Another raw dog food tests positive for Listeria, this time it’s Vital Essentials that got caught in FDA’s focus on raw pet food

Another raw pet food recall has been announced this week: this time the brand is Vital Essentials. The FDA notified the company that two small batches of their Vital Essentials branded Frozen Beef Tripe products, the Frozen Beef Tripe Nibbles and the Frozen Beef Tripe Patties, tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

The lots involved in the recall are:

  • Vital Essentials Frozen Beef Tripe Patties, UPC 33211 00809, Lot # 10930, Best by date 20160210
  • Vital Essentials Frozen Beef Tripe Nibblets UPC 33211 00904, Lot # 10719, Best by date 12022015

They also provided a detailed Q&A for consumers:

Q. What should I do if I discover a package of recalled product in my freezer?

A.  If the lot # matches the lots listed in the recall notice, please throw the product away and notify the store where you purchased the product for a full refund.

Q.  Are any other Vital Essentials products affected?

A.  Only the two small limited batches of frozen beef tripe treats, with lot numbers that match the recall notice are affected.

Q. Why were these items withdrawn from the market?

A.  The FDA notified us of two limited batches of beef tripe products tested positive for Listeria. Although according to the FDA, Listeria, even if present, rarely causes any illness in dogs, we nevertheless decided, in an abundance of caution, to withdraw the product from the market. We pride ourselves on the overall quality of our pet food, and we believe taking these precautionary steps was the most appropriate thing to do.  The market withdrawal was thorough and effective.

Q. Can my dog get Listeriosis from pet food?

A. According to the FDA website, dogs almost never become sick from listeria, and nearly 20% of dogs already test positive for the bacteria.  Additionally, the FDA website cites one reference, which mentioned only six reported cases in dogs from 1947 to 2000. http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm373757.htm#Animals

Q. What steps have you taken to help prevent this from happening in the future?

A. We believe that this was an issue that arose from a problem with a supplier. Moving forward, we will continue to carefully assess and monitor and also require letters of guarantee from our suppliers.

Despite the assurance that “dogs almost never become sick from Listeria, and nearly 20% of dogs already test positive for the bacteria,” a broader view would have acknowledged that statistical analysis of disease in domestic animals is virtually impossible to calculate as there is little hard data gathered for domestic animals (as there is for the human population). Therefore, it is difficult to estimate the threat that Lysteria  poses to pets.

The venerable Merck Veterinary Manual writes that, while listeriosis is as rare as hen’s teeth, there remains a risk to certain populations:

…pregnant animals (including women) should be protected from infection because of danger to the fetus, with possible abortion, stillbirth, and infection of neonates. Although human listeriosis is rare (upper estimate of 12 cases per million population per yr), mortality can reach 50%. Most cases involve older patients, pregnant women, or immunocompromised people…

On the human side of the coin, here is a little snippet of what the World Health Organization has to say about Listeria in the human population:

…Listeria infection leads to unplanned abortions in pregnant women or death of newborn babies. Although disease occurrence is relatively low, listeria’s severe and sometimes fatal health consequences, particularly among infants, children and the elderly, count them among the most serious foodborne infections…

I am sorry to hear that another raw food has tested positive for Listeria, and I believe that if the FDA were to broaden it’s scope to include testing other types of pet food for bacteria, we might be seeing commercial kibble and treats thrown under the FDA bacteria bus too. Yet, while I hate to see raw pet food vilified, Listeria is a nasty bacteria, however rare its occurrence in the human and animal population.

To download a copy of the FDA announcement, click here.

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and advisor to AAFCO. Help support her work by making a donation today.

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