FDA orders stop sale on Stella and Chewy’s dog food for Listeria contamination

The Maryland Department of Agriculture has issued a stop sale order on Stella and Chewy’s freeze dried chicken patties dog food, which has tested positive of Listeria monocytogenes, following an U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notification to the state. The listeria was identified by the FDA which is currently undertaking a surveillance of raw pet food.

The product is for Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Patties, lot number 111-15 and the bags will have a use by date of April 23, 2016.

Stella and Chewy’s has a unique safety program that provides consumers with the testing results of every single batch of pet food on their website: you put in the lot number and you get a .PDF file including actual copies of the numerous lab results preformed on that pet food. Unfortunately, in this case, lot number 111-15 was not tested for Lysteria. Click here to download a copy of the test results on lot number 111-15.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture has notified all distributors and a number of stores known to sell the product.

No word yet from the FDA about a recall, but I expect they will issue one shortly. This stop sale order, unfortunately, is the result of the FDA’s laser focused effort to test only raw pet foods, excluding all other types of pet food such as kibble, for bacterial contamination. The FDA’s surveillance of raw pet food testing program was rolled out in June to the dismay of raw pet food proponents, myself included.

Feeding raw caveats

Despite my personal choice to feed my cats raw pet food, Lysteria is a serious health threat – especially to pregnant women – one that no one should take lightly.

Listeria is not only dangerous to dogs, it can also be deadly to small children, the elderly and those with auto immune disorders.  Consumers who have unopened bags of this dog food are urged to keep it sealed, away from people and to throw it away. Those who have opened bags of this dog food are urged to use disposable gloves, place them in double plastic bags, seal it and throw it away.

Lysteria’s frightening facts

Here are a few of the frightening highlights about Lysteria from the FDA (edited for clarity):

The bacteria Listeria monocytogenes and is a leading cause of hospitalization and the third leading cause of death due to foodborne illness, especially in industrialized countries.

Compared to other foodborne illnesses, listeriosis is rare but very serious with a high mortality rate of 20 to 30 percent.

L. monocytogenes have several characteristics that allow them to survive a long time in both food and food processing factories—they can live in both acidic and salty conditions, and unlike most bacteria, they can grow and multiply at low temperatures. This last characteristic makes the bacteria a potential problem even in properly refrigerated food.

People become infected with L. monocytogenes by eating contaminated food or by handling contaminated food and then transferring the bacteria from their hands to their mouths. Babies can become infected in utero or at birth if their mothers ate contaminated food during pregnancy.

Listeriosis occurs almost exclusively in pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Healthy children and adults occasionally get listeriosis, but rarely become seriously ill.

Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely to get listeriosis than other healthy adults. Scientists don’t know why pregnant women are so susceptible to the disease. It usually affects pregnant women who are healthy and don’t have other risk factors.

The most common, and sometimes only, sign of listeriosis in pregnant women is fever. They often have a flu-like illness with non-specific symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches. The symptoms are often temporary and go away on their own. Some pregnant women show no symptoms.

While listeriosis in the mother is mild, infection in the fetus and newborn can be severe. The disease causes miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and life-threatening infection of the newborn.

Newborns suffer the most serious consequences of listeriosis. They have either early or late-onset disease depending on when their symptoms first appear.

To find out more about Lysteria and lysteriosis, visit the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/

I will keep you posted on any developments with this story, as I’m sure this is only the beginning of more terrible things to come for the raw pet food sector.

Meanwhile, Susan Thixton has written extensively about  the FDA’s myopic plan to test raw pet food and I suggest you read her excellent coverage of the topic on her marvelous website, www.truthaboutpetfood.com.

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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 (5) Write a comment

  1. We have been feeding Stella and Chewy’s raw for a year at least. Michelle, what are you feeding your dog now? I don’t feel it’s worth a risk anymore, as my dogs are older now. Any idea how to transition from raw to canned? I don’t think it’s good to mix food with raw. Thanks.

    Reply

  2. Thanks for your post. It’s important to note that immune suppressed animals are also high risk. FIV+ cats, cats or dogs on Prednisone or Prednisolone (or any immune suppressing drug), etc.

    Reply

    • Yes, that is true. I hope that pet parents visit the CDC website for complete and accurate coverage of L. monocytogenes. The real danger remains to pregnant women and their fetus though. I thought I should focus on that.

      Reply

      • Of course. As a pet parent that has a dog that was immune suppressed (Prednisone), became very ill after eating Stella & Chewy’s and developed a systemic infection, you could say that I have tunnel vision on the subject.

        Reply

        • Michelle, you are so right! I am so sorry for not taking immune compromised pets and people into the frame. I understand the issue, as not only pets can be immune compromised, but people as well. I should know that, as I am immune compromised, and so is my Mom who has to take Prednisone for her condition, I should have made a point of that – I usually do, but…

          I wonder though, if Stella & Chewy’s is HPP, how did this occur? I suspect it was post production of cross-contamination. Personally, I used to love S&T until they started using HPP. But I understand why many companies do turn to HPP. Some feel it is a safe alternative, but purists like me don’t want their food treated with it. But, the more raw food companies that get busted for bacteria are naturally going to consider using it or making other changes in order to sell their food legally.

          On the other hand, the USDA says Salmonella is a non-issue, because they assume poultry is already contaminated wiih it. That’s why they recommend cooking it thoroughly, etc. But, with raw pet food…

          Thanks for pointing my error out.

          Reply

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