Botulism, Listeria Threat Prompts Recall of OC Raw Dog Food, State Testing Reveals Danger

OC Raw Dog is recalling its freeze-dried sardine dog treats because there is a potential for them to be contaminated with a deadly neurotoxin: botulism. The product is being recalled because the FDA considers uneviscerated fish over five inches in length represent a potentially life-threatening health hazard and are considered adulterated.


I’m afraid so. In fact, it is so common, that it should be assumed that Clostridium botulinum will be present in any raw fishery product, particularly in the viscera. Apparently, the botulinum spores are ubiquitous in fishery products and the marine environment.

Fortunately, the neurotoxin can be effectively destroyed by cooking the fish. But, in the case of the recalled dog treats, they are freeze-dried, not cooked. And while it possible to freeze-dry uneviscerated fish safely, the fish must be small enough in size (under five inches in length) to ensure they are dried uniformly to prevent the growth of the toxin.

The WHO cautions it is impossible to rid a contaminated fish of botulinum organisms, but “removal of the guts and gills, followed by thorough washing of the belly cavity with tap water, can reduce contamination by as much as 90 per cent.”

The FDA suggests that because spores are known to be present in the viscera, all fish prior to drying “should be eviscerated prior to processing. Without evisceration, toxin formation is possible during the process, even with strict control of temperature.”


Fortunately, C. botulinum was not found in the sample examined by Minnesota. Nevertheless, the company is recalling the following product, which was shipped to distributors in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

The recalled OC Raw Dog Freeze Dried Sardines are packaged in a 3.2 oz bag with a UPC of 095225853043.

Product Package Nt. Wt. UPC No. Bar Code
OC Raw Dog Freeze Dried Sardines 3.2 oz 095225853043 OC Raw Dog barcode

The company is changing its supplier of sardines to ensure that either the fish are less than 5 inches in length or, if longer, are eviscerated.

But, if even a small amount of the viscera or its contents is left behind, the risk of toxin formation by C. botulinum remains.


Separately, OC Raw is recalling five raw dog food formulas after the New Jersey Department of Food and Agriculture reported having found Listeria monocytogenes in a sample of the product. OC Raw was notified by the FDA of the contamination after it was reported that New Jersey Department of Food and Agriculture tested the product and found it to be positive for the pathogen.

The finding that a raw meat pet food is contaminated with Listeria is not unusual considering that up to 70 percent of uncooked meat and poultry can have detectable levels of Listeria.


Listeria monocytogenes can cause severe and potentially fatal infection in animals consuming the pet food, and the humans that handle the pet food and surfaces exposed to the product. Pets can be carriers of the bacteria and infect humans, even if though pets do not appear to be ill.

Listeriosis occurs almost exclusively in pregnant women and their fetuses, newborns, the elderly and those with weak immune systems. Listeriosis can cause life-threatening infection in a fetus and newborns and can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.


The recalled product was packaged in the following formats and bears a “Use By” date of 10/11/18. It was shipped to California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota Pennsylvania and Vermont:

Product Package Nt. Wt. UPC No. Bar Code
OC Raw Dog Chicken, Fish & Produce Meaty Rox 3 lb. 022099069171 Barcode--1
OC Raw Dog Chicken, Fish & Produce Doggie Sliders 4 lb. 095225852640 Barcode--2
OC Raw Dog Chicken, Fish & Produce Doggie Dozen Patty Bag 6.5 lb. 022099069225 Barcode--3
OC Raw Dog Chicken, Fish & Produce Meaty Rox 7 lb. 095225852756 Barcode--4

To date, there have been no reported illnesses of dogs, cats or persons in any connection with this product. The contamination is still under investigation.

Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products can return the products for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 844-215-DOGS Monday – Friday 8 am – 5 pm PST.


If you believe your pet has become ill from consuming a pet food, please provide the FDA with valuable information by reporting it electronically through their Safety Reporting Portal or call your local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator.

If you and your veterinarian think a pet food or treat is the source of a problem – save it – because your state agricultural or veterinary diagnostic lab may want to do testing. If you need more help, find out how to report a pet food complaint to the FDA.


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Mollie Morrissette

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


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