You’ve probably heard by now about the massive Mid America Pet Food recall; if you haven’t, here’s what’s going on: Late Thursday evening, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a dire warning to consumers about an outbreak of human illness caused by a Salmonella-contaminated dog food made by the company. So far, the illnesses have been tracked across seven states and involve seven confirmed cases, six of which were children under the age of one year.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR ABOUT THE RECALL
At this point, Mid America Pet Food is recalling all their dog and cat food brands – that’s every single brand the company makes (except for Nature’s Logic) regardless of the type and date it was made. The brands include Victor Super Premium Dog Foods, Wayne Feeds Dog Food, Eagle Mountain Pet Food, and Member’s Mark, and all of these products were sold nationwide in retail stores and online.
NUMBER OF PETS AFFECTED? NO ONE KNOWS
Sadly, we don’t know, and we’ll never know. Because the FDA or the CDC doesn’t track animal illness in the same manner as they do for humans, the actual number of cats and dogs affected by the recalled pet food is unknown. And documenting Salmonella infections in animals is impossible because there is no requirement for animal illnesses to be reported to the FDA, even when a veterinarian has made a diagnosis based on lab culture results.
MID AMERICA’S LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY
On Thursday, the same day as the joint CDC and FDA announcement, Mid America issued a press release expanding their “voluntary recall” for the third time due to a “possible Salmonella health risk.” Despite the claim that their pet foods pose only a “possible” health risk, it is absurd because its pet food did – without question sicken people – including infants. It’s worth noting, too, that despite the gravity of the recall, the company has never expressed any sympathy for the individuals and the pets sickened by their product.
HERE’S WHY SALMONELLA IS SO DANGEROUS
The first thing you need to know is that Salmonella is the leading cause of hospitalization and of death due to foodborne illness. What’s really scary is that infants and young children have developing immune systems and are, therefore, more likely to get sick. Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, typhoid fever, and paratyphoid fever. Symptoms of a salmonellosis infection are typically diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, chills, headaches, and nausea or vomiting. Salmonella strains sometimes cause infection in urine, blood, bones, joints, or the nervous system (spinal fluid and brain) and can cause severe disease. Some illnesses may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized.
THE VALUE & LIMITATION OF CONSUMER EDUCATION
But here’s the thing – if most people knew of the risks associated with contaminated pet food, they would probably exercise a lot more caution than they do regarding basic food safety. But they don’t, despite the FDA’s relentless efforts to warn consumers about pet food safety. Yet, even though pathogens pose severe dangers for humans and animals alike, there are – believe it or not – pet food manufacturers who rabidly defend their right to have Salmonella in their pet food.
DARWIN’S FIGHT WITH THE FDA
Some pet food companies – like Darwin’s Natural Pet Products – argue that because the USDA allows for Salmonella in meat – why doesn’t the FDA? They complain about the unfairness of the FDA’s zero-tolerance for Salmonella in pet food. Darwin’s openly defies the law regularly and has repeatedly refused to withdraw Salmonella-contaminated pet food from the market even when it was found to have sickened – and caused the death – of pets. Characteristically, Tashjian (the company owner) complains that the FDA’s citations are “…arbitrary and capricious, more than statutory authority and otherwise unlawful.“
His stance on the presence of Salmonella (and other pathogens) in his raw pet foods is akin to a driver who, having been ticketed for doing 90 miles an hour in a 60 mile-an-hour zone, demands that the police officer provide proof that his speed was unsafe for that specific stretch of road in the specific make and model of vehicle under the exact time of day and road conditions at the moment he was ticketed. (eFoodAlert)
ANSWERS PET FOOD: FREEDOM TO CHOOSE CONTAMINATED PET FOOD
Another pet food manufacturer makes the same reckless argument – Answers Pet Food – and refused a request by the FDA to recall their Salmonella-contaminated pet food based on the same irrational – and irresponsible – argument that Salmonella-contaminated food is safe. They argue that the FDA shouldn’t deprive consumers of the “public’s freedom to choose safe, healthy, raw pet food.” Presumably, that would also mean consumers’ freedom to take a risk with the health of their loved ones – human and animal alike.
Like Darwin’s, Answers Pet Food was convinced the FDA was persecuting them, particularly because they sell raw pet food. In a lawsuit against the FDA, Answer’s argued that the agency’s zero-tolerance standard for Salmonella in pet food is “noncompliant with federal law, unsupported by science, and beyond the FDA’s scope of power as delegated by Congress.”
TERRIBLE ADVICE FROM TRUTH ABOUT PET FOOD
Susan Thixton, a self-proclaimed pet food consumer advocate, argues that the FDA needs to prove what “quantity” of Salmonella would make a human or pet sick before asking a company to recall a pet food. She asks consumers to question if the quantity of Salmonella in a pet food is of a level that would cause harm to a pet or human.
Another of Ms. Thixton’s bugaboos is raw pet food; she believes that the “FDA’s attitude is that raw pet food is dangerous.” But, the most troubling aspect of her relentless condemnation that the FDA is corrupt – and run by a bunch of evil-doers is she influences readers to dismiss the value of reporting an adverse pet food event with the FDA.
What makes the actions of Mid America, Darwin’s, Answers, and Susan Thixton so dangerous is their utter lack and disregard for the safety and health of pets.
HOW THE FDA TRACKS PET ILLNESSES
Here’s a video that gives an overview of the FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network VetLRN and how the agency handles a potential problem with pet food.
Here’s what you need to know:
- If you have a problem with a pet food – please – if your pet got sick after eating a specific pet food, report a complaint to the FDA.
- You can report complaints about animal food products electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or call your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.
- If you’ve taken your pet to the vet, have your veterinarian do the same.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
This recall is a stark reminder that pet food and treats, like many other types of food, can be contaminated with harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses, such as salmonellosis and listeriosis. Therefore, it behooves pet parents to be mindful of the potential risks and follow these simple and safe handling instructions and advice.
- Tips for safe handling of pet food and treats (FDA)
- Find out more about the proper storage of pet food & treats (FDA)
- Clean pet food and water bowls, food scoops, treat toys, feeding mats, and placemats frequently (CDC)
- Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling pet food or treats. Make sure children wash their hands properly (CDC)
- Don’t let your pet lick your open wounds or areas with broken skin; try not to let it lick your mouth or face immediately after eating.
- Never allow children to kiss animals or put their hands or other objects into their mouths after handling them.
- Always wash children’s hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching, feeding, caring for animals, or cleaning their habitats. Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.
GREAT INFOGRAPHICS FROM THE CDC
Should consumers wish to reach out to the company, they can here: Mid America Pet Food for additional information at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (888) 428-7544 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST.
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