finding of Salmonella-contaminated dog food from two different batches, and the epidemiological evidence – the entire outstanding production from this plant should have been recalled. But FDA did not have the necessary authority to insist on a more extensive recall.

A report of the outbreak investigation appeared in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a CDC publication. The writer's frustration shines through clearly in the discussion of the recall. The Editorial Note to the report reads, in part, as follows:
"The case-control study found an association between infections in households and use of dry dog food or dry cat food produced by manufacturer A. In addition, the outbreak strain was isolated from 1) opened bags of dry dog food (brands A and B) that were produced in plant A by manufacturer A, 2) stool specimens from dogs in case-patient households that ate dry dog food produced in plant A, 3) an environmental sample from plant A, and 4) two bags (brands E and F) of previously unopened dry dog food produced in plant A.

A voluntary recall of specific-sized bags of two brands of dry dog food issued by the manufacturer in August 2007 was based only on lot-specific testing of finished unopened bags found to be positive for Salmonella by official FDA testing. Other sizes of bags of the two brands of dry dog food, although produced at plant A, were not recalled. Other brands of dry dog or cat food produced at plant A, including brands associated epidemiologically and microbiologically with illness, also were not included in the recall.

Plant A ceased operations during July--November 2007 to allow for cleaning and disinfection. However, because dry pet food has a 1-year shelf life and all contaminated products were not recalled, contaminated dry pet food might still be found in homes and could provide the potential for causing illness. Only an estimated 3% of Salmonella infections are laboratory-confirmed and reported to surveillance systems (2); therefore, this outbreak likely was larger than the 70 laboratory-confirmed cases identified."

Mars Petcare produces such familiar brands as Royal Canin, Pedigree and Nutro, as well as a large number of store brands. It is part of Mars, Incorporated – the company that has given the world M&Ms, Mars Bars and Uncle Ben's Rice.

The Mars Petcare dry dog foods have a one-year shelf life. Some of the dog food that was produced before the July 2007 plant shutdown is still in circulation. If you have purchased any dry dog food that was manufactured at Mars Petcare's Pennsylvania plant, please discard it. If you purchased a store brand or regional brand and are unsure of where it was made, contact your retailer and ask for the name of the manufacturer. Or call Mars North America's consumer hot line toll-free at: 1-800-627-7852.


  1. Better get your facts straight. Mars DOES NOT manufacture Nutro dry pet foods. Nutro dry foods are manufactured by Nutro. Even though Mars bought out Nutro last year, Nutro is still producing it's own dry foods.

  2. Nevertheless, the Nutro brand is now owned by Mars, Incorporated (see press release at It has been my experience that the corporate culture of the parent organization spreads, sooner or later, to its new acquisitions.

    Thank you for visiting.

    If your dog has diarrhea mixing rice with their food and even some unflavored Metamucil helps to firm up stool. Pedigree is really not a very good food to begin with. Neither is IAMs Beneful Purina or any of the other foods you have usually heard of. The first several ingredients are usually corn (we know what happens when our body gets corn, we poop it out and don’t use it, same with dogs) meat by products (the take the meat off of whatever it is and you get the bones, feathers, coat, feet, beaks, etc) and white or brewers rice (no nutritional value, just a filler) because of this our dogs need to eat more to get the nutrients they need and poop a lot more too. diet and eukanuba are not very good foods either. They used to be but they were bought out by other companies who, to save money, changed the ingredients to fillers and by products. These foods cost about the same as the all naturals foods and you are getting pedigree quality food. You can check all the ingredients yourself. Stay away from the first 3 ingredients being corn, by products of any kind, and white or brewer’s rice. Go for foods with chicken, chicken meal, or any meats that don’t have by product after them, and BROWN rice. These are good foods. Try going to a specialty pet store and ask about a better food. Precise, Royal Canin, and Verus are all really good foods. When you look at the ingredients they will be along the lines of Chicken, brown rice (the only rice with nutritional value for dogs), and usually another protein source such as chicken meal (chicken meal is just dehydrated chicken, very good) your dogs will eat much less of the food so even though it cost a bit more you go through less food and it ends up saving you money. They also poop less, live longer, and are overall healthier. I have four shih tzus and I feed them Royal Canin dry food. 10lbs of that food last us over a month. 4 adults dogs eating only 10lbs of food between the 4 of them is pretty good! These foods are also all natural and organic so they are never involved in any recalls; you know your food is always safe. Go to your local pet store and ask about these brands (Precise, Royal Canin, Verus, Wellness, California Natural, Innova, Canidae, Merrik) many stores, such as Pets Plus, will even give you your money back for the dog food if your dog doesn’t like it and has programs such as buy 10 bags get your 11th free. It's worth a try and trust me your dogs will love it.

  4. In June of 2008, I was sickened with Samonella I believed was from the tomatoe outbreak. My toy poodle was also sick vomiting blood tinged mucus. Later, in August, a pet food recall on local television provided the mystery illnesses with an explanation. The Everson plant was the culprit. Pedigree for small breeds with chicken pellet biscuits. Pedigree was notified and it was confirmed thru UPC codes. Moral of this note: Always save your pet food receipts. This was the third illness my pet experienced. Grain mites in Beneful Healthy Growth for puppies at 8 months of age. Approximately a year later, melamine toxicity from the gold bag of AIMS. Unfortunately, a third try of a food he seemed to like was the Pedigree. Shame on the dog food industry. It sure would be nice if they would reimburse us for all the medical bills that have been incurred by their negligence. Purina, IAMS and Pedigree never offered any help with expenses only apologies from IAMS and Pedigree. The young lady I spoke with at Purina completely denied that any food was tainted. You guessed it, I'll never purchase any of the brand name products in any way shape or form. This is the only power the consumer has. Hope this comment helps.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.