FDA, state investigate Darwin’s pet food after illnesses, death

The Food and Drug Administration and the Washington State Department of Agriculture are investigating what FDA describes as a “pattern of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes contamination in raw pet foods manufactured by Arrow Reliance Inc.” FDA has received a total of six complaints of illness in animals who were fed the raw pet foods, including the death of one kitten. Salmonella recovered from the kitten was indistinguishable from the Salmonella found in a closed package of Darwin’s food from the same lot that was fed to the animal, according to the agency. People who handle contaminated pet food and anything it touches, including counter tops, utensils and pet bowls, are at risk of contracting infections from pathogens such as Salmonella. Infected pets, which don’t always show symptoms, can transfer Salmonella infection to people. In addition to the reports of sick pets, FDA reports it is aware of at least three animals that were reported to have been injured by bone shards in Darwin’s pet food. Arrow Reliance Inc., doing business as Darwin’s Natural Pet Food, issued the latest in a series of recall notices on Saturday. The company notified its customers of the recall by emails sent only to those customers who purchased the recalled products. No public recall notice was issued, company officials told the FDA, because they only sell products online through direct-to-customer sales. Included in the Saturday recall were:
  • ZooLogics Chicken Meals for Dogs, 2-pound, with the lot number 41567, and  manufacture date of Nov. 2, 2017; and
  • ZooLogics Duck Meals for Dogs, 2-pound, lot number 41957, and manufacture date of Nov 16, 2017.
Since October 2016, the company has recalled a total of nine batches of its Natural Selections and Zoologics branded of Meals for Dogs and Meals for Cats, including four batches of its Natural Selections brand of Meals for Dogs recalled on Dec. 4, 2017. Shortly after the December 2017 recall, one of Darwin’s customers learned that her German Shepherd, Blitz, had become infected with Salmonella. Judy, who asked that her last name not be published, registered a formal complaint with FDA. Follow-up testing of Blitz by FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network confirmed that the dog was infected with Salmonella. In addition, lab analysis of closed packages of Darwin’s pet food obtained by FDA from Judy on Jan. 24 found Salmonella in the product. “Darwin’s told me it was safe to feed Blitz the (ZooLogics) food because it wasn’t on the recall list they were dealing with back in November/December. Now, three to four months later, they tell me that the same food they assured is safe to eat now has Salmonella,” Judy told Food Safety News. FDA has conducted two inspections of Darwin’s manufacturing facility since mid-2016. The first was completed on June 30, 2016, and the second on May 31, 2017, according to information received in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Both inspections were classified “No Action Indicated.” Darwin’s first series of product recalls encompassed three lots of Meals for Dogs manufactured on July 20, July 21 and July 25 in 2016, less than one month following the June 2016 inspection. The company next recalled one batch of Meals for Cats, manufactured on June 1, 2017, one day after the completion of the 2017 FDA inspection. Based on information received in response to the FOIA request, it does not appear that FDA conducted an inspection following the Meals for Cats recall.

Illustration courtesy of FDA

FDA advice to consumers Consumers should not feed their pets recalled lots of raw pet food manufactured by Arrow Reliance Inc. Consumers who purchased this raw pet food should throw it away. People who think they or their pets have become ill from exposure to contaminated raw pet food should talk to their health care providers or veterinarians. Consumers who had the recalled Darwin’s products in their homes should clean their refrigerator and clean and disinfect all bowls, utensils, food prep surfaces, pet bedding, toys, floors, and any other surfaces that the food or pet may have had contact with. Animals can shed the bacteria when they have bowel movements, so it’s particularly important to clean up animal feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed. Pet owners who opt to feed their pets a raw diet should consult FDA’s “Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illness from Raw Pet Food.” Salmonella infection symptoms in people can include diarrhea that lasts for more than three days, or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine. People who think their pets have become ill after consuming contaminated raw pet food should contact their veterinarians. Veterinarians who wish to have dogs tested for Salmonella may do so through the Vet-LIRN Network if the pet is from a household with a person infected with Salmonella. 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. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)