Add an Import Alert, preventing importers from bringing certain pig ears into the United States, to a crescendo of recalls and other activities to get control of a human Salmonella outbreak caused by the dog treats.

The Food and Drug Administration late Thursday said it was issuing the alert because contaminated pig ear pet treats represent a serious threat to human and animal health and are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because they contain Salmonella.

The FDA said Import Alert 72-03 will stop the import of some pig ears to the United States.

The agency is making consumers aware of the issue so they can choose whether to remove pig ear treats from their homes or take steps to potentially prevent Salmonella infection from them. The FDA plans to update the pig ear import alert with additional information as it becomes available.

At the same time, the FDA provided a summary of the war on contaminated pig ears. It said with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state agencies, FDA is investigating a link between pig ear pet treats and human cases of salmonellosis. The agency provided these “fast facts” on the outbreak and investigation:

  • As of Aug. 27, the CDC reports there are 143 cases of human infection tied to exposure to pig ear pet treats with Salmonella enterica serotypes I 4,[5],12:i:-, Cerro, Derby, Infantis, London, Newport, and Rissen in 35 states. The CDC reports that many of these outbreak strains are multidrug-resistant. Thirty-three people have been hospitalized.
  • The FDA has traced back some of the pig ear treats associated with outbreak patients to sources in Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. Three U.S. firms associated with illnesses in the outbreak have recalled products. Some of the treats tested positive for Salmonella, and further testing is ongoing to identify the Salmonella strain(s).
  • Based on information gathered from cases and the traceback data gathered from the FDA, the FDA and CDC continue to recommend that people avoid purchasing or feeding any pig ear pet treats at this time. If you have pig ear pet treats, safely discard them and thoroughly clean the areas where the treats have been.
  • FDA is working with impacted firms to remove pig ear pet treats from the marketplace and identify places where they may have been distributed.
  • Salmonella can affect both human and animal health. People with symptoms of Salmonella infection should consult their healthcare providers. Consult a veterinarian if your pet has symptoms of Salmonella infection.
  • The investigation is ongoing and the FDA will provide the public with new information as it becomes available.

What is the problem?
Testing conducted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) revealed that samples of pig ear pet treats collected from Pet Supplies Plus were positive for Salmonella London, Salmonella Typhimurium, Salmonella Newport, and Salmonella Infantis. On July 3 Pet Supplies Plus notified the public about a recall of all bulk pig ear products supplied to all of its retail locations by several different vendors, including Lennox Intl Inc.

Further traceback by FDA has found that many of the people who became ill had encountered pig ear pet treats that were distributed by Lennox Intl Inc. Lennox reports that it sourced these pig ears from Argentina and Brazil. FDA is working with Lennox and other firms to identify the source of the pig ear treats, how they became contaminated, and where they were distributed.

On July 26, Lennox notified the public about a recall. On July 30, the firm expanded that recall and issued an additional public notification.

On August 16, Dog Goods USA LLC announced a recall of non-irradiated bulk and packaged Chef Toby Pig Ears after a product sample from their Brazilian supplier tested positive for Salmonella.

To date, human Salmonella infections have been linked to pig ears imported from Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. However, these pig ears do not account for all the illnesses in this outbreak. Pig ears in bulk bins and/or sold without packaging or wrappers may be commingled from multiple sources which do not allow the products to be distinguished. In addition, effective product irradiation may not have occurred for bulk products and for packaged or individually wrapped products.

In addition to the existing Import Alert 72-03 (“Detention Without Physical Examination and Intensified Coverage of Pig Ears And Other Pet Treats Due To The Presence of Salmonella”) on pig ear pet treats, FDA is increasing its scrutiny of pig ears imported into the United States through sampling and examination.

On August 22, the FDA updated Import Alert 72-03 to include three firms that presented pig ears for import that then tested positive for Salmonella: Custom Pet S.A.S. (Colombia), Suarko, SRL (Argentina) and Anabe Industria e Comercio de Proteinas (Brazil).

What products are involved?

  • On July 3, 2019, Pet Supplies Plus announced a recall of all bulk pig ears from its stores in AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI and WV.
  • On July 26, 2019, Lennox Intl Inc. announced a recall for some of its pig ear pet treat products. On July 30, the firm announced an expanded recall.
  • On August 16, 2019, Dog Goods USA LLC announced a recall of non-irradiated bulk and packaged Chef Toby Pig Ears. Product lot codes for the recalled products are 428590, 278989, 087148, 224208, 1168723, 428590, 222999, 074599, 1124053, 226884, 578867, 224897, 1234750, 444525, 1106709, 215812, 230273, 224970, 585246, 327901, 052248, 210393, 217664, 331199, 225399, 867680, 050273, 881224, 424223, 225979, 431724, 226340, 880207, and 334498.

What do consumers need to do?
The FDA and CDC recommend that people avoid purchasing or feeding any pig ear pet treats at this time. This recommendation may change as more information becomes available.

If you have pig ear treats, throw them away in a secure container where animals, including wildlife, cannot access it. Wash your hands thoroughly and disinfect any surfaces that have come into contact with potentially contaminated products.

In general, if you choose to feed treats like pig ears, practice good hygiene by: monitoring your pet while they have the treat, picking up the treat when they are done with it, keeping treats away from small children, cleaning the areas the treat contacted, washing hands, and not allowing your pet to lick you, your family members, or surfaces in your home.

Signs and symptoms of Salmonella infection in humans
Human and animal food that is contaminated with Salmonella bacteria usually does not look, smell or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but infants, children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has handled any of the recalled products and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients need to be hospitalized. 

Older adults, children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

What do retailers need to do?
The FDA and CDC recommend that retailers, including online retailers, stop selling all pig ear pet treats.

Retailers, distributors and other operators who have offered pig ears for sale should wash and sanitize bulk bins, other storage containers, and any surfaces (e.g., counters, displays, floors) that have come into contact with potentially contaminated products.

In addition, you should advise employees and customers to wash their hands after handling pet treats and food. Carefully dispose of pig ear pet treats in a secure container where animals, including wildlife, cannot access it.

Alternatively, retailers who choose not to immediately dispose of pig ear pet treats should securely and safely store packaged product while they determine the next steps. FDA will release additional information about the investigation as it becomes available

Why is the FDA concerned about Salmonella in pet food and treats?
Pet food and treats contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella are of particular public health importance because they can affect both human and animal health. Pets can get sick from Salmonella and may also be carriers of the bacteria and pass it onto their human companions without appearing to be ill. The FDA is aware of cases in which humans and/or animals have gotten sick from exposure to contaminated pet foods and treats (Salmonella-human cases, Salmonella-kitten, Salmonella-kitten, dog).

Once Salmonella gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria, and the contamination will continue to spread. Because animals can shed the bacteria, it’s particularly important to clean up the animal’s feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed. Pets should also be discouraged from licking you or other family members particularly in the face and it is also important to clean items in the home that may have come into contact with contaminated pig ears or pet food.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) require that all animal foods (including treats), like human foods, be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled. Pet food and treat manufacturers must effectively manage the sourcing of ingredients, processing and packing to control pathogens. Pet owners who choose to feed pig ear treats to their pets should be aware of the risks associated with these products.

What should I do if I think my pet has salmonellosis?
People who think their pets have become ill after consuming contaminated pet food should first contact their veterinarians. Veterinarians who wish to have pets tested for Salmonella may do so through the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN Network) if the pet is from a household with a person infected with Salmonella.

How can I report a human or animal illness related to pet food?
FDA encourages consumers to report complaints about pet food products electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal. This information helps the FDA further protect human and animal health.

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