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Deadly Drug Found in Dog Food; Smucker’s Gravy Train Contaminated with Pentobarbital.

A shocking report from an ABC news investigation reveals that the deadly euthanizing drug sodium pentobarbital was found in the iconic American dog food: Gravy Train. A lethal drug, most commonly used to euthanize dogs, cats, and horses, were found in cans of Gravy Train dog food. Out of fifteen cans ABC tested, nine cans — 60 % of the samples — were positive for pentobarbital.

ABC tells us that: “After months of tests and re-tests, one brand repeatedly came back positive for pentobarbital … And while the levels detected were not lethal, under federal law they are also not permitted at any concentration.”

ABC’s investigation began after Nikki Mael’s dog Tulula died after consuming a can of Evanger’s dog food that was contaminated with the same euthanasia drug sodium pentobarbital.

ABC questioned Smucker’s about the findings, but Smucker’s declined to answer any of the questions posed to them. Instead, they responded by stating in a notice on their website that they “do not believe this is a pet safety issue,” and they are in the process of “determining the accuracy of the claims included in this news outlet’s investigation and the testing methodology used.”

Despite the test results, Smucker’s denies that their pet food contains “3D or 4D meat/by-products (euthanized animals/pets)” and that they abide by AAFCO’s rule that strictly forbids “3D or 4D meat such as dead, dying, disabled, or diseased animals.” And they are quick to distance themselves from Evanger’s, the company whose pet food was also contaminated with pentobarbital, by saying that they are, “are not associated with that brand.”

Taking a page from Evanger’s playbook, however, Smucker’s distances themselves from any responsibility by saying that the poisoned material could “unintentionally be in raw materials provided by a supplier.” Although, Smucker’s claims that they “regularly audit their suppliers” and have “assurances from them about the quality and specifications of the materials they supply us.”

The supplier Smucker’s most likely is referring to is their source of meat and bone meal – a product obtained from renderers. While most renderers process material that comes from slaughterhouses, smaller independent renderers pick up and process dead animals from any number of unsavory locations in varying states of decay, including from locations such as animal shelters.

In response to the report, the FDA states that they plan to “investigate and take appropriate enforcement action. Today, (Feb. 8, 2018) the FDA received the test results of the samples of dog food from ABC7. We plan to review the results and determine appropriate action. We also encourage consumers to report any complaints about pet food products to FDA.”

Consumers with questions should immediately report any problems with Gravy Train in connection with their pets to the FDA. Although at this time there are no other Smucker’s owned Big Heart Pet Foods implicated in the investigation it is possible that their other brands, such as Meow Mix, Milk-Bone, Kibbles’n Bits, 9 Lives, Natural Balance, Pup-Peroni, Gravy Train, Nature’s Recipe, Canine Carry Outs, Milo’s Kitchen, Alley Cat, Jerky Treats, Meaty Bone, Pounce and Snausages, may also contain material from the same supplier that supplied Big Heart Pet Foods with the material that contaminated Gravy Train.

The question consumers have is how did Gravy Train – a staple in grocery stores across America – descend from its wholesome image as an iconic American brand of dog food into America’s poisoned pet food? This news not only shakes public confidence in Smucker’s to provide them with safe and wholesome food but to all mainstream pet food brands. Companies like Smucker’s have a responsibility to have adequate safeguards in place to make sure adulterated ingredients and proteins from unknown sources do not get into their supply chain. Without it, consumers cannot maintain faith in a system that allows animals euthanized with sodium pentobarbital make its way into the food they feed their pets.

Consumers can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area or go to FDA to report a problem with a pet food. Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form

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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.