Smucker’s Faces Multiple Lawsuits in Deadly Drug Dog Food Scandal

Another class-action lawsuit was filed against Big Heart Pet Brands and the J.M. Smucker Company for deceptively marketing Kibbles ‘N Bits dog food as being safe and healthy when in fact it contains a drug, “that is commonly used to euthanize dogs and cats,” according to court documents.


The meat was allegedly sourced from animals that were euthanized using pentobarbital which were then rendered, including, “tissues from animals that have been euthanized, decomposed or were diseased” according to Rosemarie Schirripa, the plaintiff in the lawsuit.


This is the fifth in a series of lawsuits filed against Smucker’s, the owner of Big Heart Brands makers of Gravy Train, Kibbles ‘N Bits, Ol’ Roy, and Skippy brand dog foods wich were found contain the deadly drug. The discovery led to a nationwide recall of over 30 formulas and over 100 million cans of pet food being pulled from shelves. The revelation came after an in-depth investigation conducted by ABC7 News, triggering an FDA alert about the tainted products.


The company insists on its Kibble ‘N Bits website that the news of the pentobarbital contamination is only a “claim,” while conceding that the products were contaminated with “extremely low levels of pentobarbital,” and that as such it does “not pose a threat to pet safety.” Despite the most likely source of euthanized animals being pets, Smucker’s insists that the source is “cow, pig, and chicken and no other animal of the nine types tested.” The explanation that cows, pigs, and chickens are euthanized with sodium pentobarbital seems highly improbable considering the practice is illegal for fear the drugs will contaminate the food chain.


Smucker’s insists that testing indicated that “animal fat” was the source of the contamination, however, without knowing what other species Smucker’s tested for it is impossible to say if dogs, cats, or even horse DNA was looked for. If that testing was not conducted, there is no way to know that those species were not in the pet food. Originally, Smucker’s insisted the source of the pentobarbital as “beef fat” from “cattle and no other animal,” but they have since changed their analysis to include euthanized pigs and chickens into the mix of possibilities.


Smucker’s has minimized the gravity of the event as a minor one, citing that a “single, minor ingredient” was to blame for the withdrawal of four brands, thirty formulas and untold millions of cans of the pentobarbital laced dog foods, according to a statement from the company. Smucker’s conveniently placed the blame for the tainted meat at the feet of their supplier, saying they are “no longer sourcing the ingredient from the original supplier,” said Barry Dunaway, J.M. Smucker president of pet food and pet snacks in the statement.

Meanwhile, the FDA is continuing its investigation and has collected finished product samples for testing that is currently pending.


Shockingly, the tainted dog food is still on store shelves. Despite a recall more than six weeks ago, ABC7 News was able to buy 42 cans of the recalled Gravy Train canned dog food from a discount store, “the lot numbers matching those recalled for pentobarbital contamination.” The tainted dog food was found in a discount store for a $1 a can.


Mullins v. Big Heart Pet Brands Inc., Case No. 3:18-cv-00861-LB, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.

Nancy Sturm v. Big Heart Pet Brands Inc., Case No. 3:18-cv-01099-GSC, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.

Sebastiano v. Big Heart Pet Brands, Case 3:18-cv-01466, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.

Williamson, et al. v Big Heart Pet Brands, Case 3:18-cv-01663-EDL, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.

Schirripa et al. v. Big Heart Pet Brands, Inc. and The J.M. Smucker Company, Case No. 18-cv-2345, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.


People who think their pets have become ill after consuming pet food contaminated with pentobarbital should contact their veterinarians. The most important thing to do is have your pet checked out by a vet if you haven’t already done so. Your vet is the best to one to establish the cause of your pet’s illness and to determine if it is food poisoning.

You and your vet must report this adverse event to the manufacturer, the FDA, and your State’s Department of Agriculture. It is critical that the FDA and your State receive your information to add to data they collect on problems associated with pet food, to determine the frequency and severity of such events with particular pet food or treat. Additionally, based on certain criteria, the FDA and the State will investigate the company that made the food and ask you for samples for testing.

The FDA encourages consumers to report complaints about this and other pet food products electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.


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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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