Friday, May 22, 2009

NUTRO: Some Unanswered Questions

May 22, 2009

I had an interesting telephone conversation last week with a pleasant customer service representative at Nutro Products by the name of Josie. We were discussing Nutro's new distribution policy for Greenies.

For those who aren't in the know, Greenies are a pet dental chew made by Nutro. Until recently, they were available at veterinary clinics, from pet specialty retailers and in supermarkets. As of May 1st, Nutro has restricted the sale of Greenies to veterinary clinics and pet specialty stores. 

According to Josie, this change was to ensure that pet owners purchase the correct size and harness of Greenie for their pets – pet store and veterinary clinic employees are, she said, specially trained to advise pet owners. 

While speaking with Josie, I also asked about the safety and quality control tests that Nutro carries out routinely on its pet food products. She advised me that the company draws samples every four hours during production and tests for: 

E. coli

I asked whether Nutro ever tests its ingredients or finished products to ensure the correct levels of nutrients, vitamins, and trace minerals. Josie promised to check with her R&D people and get back to me – or have someone from the R&D department contact me directly.

I still haven't heard from Josie, or from Nutro R&D. But I think that I have my answer.

Yesterday, Nutro Products recalled several varieties of dry cat food, bearing expiration dates between May 12, 2010 and August 22, 2010. The recalled items were manufactured using a trace mineral premix that contained too little potassium and too much zinc. According to the news release,

"This issue was identified during an audit of our documentation from the supplier."

The recall notice raises as many questions as it answers. For example, Nutro claims to test its raw materials, stating,

"Once the raw materials arrive at a Nutro Products facility (or one of our co-manufacturers), they are checked for their quality and consistency and their chemical and nutrient properties are confirmed. These tests conform to all applicable industry standards."

How, then, did the two faulty premix batches get past the testing regimen? 

Nutro also claims a 14-month shelf life for its dry pet foods. Yet cat food with expiry dates up to August 22, 2010 were included in yesterday's recall. That's 15 months away. 

What is the true age of Nutro products that are now on the market?

And, if the distribution policy for Greenies was meant to ensure that cat and dog owners had access to trained store or clinic employees who could direct them to the correct size and variety product for their pets, why are Greenies still sold over the Internet?

Would anyone at Nutro Products, Inc. care to answer?


  1. Phyllis, thank you for covering this. I would love to know the answers to your wonderful questions as well.

  2. Great article......great questions.

    Too bad we (those who keep them in business) can't get any great answers.......actually, we'd be happy with any answers at all!

    Sadly, they don't feel we have a need to know. However, they gladly take our money.

    Since 2007, they get very little of mine.

  3. Hi. I am a nutritionist with NUTRO Products, Inc. I apologize if we did not respond to you as requested. We do strive to respond to each and every consumer inquiry.

    The GREENIES Brand and the NUTRO Brands are managed together by NUTRO Products, Inc. Since the NUTRO Brands are sold through pet specialty stores, the decision was made to sell the GREENIES Brand in this manner as well. Many of these stores have NUTRO Nutrition Specialists that frequent the stores that can assist with product questions. These products are also available on the internet for consumers who do not have easy access to stores where these products are sold.

    To answer the shelf-life questions, I am sorry there is some confusion. We will definitely make sure to review the information oin the website to address your concerns. Products can have different shelf-lives depending on their ingredients. Dry foods typically have between 12-18 month self lifes depending on their ingredients. The age of product you find in the marketplace will vary depending on that store. If you find out of date product in a store, please notify the store manager.

    In respect to quality, NUTRO Products (which includes the GREENIES brand) has many quality programs in place for both suppliers, ingredients and final products. In the case of the current recall, NUTRO had formulated their mineral premixes correctly. The formulation of the premixes in question had not been changed for some time. However, a mistake in our supplier's systems re-formulated these premixes in error. As these premixes were never re-formulated by NUTRO, the error was unexpected but was picked up in audits of our records. We are currently reviewing and making changes within our quality systems and within the protocols for our suppliers to ensure that this can never happen again.

    I would also like to confirm that we had no evidence of any adverse health issues with the recalled cat diets but have decided to recall the products out of an abundance of caution.

    We are pet owners ourselves at NUTRO and thus quality and safety of our products is as important to us as it is to our consumers. We apologize for the current situation but believe we have acted with our pets first in mind.

    If you have any other questions, please feel free to call 1-800-833-5330 to speak to a NUTRO representative.

    Dr. Tiffany L Bierer

  4. Hmmm, Ms. Entis had alot of very valid questions that deserve honest answers. She was told someone from Nutro would get back to her directly and I assume that meant via phone call but apparently the way Nutro responds is in comments sections rather than direct conversation. Its interesting that Ms. Bierer from Nutro posted the same exact response over at PetSitUSA would be really nice....and professional...if Nutro would contact Ms Entis directly to answer her questions...which are the same questions many of us have and would like answers to.

  5. May I add, questions many of us have....that were not answered in the post by Nutro rep Ms. Bierer.

  6. Dr. Tiffany - If Nutro spent the amount of time & money on quality control they seem to be spending on damage control, there wouldn't be problem.
    This happened "nadvertently so no special measures were necessary, according to the Nutro FAQ's on their website. Could you explain that sentence to us please? Did the dog inadvertently eat their homework?
    That didn't work when I was 6.

  7. Clearly, this is a company that doesn't walk the talk.

    If their Quality Assurance procedures were what they claim (testing of ingredients), the Trouw/Nutro system failure wouldn't have happened.

    Bad Procedures = Bad Food

  8. Why is a nutritionist answering questions about QUALITY CONTROL?

    Doesn't Nutro have a QUALITY ASSURANCE department?

    Maybe Mars should stick to candy making. I don't feed that to my cats.

  9. We'd love to hear from your QC manager, not your nutritionist. Oh, there isn't one?

    Yada yada somebody else said, I think the money would be better spent on healthy ingredients & hiring some QC people rather than trying to calm the public AFTER there's been a problem.

    I worry about people I know who still use this product & refuse to believe there is a problem. Hoping this last "issue" will convince them that this is not the healthy food it once was.

    This will never be in my home.

    I agree w/the previous poster: you should stick to making candy.

  10. Interesting that Nutro can't be bothered to call customers who have complaints or journalists with questions,when they have no problem calling people whose information was improperly given to them by Trouw. Please see replies # 109,110 & 147 at the following

  11. A brief recall history for Effem/Mars/Nutro:

    March 2004 - Pedigree Recalled in Asia

    Cathy Brown article - 2004 Recall was due to melamine/cyanuric acid

    March 2007 - Cat Food Recall

    August 2007 - Red Flannel & Krasdale Dog Food Recalled due to Potential Salmonella

    August 2008 - Pedigree Recalled due to Potential Salmonella

    September 2008 - Everson, PA Plant Contaminated with Salmonella, Dry Food Recalled


    October 2008 - Special Kitty Recall (Potential Salmonella)

    April/May 2009 - Greenies Recall

    May 2009 - Nutro Dry Cat Food Recall (Excess Zinc, Deficient Potassium)

    Hundreds of Consumers Complain About Nutro

    PFPSA Tests Food

    High Levels of Zinc and Copper in Nutro Products?

  12. Ms. Entis, I am curious as to what your feelings are on the fact that Nutro responded to you via comments on your blog....rather than calling you back directly as you were told would happen? Still hoping they will contact you.....AND be honest and open with their answers......but its not looking good so far.

  13. In response to Anonymous of May 25, 2009:

    I certainly would have preferred a direct communication, so that I could ask follow-up questions and gain a clear understanding of the situation. I've been letting the situation "incubate" for a few days, before doing another post on the subject.

    I would also be interested in hearing from any Nutro customers who have been in touch with FDA as a result of problems experienced by their cats and/or dogs.

  14. They have Nutro "Ambassadors" at Twitter but they are only directing people to the FAQ at their site, they also arent answering any questions. Their site is loaded with info about QC, the same QC that let incorrect zinc & potassium amounts into the food thru a before, during and after check process....

  15. I was called by a Nutro rep this past saturday night of the Memorial Day weekend..I was sure surprised as I had called Trouw Nutrition on friday and spoke to Alyssa (?sp) with 2 questions..I first gave her the reason for my concerns in this--it reeked of the ChemNutra disaster of 2006/2007--so I wanted confirmation this company was the premix supplier and to whom else do they supply...I did not want to feed my 2 new cats (since my melamine affected cats are both deceased from renal failure) not one bit of bad food! I was told Mike Cooper would call me as he was the one "handling this"..I expected one of two things to happen---no phone call or email response--or being told that this was proprietary. I had given them my name, unlisted phone number and my email address --I was never told they would share it with anyone else---I now know I should have told them my personal info was PROPRIETARY!! I find it extremely strange that Nutro was able to call me (due to Trouw sharing my info as confirmed by Nicole, the rep who called) when I read at may blogs and forums that pet owners are still waiting to be contacted by Nutro with test results and complaints of sick pets...
    I did not ask the Nutro rep any questions as I feel they were specific to Trouw--and I sadly do not trust Nutro based on the way they handle the melamine disaster---the chicken california supreme cat food for one example!

  16. I notice this post from Nutro is pretty much the same one posted at other site...petsitusa's blog is one of them ... To me that gives so little credence to the words...

  17. Consumer Affairs has a new article up this morning.

  18. Consumer Affairs May 26, 2009 article:

    Consumers React to NUTRO Recalls; Zinc, Copper Levels Cited

  19. (Some) Companies spend big $'s on their QA/QC programs to make sure their manufacturing processes are "in control"

    Regardless of how Effem/Mars/Nutro chooses to continue "spinning" the incident, the process failed.

    While auditing paperwork is useful, it is NOT a substitute for PROPER TESTING.

    Got to say, if I were the global leader in pet food sales, believe I'd have an in-house lab.

    Guess our pets just aren't that important to global giant Effem/Mars/Nutro.

    This Nutro recall alledgedly involved only cat food, but I have to wonder about all the complaints on Consumer Affairs website.

    Something clearly is going on. As someone tweeted this morning "if it's smoking, there's a fire."

    Until Effem/Mars/Nutro and the FDA get this all sorted out, believe I won't be buying ANY pet food that's made in the USA. Sorry, but you'd need a Ph.D in advanced cryptology to figure THAT mess out.

    And we remember the Pet Food Recall of 2007, where information was released drip by drip.

    We need to be very careful with this one.

  20. Phyllis, did you see this new Consumer Affairs article out as of today? Definate reports of sick and kitties that have died also, very sad. Owners say they contacted Nutro but as of today Nutro's site still says no cats with health issues from recalled food.

  21. Complaint Scoreboard

    Consumer Affairs = 800, and rising.

    Nutro = ZERO

    Something very wrong with Scoreboard

  22. Nutro/Mars/Effem does know the “range of levels of zinc” in the foods.

    They don’t know the “exact” levels of zinc in the foods.

    They need to tell the vets the range.

    No vet needs to call Nutro, get put on hold, listen to pr babble.

    They need info to treat the animals at their fingertips the minute they know they’re treating an animal that ate Nutro products.

    So, if you ask how much, they’ll tell you they don’t know the “exact” amount.

    Please, ask them the range!

  23. All of us might consider asking ALL of our pet food retailers to be pro-active.

    See Pet Food Express regarding Nutro dry cat food products:


    As a precaution, PFE has pulled all Nutro dry cat products off of our shelves. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause but we are not willing to take any chances with pets’ health. We are asking for safety certifications on replacement products from Nutro in order to restock them, which we expect will take 6-8 weeks.

    PFE has also consulted Nutro directly and with local veterinarians regarding the risk posed by excessive zinc and/or deficient potassium. From what we can gather, they are most likely to pose long term risks such as copper, iron, or calcium deficiencies; anemia; or lethargy. This will depend on how long the pet was on the unbalanced food, what else it may have been eating, and its overall health, age, and status (i.e. pregnant or lactating).
    End Quote


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