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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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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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