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CDC report: Dangerous conditions at Mars Petcare plant, Mars faces lawsuit

The identity of a pet food plant named in a damning report about health hazards inside a Missouri pet food plant has been confirmed: It was a Mars PetCare pet food plant in Joplin, Missouri.

The report does not mention the Mars PetCare plant by name, but a Mars spokeswoman confirmed, “The report is based on the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOSH) investigation at our former manufacturing facility in Joplin, Mo.”

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a troubling Health Hazard Evaluation report describing worrisome conditions inside the unnamed pet food plant in Missouri. Their investigation was prompted by a confidential request of employees in the Joplin plant that were concerned about conditions inside the plant that were causing them severe respiratory illness, gastrointestinal illness and allergy symptoms.

Following their request, NIOSH sent a team to the plant to do a walk-through visit. What the NIOSH found concerned them so much so, that the CDC planned a full-scale medical evaluation of all the employees inside the Mars pet food plant a few months later.

Federal investigators who visited the Mars plant found potential dangers to the health of employees but the company closed the plant before a follow-up visit could be arranged.

The NIOSH team said it was planning to return to the Mars pet food plant in August 2013 to do a medical survey to assess the respiratory health of the employees at the plant because of their concerns for possible occupational lung disease. However, only two months before the scheduled examination — Mars announced in June 2013 that the plant was closing, citing the reason was due to “changing marketplace and customer sourcing decisions.”

The spokeswoman, when asked if Mars closed the plant before the evaluation could expose unsafe working conditions in the plant replied, “The decision to close our Joplin manufacturing plant in June was not related to the CDC’s report in any way.”

According to the CDC report about that visit, the team found evidence of conditions that could possibly create health problems for employees working there. Among the conditions at the Mars PetCare plant were:

  • Airborne mold concentrations exceeded the measurement range of the mold sampler on multiple days at various locations in the plant;
  • One of the pet food ingredients had the potential to release diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione into the air;

The CDC report also mentioned the exclusion of several employees at the Mars plant due to litigation issues. The Joplin Globe confirms that eight former employees of the Joplin plant filed a lawsuit against Mars accusing them of dangerous working conditions and endangering the health of employees:

Eight former workers at the plant filed a lawsuit against the company in August 2013, alleging exposure to a fumigant that they claim has stricken them with occupational diseases. They say the fumigant — phosphine gas — caused injuries to their eyes, lungs, respiratory systems and internal organs. They allege that the fumigant was not cleared from rail cars entering the plant west of Joplin at 1983 State Line Road.

Mars PetCare manufactured only dry pet food and dog biscuits at the Joplin, Missouri plant, but Mars has 13 other manufacturing plants across the country, many of which also supply products for private label brands of pet food.

Although the report does not mention any risks to pets or about the products made at the plant, it is important to know that while those dangers remain unknown at this point. What is known, is that companies like Mars produce pet food that contain mostly waste products from the human food industry, rendering them products unlikely to sustain health over the long term; products which may in fact cause many of the health problems we see today in pets.

SOURCE: Recent report cites findings at former Mars Petcare plant; workers’ lawsuit remains pending

Read the report on the Mars pet food plant here: CDC report on Joplin, Missouri plant

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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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