What's REALLY happening in the pet food industry?

Photo by Bill Oxford/iStock / Getty Images

Walk down the pet food aisle of any store and you’ll surely be bombarded with claims of quality like

“optimum health”,

“life protection formula” &

“natural, wholesome ingredients”.

but what do these words actually mean? And who makes sure what they’re saying is true?

 

Who is this imaginary big brother we assume is safeguarding our pets from corporations looking to boost profits by cutting costs?

I decided to do some digging, and the answers I found are terrifying.

 An alarming number of pet owners are completely unaware that two “different” brands of pet food (Evanger’s and Against The Grain) have recently issued recalls for the same life threatening product. For this reason, I’ll be using them as my primary example of how the pet food industry is “regulated”.

 

     After a report of 5 dogs from one household becoming violently ill immediately after sharing a can of Evanger’s “Chunks Of Beef” food, the Evanger’s corporation issued their first ever - this is important to remember as you read the upcoming facts - recall. Their product, which was also white labeled for Against The Grain, had tested positive for Pentobarbital- a drug used for the euthanasia of companion animals (dogs & cats) and horses.

 

Now you may be asking-

“How is it that a controlled euthanasia drug, allowed to be administered by veterinarians only, could make it’s way into a product labeled 100% USDA approved beef?”

 

Considering cows are generally slaughtered

- not euthanized -

I wondered the exact same thing.

 

     Thanks to recent DNA testing, it has come to light that not only was there horse meat in Evanger's “100% USDA Beef” product, but the FDA’s report also stated that “The meat products from this supplier do not bear the USDA inspection mark and would not be considered human grade.”

This leads me to believe that Evanger’s knowingly used meat that was NOT what they had advertised.

     Evangers has since released multiple statements shifting the blame to their meat supplier, as well as the FDA’s lack of regulation in the pet food industry- a subject I’ll touch on later in this article.  But, considering that, during the course of their investigation FDA inspectors discovered a bill of lading (a receipt) from Evanger’s supplier, which listed  “Inedible Hand Deboned Beef – For Pet Food Use Only. Not Fit For Human Consumption”,  it appears to me that Evanger’s defense of ignorance has more than a few holes in it.

 

So how do pet food companies get away with things like this?

How is it they can use Sub par ingredients from various animals and then sell it labeled as USDA 100% Beef?

How long have they been doing this and why did it take a dog dying for them to finally be caught?

 

     Let’s start all the way back in 2006- The Village of Wheeling (AKA- The Village), the town in which Evanger’s plant is located, began to complain about a “smell of rotting meat” that seemed to be originating from the Evanger’s plant.

The following is directly copied from the court records-

     The Village issued citations to Evanger's beginning on August 24, 2006, for violating several ordinances. Beverly Slaby, a health officer for the Village, testified that she became involved in the Evanger's case in June 2006- She observed open containers of chicken, flies, maggots, refuse and unsanitary conditions on the property. When she inspected the grease interceptors, they were heavily full of grease and there were maggots inside. Slaby also noticed a strong rotting meat smell. In 2008, she continued to receive complaints about the smell...On numerous occasions during the summer of 2008, Slaby went to Evanger's and observed open containers of food and the same rotting meat smell. She saw plastic crates without tight fitting lids and flies and maggots around the crates.

Read the official court record here.

     Evanger’s chose not to attend the hearing in September of 2006 and was ordered to pay a sum of $168,000.

     In April of 2008, the FDA issued an order requiring that Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Company, Inc. obtain an emergency permit from the FDA. They stated “An inspection revealed significant deviations from prescribed documentation of processes, equipment, and recordkeeping in the production of the company's thermally processed low acid canned food (LACF) products. These problems could result in under-processed pet foods, which can allow the survival and growth of Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum), a bacterium that causes botulism in some animals as well as in humans.” The FDA determined that the company failed to meet regulatory requirements to process a product that does not present a health risk and issued the Order of Need for Emergency Permit.  To read the full press release click here.

 

Let’s recap-

in the span of 2 years, Evanger’s was cited by the city for rotting chicken, maggots, and overall lack of sanitation.  then, they failed an inspection by the FDA because their canned products could potentially spread botulism.

Yet at no point was production shut down- Evanger’s continued to produce their products, they simply had to file for an “emergency permit”.

     Then, in June of 2009 that same emergency permit was suspended as repeated inspections, by the FDA, determined Evanger’s was not operating in compliance with the mandatory requirements and conditions of the Temporary Emergency Permit.

 

Is anyone else seeing a pattern here?

 

     After the initial ruling in 2006, the smell and sanitation issues continued, leading The Village to file a motion for summary judgment in 2011, which the trial court granted. Evanger’s was then fined a total of $316,500 for their continued sanitation violations.

     That same year Evanger’s filed an appeal in which the original ruling was upheld.

 

But Evanger's problems don’t stop there-

 

     They were again warned, in writing, by the FDA back in 2011 for, among other things, selling “Lamb and Rice” food that contained NO lamb and “Duck and Rice” food that contained NO duck.

     This company flat out lied to their customers- and all they received was a written warning.

     Now, in 2017, they have been caught selling horse meat contaminated with Pentobarbital, marketed as "100% USDA Beef” and yet they claim they were duped by their supplier.

At no point were they ever shut down- Evanger’s has remained in business and continues to not only produce food under their own name, but also private label for other brands!

*It should also be noted that when I called Evanger’s to ask about what brands they private label for, they refused to provide this information.*

 

So how do they get away with it?


     The FDA is considered to be “in charge” of the commercial pet food industry, yet they seem to shift a majority of the regulation to Association of American Feed Control Officials, Inc. (AAFCO)- a non government run organization.

    When it comes to “Feed grade ingredients” the FDA’s compliance policy states that the protein source can be just about anything that can’t be fed to humans- be it rodent/insect infested, dead by disease or means other than slaughter, or food otherwise considered “waste material”.

     The FDA compliance policy for canned petfood literally uses the phrase “undecomposed animal and marine tissues from various sources” Any ingredients such as meat, poultry and grains are also generally considered safe and do not require pre-market approval.

 

The FDA issues

warning, 

after warning, 

after warning,

but it begs the question-


What would these pet food manufacturers have to do to actually be shut down?