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Darwin’s Refusal to Cooperate in Dog Food Recall Triggers FDA Action; Food Poses “Serious Threat to Human and Animal Health”

UPDATE: April 4, 2019
 
The owner of Darwin’s, Gary Tashjian, defended his position for refusing to cooperate with the FDA by providing the agency with the company’s customer information saying that doing so, “would violate its consumer privacy policy.”
 
The company told the agency they had alerted their customers directly and there was no need for a public notification, but because Darwin’s refused to cooperate, the agency followed protocol which was to notify the public of the recall, saying, “in the absence of an adequate public notification by the firm or confirmation from the firm that it has promptly and effectively communicated the recall to all customers, the agency may issue its own public notification.”
 
The FDA said it was following standard procedure, and that any information collected would be confidential. Tashjian defended his position by saying that, “the last thing we want to do is get into a fight with the FDA,” Tashjian said. Yet, that is exactly what he did.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public statement warning consumers about Darwin’s dog food after the company refused to issue public notification warning consumers who might have purchased the food.

The FDA is cautioning pet owners not to feed their pets three lots of Darwin’s Natural Pet Products raw dog food after samples from these lots tested positive for Salmonella. These products are as follows.

  • Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Chicken Recipe with Organic Vegetables for Dogs: 5309(11)181019, manufactured on October 19, 2018
  • Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Chicken Recipe with Organic Vegetables for Dogs: 5375(11)181106, manufactured on November 6, 2018
  • Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Turkey Recipe with Organic Vegetables for Dogs: 5339(11)181026, manufactured on October 26, 2018

The FDA collected and analyzed unopened samples of products from these three lots of which all three lots tested positive for Salmonella.

DARWIN’S  PUBLIC PROTEST

Following the FDA notification, the company issued a press release complaining of being unfairly targeted by the agency, accusing them of singling them – and all other raw pet food manufacturers – out, while deliberately ignoring other types of pet food such as kibble.

The company also flatly refutes the FDA’s findings, claiming their testing did not find any measurable amounts of Salmonella, calling into question the veracity of the FDA’s test results.

Not surprisingly, the company also stringently objects to the zero-tolerance standard that the FDA has set for pathogens in pet food, asserting that low levels of pathogens are unlikely to pose a health risk to humans or animals.

The company also claims they have not received any complaints related to the contaminated food, yet the FDA notification indicated the agency investigation into Darwin’s was initiated following a consumer complaint.

PATHOGENS IN MEAT: FDA v. USDA

Because of the divergent – and some feel unfair – regulation of pathogens in pet food and pathogen in meat and poultry for humans consumption, it helps to understand how two government agencies (the FDA and the USDA) should govern pathogens in such a different manner.

Pet food is regulated by the FDA, while meat and poultry for human consumption are regulated by the USDA. USDA, unlike the FDA, allows for a certain level of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry because it is intended to be cooked.

However, because pet food is intended to be served without cooking, pet foods contaminated with pathogens creates a potential for pets exposed to these products. Therefore, when pathogens are detected in pet food, the FDA considers it a danger to the health and welfare of animals and humans.

HOW YOUR PET’S POOP SPREADS DISEASE

Unlike humans, who, hopefully, do not eat raw meat and poultry, properly dispose of their human waste, and practice good hygiene, pets, on the other hand, do not.

With pets, once Salmonella gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, your pet can shed the bacteria wherever it poops. And when it cleans itself after pooping, the bacteria spread to their mouth, which spreads it to their fur and any object or surfaces your pet comes in contact with – including you, your children and other pets.

You should be aware that when your infected dog poops – whether in your yard or a public park – your pet exposes other people and pets to disease.

PET FOOD SAFETY HEIGENE

As with any raw meat or poultry, you should thoroughly wash your hands after handling the product and clean up potentially contaminated items and surfaces. But unlike meat and poultry you feed yourself, when you bring a contaminated pet food product into your home, you should clean and disinfect all pet food bowls, pet food containers, pet bedding, toys, floors, and any other surfaces that the food or pet may have had contact with.

IF YOUR PET IS SICK

People who think their pets have become ill after consuming contaminated pet food should first contact their veterinarians. Veterinarians who wish to have pets tested for Salmonella may do so through the Vet-LIRN Network if the pet is from a household with a person infected with Salmonella.

The FDA encourages consumers to report complaints about pet food products electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.

DARWIN’S LEGION OF PROBLEMS

While the FDA continues the investigation of Darwin’s, it’s worth considering the legion of problems the company has been plagued with in recent years. While most companies will be faced with difficulties from time to time, it is the owner of the company, Gary Tashjian, who despite being repeatedly accused of serious pet food safety violations have consistently refused to accept responsibility for making and selling a pet food capable of causing the illness and death of pets. It is for this reason that I consider Darwin’s to be one of the most dangerous types of pet food companies.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DARWIN’S TROUBLED PAST

FDA Cautions Pet Owners Not to Feed Their Pets Three Lots of Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Raw Dog Food Due to Salmonella

Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Infections Linked to Raw Chicken Products

UPDATED: FDA Investigates Pattern of Contamination in Certain Raw Pet Foods Made by Arrow Reliance Inc., Including Darwin’s Natural Pet Products and ZooLogics Pet Food

FDA Warns Darwin’s: Clean Up Your Act or Face The Regulatory Music

Inspection of Darwin’s Reveals Revolting Conditions, Complaints of Ill and Dying Pets

Darwin’s In Trouble Again; More Raw Dog Food Found Contaminated With Pathogenic Bacteria

FDA Investigates Darwin’s Pathogenic Pet Food Problems Following Illness and Death of Pets

Darwin’s Recalls Pet Food For Salmonella and Listeria; Pathogen Problems Date Back 17 Months

Sharp Bones, Plastic Bags and Metal Found in Darwin’s Dog Food; Complaints Date Back Months

YOU MADE IT TO THE END. BRAVO!

Now it’s my turn to talk about how Poisoned Pets survives.

Unlike most other pet food news organizations, I chose to my independent, investigative reporting free and available for everyone. The difference is my work is free from commercial bias and not influenced by pet food companies, or advertisers. This is important as it enables me to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. It’s what makes me different to so many others in the pet media; at a time when factual, honest reporting is crucial.

So, that’s why I need you. Your support is critical for the future of Poisoned Pets. Won’t you please help?

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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.

Comments (17) Write a comment

  1. You had me 100% on board until the “absolutely no oysters, not even HPPd”
    For real? But have you tried one? And you’re a steak well done lady too?
    Please note this has nothing to do with Darwin’s, there we agree. But a great cut of steak seared on the outside? An HPP or fresh out of the sea local raw oyster? Sorry… some things are definitely worth that infinitesimal risk. I think future generations will laugh at our over the top germaphobia. There is a vast difference between salmonella loaded raw poultry pet food shipped fed ex with an ice pack and a fresh shucked oyster.
    Guess we’ll have to agree to somewhat disagree. ✌️

    Reply

    • I was just quoting from the CDC and the FDA re raw shellfish and seafood. I think the concern is in how and where they are processed. It’s a dirty business. For them everything is about the precautionary principle – taking risks is not advised. They can’t say, “Sure go ahead! Take your chances!”

      Are we a nation of germophobes? That’s an interesting question. If you asked the question to the woman gave birth to a stillborn child after being infected with Listeriosis, what do you think her answer would be. I think it’s a matter of perspective. Until you’ve experienced the devastation that comes with being infected with a foodborne pathogen it’s hard to imagine.

      You mention oysters “fresh out of the sea,” which sounds great until you know about Vibrio vulnificus. It’s sometimes referred to as “flesh-eating bacteria” – Google it. It’s pretty horrible. Oh and then there’s worms – anisakid nematodes. Anisakiasis results from eating fish or seafood contaminated with that parasite. Google that. It’s horrible.

      And I’m a vegan, so a steak well-done or otherwise is not on my menu.

      Reply

  2. I’m glad to see reporting that describes things as they are.

    I’m also frankly horrified to read comments directly from Barbara, and feel privileged to be able to read those. I’ve been there, not to the degree that she has, with another company. I’m sympathetic and very upset to read her comments… it’s nearly unbearable just to read them.

    Reply

  3. Good to hear from you Mollie! Please feel free to publicize Leo’s case. I would like people to learn about how poorly Darwin’s and company treats their customers when it really counts. I would also like to inform pet families about the fact that Darwin’s raw food makes both cats and dogs sick. It’s important for consumers to know about the “Real” Darwin’s and their unethical business practices.

    Reply

  4. Darwin’s is an unethical company. Darwin’s raw food nearly killed my cat in January 2019. He was hospitalized for 8 days, very near death. The animal hospital clearly documented the cause of my cat’s illness was from Darwin’s raw food. However, Darwin’s refused to take any responsibility, or notify the public about their tainted, bacteria ridden food. They refused any compassion for Leo, my best friend. The veterinary bills are now $10,000 in total, and the company will not compensate me for any of it. In fact Linda O’ Brien, the customer service manager, accused me of being a “hardship case,” implying I am just trying to gain money from the situation. Darwin’s made an awful situation even worse in their poor treatment of Leo and I.

    Reply

    • I’m so glad you wrote Barbara. I was tempted to include your story about Leo, but I wanted to get your permission for doing so first. As you can see by this latest Darwin’s debacle another pet – a dog – was made ill by Darwin’s raw food. And as Darwin’s did with you, the company refused to take responsibility for their failure to produce safe and wholesome food. This company has repeatedly shown to be unwilling or incapable of doing so, and until then all we have is the FDA and the State of Washington to help us. I was alerted to this latest action by the Washington State Dept of Agriculture who was helping you with your complaint. It is my sincere hope that they will find E.coli in the food – the same bacteria that nearly killed your poor cat, Leo. And if you read this article (http://www.poisonedpets.com/fda-warns-darwins-clean-up-your-act-or-face-the-regulatory-music/), in it you will find this quote: “Federal and state food inspectors repeatedly found multiple violations at Darwin’s pet food plant and testing found the pet food contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. Repeated testing discovered the pet food was contaminated with Salmonella, Listeria, and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O128.” If you read the inspection report it will make you sick: Darwin’s pet food owner knew of pathogens in production plant.

      Reply

      • I’m glad to see reporting that describes things as they are.

        I’m also frankly horrified to read comments directly from Barbara, and feel privileged to be able to read those. I’ve been there, not to the degree that she has, with another company. I’m sympathetic and very upset to read her comments… it’s nearly unbearable just to read them.

        Reply

        • Yes, it is heartbreaking. Barbara has been through hell. And it is a miracle that her cat even survived.

          I hope I can do justice to her story. I’ll be writing about it soon.

          The FDA is on board with her complaint and hopefully, there will be a resolution of some kind.

          Reply

          • Thank you Mollie! You’ve been very adept at telling my story and I appreciate that.

  5. Human do eat raw meat-sushi and bloody rare meat is raw-we also touch and handle all raw meats so the fda thing does not fly with me.

    Reply

    • Yes, I forgot to mention that. You are correct. However, the USDA, the CDC and the FDA strongly discourage people from doing so. Which is why those agencies recommend that people will cook their meat, poultry, eggs, and fish.

      If you read my article on this subject – Raw Pet Food: The Problem That Just Won’t Go Away – I outline why if you or your pet eats raw meat or poultry you will be eating shit at some point.

      A quote from the article I wrote:

      The poor outcome of any raw pet food study should be understood in the context that the U.S. meat and poultry supply is filthy. There’s a “simple explanation for why eating a hamburger can now make you seriously ill,” wrote Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal in 2001, “There is shit in the meat.”

      Not much has changed since then.

      “It’s not whether or not people are going to eat shit — they are. It’s just how much,” one meat inspector said about the USDA Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points Inspection Models Project (HIMP), according to documents released by the Government Accountability Project.”

      Here’s what the USDA has to say on eating raw fish:

      “It’s always best to cook seafood thoroughly to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. However, if you choose to eat raw fish anyway, one rule of thumb is to eat fish that has been previously frozen. Some species of fish can contain parasites, and freezing will kill any parasites that may be present. However, be aware that freezing doesn’t kill all harmful germs. That’s why the safest route is to cook your seafood.”

      Here’s what the CDC has to say on the subject:

      “Numerous parasites can be transmitted by food including many protozoa and helminths. In the United States, the most common foodborne parasites are protozoa such as Cryptosporidium spp., Giardia intestinalis, Cyclospora cayetanensis, and Toxoplasma gondii; roundworms such as Trichinella spp. and Anisakis spp.; and tapeworms such as Diphyllobothrium spp. and Taenia spp. Many of these organisms can also be transmitted by water, soil, or person-to-person contact. Occasionally in the U.S., but often in developing countries, a wide variety of helminthic roundworms, tapeworms, and flukes are transmitted in foods such as undercooked fish, crabs, and mollusks and undercooked meat.”

      Here’s what the FDA says on the subject of raw fish:

      “…avoid the following foods: Raw or undercooked fish or shellfish, or food containing raw or undercooked seafood (for example, sashimi) found in some sushi or ceviche. Raw oysters, even if they are treated after they have been harvested. Post-harvest treatment eliminates some naturally occurring pathogens, but does not remove all pathogens that can cause illness.”

      Go ahead, be my guest.

      Reply

    • Hi Jenn, the recalls this week for raw tuna should give you pause:

      Frozen tuna recalled in several states for Salmonella risk; April 17, 2019 (https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2019/04/frozen-tuna-recalled-in-several-states-for-salmonella-risk/)

      “…As of April 16, the FDA, CDC and state and local partners, are investigating a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Newport illnesses linked to frozen ground tuna from Jensen Tuna, sourced from JK Fish of Vietnam.”

      And another article on the same subject: Raw ground tuna responsible for outbreak and recall; April 17, 2019 (https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2019/04/raw-ground-tuna-responsible-for-outbreak-and-recall/)

      “…Nine (75 percent) of 12 people interviewed reported eating sushi from a restaurant or grocery store. This proportion was significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 5 percent reported eating sushi, sashimi, or ceviche made with raw fish or shellfish in the week before they were interviewed. Of the nine people with information about their sushi exposure, nine (100 percent) reported eating a sushi item containing raw tuna or raw “spicy tuna.”

      So, yes I stand by my risk assessment of raw meat, poultry, eggs, and fish.

      But a lot of people, like you, are OK with taking those kinds of risks – that’s a personal choice. Think about the Japanese and their fondness for blowfish for example…

      I can’t condemn you, but it is my duty as an educator to inform consumers of the risks, however infinitesimal.

      Reply

  6. It’s getting to the point to where you almost have to make the dog food yourself. Putting trust in the pet food industry is risky business and not worth it. I feed my dogs a pet food that has never been recalled but that doesn’t mean anything.

    Reply

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