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

Darwin’s Dog Food has some serious problems with their pet food: Consumers report finding large pieces of shattered bone, plastic bags and metal in their food.

This week, an anxious consumer contacted me, alerting me to the problems –  problems she documented – dating back eight months. Concerned for the welfare for pets, and frustrated by Darwin’s lack of action, she reached out to me for help.

She sent me detailed records: multiple photographs, showing dozens and dozens of pieces of shattered bone, a plastic bag and a piece of metal she found in Darwin’s dog food.

She sent copies of numerous messages, beginning in October of last year, between herself and the owner of the company who vowed to fix the problems with their food. When the problems continued, her level of frustration and anxiety increased, when every promise to correct the problems never materialized.

Worse, was what happened when her dogs – including one that weighed only 3 lbs (Mabeline, pictured above) – tried to eat the food and nearly choked to death.

On several occasions, she had to manually extract the bones from their throats. The pieces, some sharp enough to pierce the esophageal tissue and the intestinal tract, were too large for them to swallow. Had they managed to swallow the pieces, it’s possible they could have caused a perforation of the digestive tract causing internal hemorrhaging, leading to serious illness and death.

Obviously, the problem with feeding pet food with splintered bones in it are many, including:

  • Choking
  • Cuts and wounds in the mouth or on the tonsils
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding from the rectum, and
  • Death.

Dogs are notorious for eating all sorts of icky and sometimes, even downright dangerous things. They don’t know any better, but pet food manufacturers do.

And when pet food manufacturers find out there are things in their food that shouldn’t be there, it is their responsibility to issue an immediately recall of the affected lots of food. Not only is the right thing to do, they’re legally obligated to do so.

I understand, manufacturers can have quality control issues, and, yes, accidents can happen  – even in the best of facilities (which is why they have metal detectors in them, for example), but when a company has known for eight months about egregious problems with their product – that have the potential to cause harm, and possibly even cause the death of their customer’s pets, they have an ethical and moral responsibility to take direct, meaningful action. Darwin’s should issue an immediate recall and stop production until they can get their “quality control” under control.

So, when companies fail to do the right thing, their customers come to me. That’s when I get on the phone and fire up my laptop and shoot letters to the Department of Agriculture in the customer’s state, and contact the State Department where the food is manufactured and ask them to start an investigation.

Today, the State Department of Agriculture in Washington, where Darwin’s is located, is taking action.

Finally, companies like Darwin’s have no business continuing to sell – and make a profit from – dangerous food, particularly because they sell a product that will be eaten by our most innocent and vulnerable population: Animals. Particularly, because that food will be eaten by dogs and cats who can’t tell their pet parents when their tummy hurts, or when they have cuts in their mouth or when they have a sharp piece of bone stuck in their throats.

Thank you, Michelle, for bringing this to my attention. Because of you, you probably saved many pets lives due to a dangerous food.

To report a problem with a pet food or treat, please visit FDA’s web page on “How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.”

To report it the State Departments of Agriculture, visit USDA’s website.

To find AAFCO Members by Regulatory Organization in your State, visit AAFCO’s website.

If you need help with any of these steps, please contact me.

Darwin's bones


Plastic in Darwin's food

Darwin's metal





The innocent victims, Michelle’s precious fur babies



Darwin's victim




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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.

Comments (33) Write a comment

  1. I see this thread is little old, but a friend of my mine with cats was scared off from Darwins based on it, which is a shame because I feel Darwins been a beneficial for my cats. I’ve been feeding my house cats age 10 and 8 Darwins for 2 years. I mix supplements into the food and have never found any large piece or foreign object. Their coats are shiny. Their teeth are in excellent shape. They are happy and full of energy. My vet agrees my cats are in great shape. And plus whenever I communicate with Darwins they are super responsive, so this negative review just doesn’t gibe with my experience.


  2. We feed all our dogs, foster dogs and puppies have been raised on Darwins. No problems at all. Love the company and the customer service is always lovely and accommodating. If the consumer had an issue perhaps she should have found another source of raw dog food.


  3. I’ve been feeding my 2 dogs Darwin’s for about 2.5 years and have never had a food quality issue. I mix in various supplements and also press it up against the sides of their bowls to slow down their eating. I’ve never notice any bones, large or small, in any of their food or any other foreign objects. I feed chicken, turkey, duck and beef and go through 2 pounds a day. Is it possible there was just one batch or was this something they saw order after order?


    • Perhaps, but I have information regarding another investigation being conducted at Darwins. It was prompted after a consumer’s dog nearly died following the feeding of the food. I would be VERY careful about feeding this food.


  4. My wife and I have been feeding Darwin for years and have never found any foreign objects or large bits of bone. We examine every package of food before we feed since we mix in various herbs for our dogs specific needs. Our vet has reviewed what we feed and concurs. If this person bought thousands of dollars of food all at once for toy breed dogs she is either a fool or has a lot more space than we do. My seventy pound dog and ten pound dog only eat two pounds of food a day, that runs us about $150/month. Buying a thousand dollars worth of food is over seven months of food for a seventy pound dog and requires quite a bit of freezer space (almost a whole freezer just for dog food). For a toy breed that will eat less than half a pound of food a day a thousand dollars worth would be over two years of food. Also your article and your answers to comments contradict each other. If she bought all the food at once (I doubt it) why would she be continually complaining to Darwin? If you find metal or plastic in a package of food, the whole order goes back to the manufacturer, you don’t continue to use it. Something is rotten here and I seriously doubt it is Darwin.


    • Actually Gregory, the customer fed more than 10 dogs and had giant freezer dedicated entirely to dog food. The food is expensive and if you are feeding numerous dogs – the cost adds up. Multiply your $150 dollar a month bill by 10 if you fed more than 10 dogs – that is roughly $1,500 a month.

      Additionally, she worked tirelessly with Darwins for several months – after continuous promises to fix the problems. She was very accommodating based on Darwin’s communications with her.

      Personally, I would not have been so accommodating, but most innocent consumers are.

      In fact, I have been contacted by another consumer recently who has had similar issues with Darwins and in one respect it is an even worse case.

      A brief summary of the information the consumer reported to me about Darwin’s is as follows:

      Her dog was hospitalized for having ingested bones in the dog food. Veterinarians found a large mass of undigestible bone fragments in her dog’s stomach and digestive tract. “He had a ball of bone fragments sitting in the bottom of his stomach. The ER doctor told me that cooked bones are not digestible.” Additionally, “the ER doctor said his stomach was so inflamed from the shards going through his system that they only see this level of inflammation from dogs with stomach cancer.”

      She told me she found numerous large (unidentified) pieces of grizzly white “things” that she cannot cut with a knife. The sizes range from the size of a nickel to a quarter throughout the product. She said the grizzle pieces are like “huge pieces of I don’t know what – white large material you cannot cut.”

      Darwin’s rep told her to cook the food and to “pick the bones out.”

      She told me some of the product she received (raw meat) was brown in color (“looked very old”) and had an off odor. She said the meat was “completely brown and full of white hard chunks which I threw out.”

      She has a sample of the food which has “bone shards” in it and large (hard) pieces of “grizzle” in it and the FDA has asked her to hang onto it for them.

      She reported the matter to the FDA and they have responded asking for additional information.

      She has amassed $2000 worth of vet bills that she would like Darwins to reimburse her for, however, she has received no response from them to date.

      She emailed Darwins 3x and has had no reply. This issue has been reported to the State of Washington and the FDA.

      In the investigation regarding the consumer in this article, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and FDA conducted an investigation of the complaints I forwarded and they received last year.

      During the investigation, product samples were collected for macroscopic foreign material and pathogen analysis, which revealed the presence of Salmonella in one dog food. The implicated product had not been released into the marketplace and remained under the firm’s control at separate storage locations in Washington State and Pennsylvania. The product which tested positive was accounted for and destroyed as documented and witnessed by WSDA.

      During the investigation, the firm had begun taking steps to mitigate the presence of salmonella and foreign objects and agreed to continue being proactive in implementing good manufacturing practices.

      The conclusion therefore is something is rotten with Darwin’s and not the victims of their unsafe dog food.


    • I recently started feeding my 4 small gigs a 1 soon to be 50 lb dog Darwin’s. They gobble it up. We are using 2lbs a day also. But our bill is much more than $150 a month. What products do you use? Thanks just trying to learn


      • Darwin’s has a long and troubled history. If you go to the FDA you can read all of the notices. They were never able to comply with the FDA’s requests, finally, they had to give them the notice to fix the problem or shut their operation down. I do not know if they ever did.

        Additionally, I would be cautious about food safety handling and be careful to wash your hands after coming in contact with your dogs. They do shed pathogens in their feces and then lick their fur. Be particularly careful if there are any young, old or immune compromised members of your family that handle the food or come in contact with the dogs.

        Because raw pet food is usually contaminated I do not recommend it. I do recommend feeding a raw food that has gone through a kill-step or a human edible dehydrated pet food that was heated to 165F to kill pathogens.


        • This is ridiculous!

          Darwin’s uses “human grade” ingredients, just is not labeled as such since people should not ingest organs and bones this way. Also, cooking raw pet food kills those beneficial bacteria that your pets need. Raw pet food is FAR more scrutinized by the FDA than people food. People food does not have to have any kind of pathogen control as it is meant to be cooked, which kills most all pathogens. Raw pet food places, like Darwin’s, use various kinds of pathogen control in accordance with the FDA. So they are NOT contaminated!

          The FDA is targeting all raw pet food places and pulling dirty tricks to get rid of them, see Rad Cat. They are vindictive and fast to spread rumors and stretch the truth.

          Though the FDA’s standards are an absolute ZERO pathogen count, which is impossible with raw as animals from with the meals are derived have salmonella on them naturally. Pets, like cats and dogs, have a shorter digestive tract, and have a more hostile stomach acid, so it kills any pathogens that may be introduced or it passes through them quickly.

          With that said, not all pets are the same. Some cannot digest bones… same as some humans are allergic to peanuts while others are not. It would kill some people to eat peanuts but we do not forsake all peanut products for those few. They have learned to stay away from it, usually due to one bad instance that sent them to the hospital. There is where they learned of the allergy, or the inability to process them.

          If your pet cannot process the ingredients DON’T BUY IT! My dogs do wonderfully on it, as does my cats. If you don’t like something about it… DON’T BUY IT! If you are not sure, ASK YOUR VET! Seek out a holistic vet,

          GET EDUCATED, don’t believe everything you read on the internet, if one person has a bad experience, but 1500 others have positive ones, that is no reason to destroy the company. Any company, not just Darwin’s or Rad Cat. Grow up.


          • Hi Kitten, thanks for your thoughtful comment. While I wish I could feel OK about Darwin’s, I can’t. And it’s not about the fact that the food is raw. Let me emphasize – this is not about a condemnation of raw pet food. I have personal knowledge of a long-standing history of problems at Darwin’s. I won’t go into the details here, because I have written about Darwin’s elsewhere on my website. I highly recommend you read those articles before you ever consider defending Darwin’s raw pet food.

            If you want to know what my thoughts are regarding raw pet food you should read my article on “Raw Pet Food: The Problem That Just Won’t Go Away.” I put an incredible amount of work, research and thought into the article and I consider it a pivotal piece that carefully describes all the layers of the raw meat problem. And if you read in the conclusion to it, you will understand my specific recommendation for food safety handling. And the issue of handling poultry, poultry and eggs is something we should all take seriously whether the food is intended for humans or animals. But, finally, as I said in the article feeding raw to pets is a personal choice.

            I hope I’ve replied to your comment in a way that helps you understand where I am coming from. And meanwhile, I respect your views as well. Thanks for writing…

  5. Barf diet: biologically appropriate raw food:bone and raw food. You need the bones for the calcium otherwise its nutrient deficient.

    Metal and plastic are definitely and issue and true, dogs are evolved and domesticated but they still have claws and sharp teeth and should eat for their species. We aren’t meant for McDonald, to eat from a box but we do and our evolving led to diabetes and heart disease.

    Thanks for the info John, I looked at this and others for info on Darwins. Gonna try it


  6. This is a little concerning to read about Darwin’s Pet Food. Do you know the outcome of the Washington State Department of Agriculture visit in 2016. I couldn’t seem to find any reports on the State Web site. Can you direct me to the complaint? I’d like to read the formal report of their findings.


    • I too would like to read the formal report of the Washington State DOA visit. Has there been any update on this?


      • Here is the abstracted letter I recieved from the WSDA:

        “…Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and FDA conducted an investigation of the complaints you forwarded and we received last year.

        During the investigation, product samples were collected for macroscopic foreign material and pathogen analysis, which revealed the presence of Salmonella in one dog food. The implicated product had not been released into the marketplace and remained under the firm’s control at separate storage locations in Washington State and Pennsylvania. The product which tested positive was accounted for and destroyed as documented and witnessed by WSDA.

        During the investigation, the firm had begun taking steps to mitigate the presence of salmonella and foreign objects and agreed to continue being proactive in implementing good manufacturing practices.

        WSDA will contact NAME REDACTED regarding her complaint and is currently making plans to assess the conditions at the manufacturing facility.

        If you would like to request for additional information, following link at WSDA website provides details of filing a public record request.

        Please contact FDA if you are interested in receiving information from their inspection and sampling.”

        The FDA will require an FOIA, but I will ask for it without one.

        Meanwhile yet another consumer has come forward making similar complaints about the company and I have notified the WSDA. And they have started another investigation.

        Stay tuned!


        • Thank you. I would like to see the FDA results as well if you are able to obtain them


          • I just put in an FOIA request. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I was just contacted by yet another consumer complaining of the same conditions – which I will report to the WSDA and let them know Darwin’s hasn’t lived up to their promises.

  7. The point of the post above is that Darwin Pet Food made the decision to have multiple sizes and quantities of bones in its food – REGARDLESS of the size of the dog consuming it. There is also the issue of pieces of metal and plastic in the food as well. Darwin is ethically responsible to respond to consumer complaints and make changes. After they were reported to the State Dept of Agriculture in Washington, they were also visited by the USDA and the FDA, so one can only assume that they have made changes by now. If not or I hear otherwise, I do not recommend this pet food.

    John mentions giving his dogs bones willy nilly and without any problems. In my opinion this is playing Russian Roulette with your dog. Chewing raw bones can also be dangerous, even large bones that an owner believes to be safe. A dog can accidentally bite it in two and swallow the pieces that may cause an obstruction in the digestive tract. So, giving your dog a bone might lead to an unexpected trip to your veterinarian, a possible emergency surgery, or even death.


  8. Pretty funny. Well, the metal bit would be bad but the bone bits are intentional. Its calcium. In the wild, wolves, coyotes etc chew up food bones and all. Raw bones are fine, its normal. Most Dogs can handle it fine. Mine do. Bones from cooked meat can shatter sharply into long thin needle like shapes and so should be avoided. From the pictures above, those bone bits look exactly like the results of a dog chewing up its meat bones and all and I can concur that is also what we see. Its on purpose not a defect at all. Quite natural. But I wonder though if the toy types would be more likely to have an issue? Before finding Darwins we regularly (and still do to some extent) give our dogs raw meats, particularly chicken, without removing bones. We avoid cuts where the bones have been sawed into sharp spears but otherwise ok. Our dogs spend a bit of time putting the pieces into their back teeth and crunch like mad until they’ve pulverized it and the bones. Then they drop it and pull bits off to further chew and swallow. IF the bones are too big to crunch up like that as with big bones they don’t do that of course but chew the meat off the bone but do flake off some. My dogs can crunch and swallow most chicken/turkey bones and smaller beef bones like ribs. They gain quite a bit of pleasure with that activity. I could suggest that if your dog has a hard time with those bones to either further grind it in a blender or if you really can’t handle it to choose another product. I wouldn’t want them to change a thing (except for that metal bit if true). Maybe again though they could come up with a ‘tiny’ dog mix that has a finer grind?

    This product probably isn’t suited for the sensibilities of every human, most dogs are fine with it….. I find it strange that this person has gone to such an extent to document their freakout and seems so fixated on it. As the mix with bones is entirely intentional I would suggest she just moves on to alpo and gets over it.


    • I also want to add that I discussed this topic with a pair of veterinarians who are familiar with Darwins at our local pub, showed them what I wrote. We had some laughs. They concur that bone bits like those from raw meat are not normally a problem and also echoed that eating masticated bone is how wild canines get their calcium. They felt that the concern expressed in the OP’s post is off base and ill-informed. Again, its no secret defect in the product at all, it is quite on purpose. The two vets (having one large dog and one very tiny thing in tow) did like the idea of a finer grind for those with toy-ish alimentary canals however.


      • John and anyone else who reads this…it does need to be said that this constant reference to what animals do in the wild or what ancestral dogs (wolves) did is a non sequitur. They are not the same. Domesticated animals were forced-evolved and well beyond wolves. Their needs are not the same. It’s like all the Paleo people out there claiming that we should be eating what our ancestors did. OK well that also means you should be squatting while you eat your fire-roasted wildbeast once or twice a week (squatting would be more authentic, changing the way your food is assimilated and digested), and fasting at least every couple of days as paleo people were often forced to do. As for the veterinarians…there profession does not make them de facto experts on nutrition, anymore than a family doctor is an expert on nutrition.


        • I see Ned….so you are saying that the internal organs of a domesticated dog is somehow different than that of a wild wolf thereby requiring cooked, processed food vs. raw, species appropriate meat?? Hmmm….very interesting….and WRONG.


  9. Knowing this was an ongoing situation, you didn’t examine the food before giving it to your pet to eat? A nd continued to buy it?


    • I did not feed this to my pets – the consumer did.

      Once she discovered the problems, she contacted the owner of the company and continued to examine the food for additional defects.

      For eight months she continued to work with the owner of the company, who assured her they were working on it by recalibrating their grinders, metal detectors, etc. She trusted the company because of an endorsement by a well-known and trusted source in the pet food safety community. That was the only reason she continued to work with him.

      Eventually, she realized her trust was misplaced and she turned to me for help.

      Based on the endorsement, she purchased thousands of dollars worth of the food. She did not “continue to buy it,” – it was already purchased and stored in her deep freezer.

      She carefully examined the food by picking through every piece of it – by hand – and even tried to regrind the food with a heavy-duty grinder, and then she would pick through it again – piece by piece – before feeding it to her pets.

      Personally, I would have sent it all back and reported the matter immediately to Federal and State government officials.

      I do not like your assertion that she did something wrong. She is the victim here.

      She, like most consumers, put their faith in products to be safe, particularly if they are endorsed by a trusted public figure.


      • Molly, you work for AAFCO, a corrupt organization with no concern or knowledge about animal nutrition which is largely verified by the absurd recommendations AAFCO puts forth; therefore, you have a direct conflict of interest with any form of raw pet food that is not part of processed pet food company. Your article was wildly inaccurate and completely lacking in any shred of knowledge regarding animal nutrition. You are perpetuating lies and there are many of us educated on this topic who know it. Shameful, and at the expense of animals.


    • Tateka first of all, Its easier to judge from the sidelines than the field- that said – we brought it to the owners attention and they assured us it would be handled – like Mollie’s article said, mistakes can happen- but like I said to the owner, lightening doesn’t strike twice. They went through some processing growth in October- things then got better and then six months later it got way worse within a month. And so, now you now know about it.

      I do not appreciate the “duh” comment. I wouldn’t want you making judgements like that to others who, because of it, may not bring discrepancies to light that are dangerous. You’re welcome for me bringing this issue with Darwins to the forefront. Stop judging.


      • Thank you, Michelle, for what you did. You were brave, diligent, and thorough in your efforts to get the problems solved.

        And when you bent over backwards working with Darwin’s and things didn’t improve, you did your duty by reporting it to me and we reported to the State’s Departments of Agriculture in two States.

        Because of your singular efforts, this never would have come to light, and the investigation into these problems with Darwin’s would have never been initiated.

        My hat’s off to you for bringing this to the public’s attention. I imagine that you have probably saved many animal’s lives.

        We are in your debt.

        Thank you.


    • yes agree with duh. the bones are in there by design. On purpose. Not sure I believe the metal bits, might be false as we’ve never experienced anything like that with them. I posted something lengthy below but not on here yet so trying again. better to be simple.. perhaps the grind of the food is not well designed for toy breeds. The chunks could be smaller for them. would be great to have that on their website or offer a ‘toy dog’ grind that might work better. I find their customer service always great and wonderful. I hope they were not rude to the OP. But if they simply said ‘this is how it is, not gonna change’ then well thats just how it is. move on.



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