The Food and Drug Administration has updated the number of pet deaths to 110 in connection to fatal levels of aflatoxin in Midwestern Pet Foods Inc.’s recalled dog and cat food products. In addition to the deaths there are more than 210 pets that are sick after eating Sportmix pet food.

The update comes after multiple Midwestern Pet Foods Inc.’s recalls of dog and cat food products after tests showed levels of aflatoxin that exceed acceptable limits. The pet deaths are associated with lots of Sportmix High Energy. No human illnesses have been reported.

Evansville, IN-based Midwestern Pet Foods Inc. expanded their initial product recall on Jan. 11 to include all pet foods containing corn and manufactured in the company’s Oklahoma plant, and having an expiration date on or before July 9, 2022.

The recalled pet foods were distributed nationally to online distributors and retail stores.

Aflatoxin is a poison produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus, which can grow on corn and other grains used as ingredients in animal and human food. At high levels, aflatoxin can cause illness and death in pets, as wells as illness in people who are sensitive to the mold.

If a pet shows signs of aflatoxin poisoning including sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, yellowish tint to the eyes, gums, or skin due to liver damage, and/or diarrhea, owners should contact a veterinarian immediately. Provide a full diet history to the veterinarian. Take unused pet to in with you. It may also be helpful to take a picture of the pet food label, including the lot number.

Lot code information may be found on the back of the bag and will appear in a three-line code, with the top line in the format “EXP 03/03/22/05/L#/B###/HH: MM”. More than 1,000 lot codes are affected.

Retailers and distributors should immediately pull recalled lots from their inventory and shelves. Do not sell or donate the recalled products. If they have the means, retailers are encouraged to contact consumers who have purchased the recalled products if they have the means to do so.

Anyone who has purchased the recalled products should not feed them to their pets or other animals. Destroy the products in a way that children, pets, and wildlife cannot access them. Wash and sanitize pet food bowls, cups, and storage containers.

Recalled products:

More than 1,000 lot codes are affected, so they are not listed individually. 

  • Pro Pac Adult Mini Chunk, 40 lb. bag 
  • Pro Pac Performance Puppy, 40 lb. bag 
  • Splash Fat Cat 32%, 50 lb. bag 
  • Nunn Better Maintenance, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 15 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 31 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Maintenance, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Maintenance, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Protein, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Stamina, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Stamina, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Bite Size, 40 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Bite Size, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Energy, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Energy, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Premium Puppy, 16.5 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Premium Puppy, 33 lb. bag

Lot code information may be found on the back of bag and will appear in a three-line code, with the top line in format “EXP 03/03/22/05/L__/B___/HH:MM”.

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After the reported deaths of at least 70 dogs and more than 80 sick, Evansville, IN-based Midwestern Pet Foods Inc. has expanded their product recall to include all pet foods containing corn and manufactured in the company’s Oklahoma plant, and having an expiration date on or before July 9, 2022.

Some of the pet food is being recalled because of a toxin that is created by a specific mold that many people are allergic to.

The recall expansion comes after Midwestern Pet Foods Inc.’s initial recall of dog and cat food products after tests showed levels of Aflatoxin that exceed acceptable limits. The dog deaths are associated with lots of Sportmix High Energy.  No cat or human illnesses have been reported.

The recalled pet foods were distributed nationally to online distributors and retail stores.

Aflatoxin is a poison produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus, which can grow on corn and other grains used as ingredients in animal and human food. At high levels, aflatoxin can cause illness and death in pets.

If a pet shows signs of aflatoxin poisoning including sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, yellowish tint to the eyes, gums, or skin due to liver damage, and/or diarrhea, owners should contact a veterinarian immediately. Provide a full diet history to the veterinarian. It may be helpful to take a picture of the pet food label, including the lot number.

Lot code information may be found on the back of the bag and will appear in a three-line code, with the top line in the format “EXP 03/03/22/05/L#/B###/HH: MM”.

Retailers and distributors should immediately pull recalled lots from their inventory and shelves. Do not sell or donate the recalled products. If they have the means, retailers are encouraged to contact consumers who have purchased the recalled products if they have the means to do so.

Anyone who has purchased the recalled products should not feed to to pets or other animals. Destroy the products in a way that children, pets, and wildlife cannot access them. Wash and sanitize pet food bowls, cups, and storage containers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is cooperating in the recall.

Additional recalled products:

More than 1,000 lot codes are affected, so they are not listed individually. 

  • Pro Pac Adult Mini Chunk, 40 lb. bag 
  • Pro Pac Performance Puppy, 40 lb. bag 
  • Splash Fat Cat 32%, 50 lb. bag 
  • Nunn Better Maintenance, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 15 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 31 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Maintenance, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Maintenance, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Protein, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Stamina, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Stamina, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Bite Size, 40 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Bite Size, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Energy, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Energy, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Premium Puppy, 16.5 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Premium Puppy, 33 lb. bag

Lot code information may be found on the back of bag and will appear in a three-line code, with the top line in format “EXP 03/03/22/05/L__/B___/HH:MM”.

Initial recalled lot codes are as follows:

  • 50# Sportmix Energy Plus Lots Exp 03/02/22/05/L2, 03/02/22/05/L3, 03/03/22/05/L2
  • 44# Sportmix Energy Plus Lots 03/02/22/05/L3
  • 50# Sportmix Premium High Energy Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
  • 44# Sportmix Premium High Energy Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
  • 31# Sportmix Original Cat Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
  • 15# Sportmix Original Cat Lots 03/03/22/05/L2, 03/03/22/05/L3

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After the reported deaths of at least 28 dogs, Evansville, IN-based Midwestern Pet Foods Inc. has recalled dog and cat food products after tests showed levels of Aflatoxin that exceed acceptable limits. The dog deaths are associated with lots of Sportmix High Energy.  No cat or human illnesses have been reported.

The recalled pet foods. were distributed nationally to online distributors and retail stores.

Aflatoxin is a poison produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus, which can grow on corn and other grains used as ingredients in pet food. At high levels, aflatoxin can cause illness and death in pets.

If a  pet shows signs of aflatoxin poisoning including sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, yellowish tint to the eyes, gums, or skin due to liver damage, and/or diarrhea, contact a veterinarian immediately. Provide a full diet history to the veterinarian. It may be helpful to take a picture of the pet food label, including the lot number.

Lot code information may be found on the back of the bag and will appear in a three-line code, with the top line in the format “EXP 03/03/22/05/L#/B###/HH: MM”.

Retailers and distributors should immediately pull recalled lots from their inventory and shelves. Do not sell or donate the recalled products.  If they have the means, retailers are encouraged to contact consumers who have purchased the recalled products i

Anyone who has purchased the recalled products should not feed any to pets or other animals. Destroy the products in a way that children, pets, and wildlife cannot access them. Wash and sanitize pet food bowls, cups, and storage containers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is cooperating in the recall.

Recalled lot codes are as follows:

  • 50# Sportmix Energy Plus Lots Exp 03/02/22/05/L2, 03/02/22/05/L3, 03/03/22/05/L2
  • 44# Sportmix Energy Plus Lots 03/02/22/05/L3
  • 50# Sportmix Premium High Energy Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
  • 44# Sportmix Premium High Energy Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
  • 31# Sportmix Original Cat Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
  • 15# Sportmix Original Cat Lots 03/03/22/05/L2, 03/03/22/05/L3

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As part of its enforcement activities, the Food and Drug Administration sends warning letters to entities under its jurisdiction. Some letters are not posted for public view until weeks or months after they are sent. Business owners have 15 days to respond to FDA warning letters. Warning letters often are not issued until a company has been given months to years to correct problems.

A pet food company in Oregon is on notice from the FDA after inspectors found Listeria monocytogenes in the manufacturing facility. This warning letter serves as a reminder that pet food products can contain dangerous pathogens and should be handled as carefully as other products.

Consumers should beware of cross contamination from pet food on surfaces, such as kitchen counters. Contamination in pet food can make people sick when cross contamination occurs or when good handwashing and other hygiene practices are not followed.  

Raw Advantage Processing LLC
Aumsville, OR

In an Aug. 18 warning letter, the FDA described Aug. 26 and 30 inspections at Raw Advantage Processing LLC’s pet food manufacturing facility. The inspectors found that the firm had significant violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals regulation. 

In response, the FDA issued the firm a  Form FDA 483.

The significant violations:

  1. The firm failed to identify and evaluate each known or reasonably foreseeable hazard for each type of animal food manufactured, processed, packed, or held at their facility to determine whether there are any hazards requiring a preventive control.

The firm provided FDA investigators with a document titled “Raw Advantage Processing hazard analysis raw, ground product for (redacted) Processing” and another titled, “Raw Advantage Processing hazard analysis raw, ground product – with and without ingredients” for (redacted) products as part of their food safety plan. FDA review determined that neither of these documents identifies and evaluates all the known or reasonably foreseeable hazards for animal food in their facility.

  1. The firm’s written hazard analysis for their raw ground pet food products that do not undergo (redacted) did not identify or evaluate Listeria monocytogenes as a known or reasonably foreseeable hazard. Raw meat pet food and its ingredients such as raw poultry, raw fruits and vegetables, and raw milk are known to be a source of Listeria monocytogenes.
  2. The firm’s hazard analysis for products that undergo (redacted) did not identify or evaluate microbiological hazards from raw goat milk. According to their (redacted) formula, manufactured on Aug. 8, 2019, the recipe contains “Goats Milk,” which is listed as raw goat milk on the product labeling. Raw milk is known to be a source of a wide range of microbiological hazards (such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Listeria, and Campylobacter).

The firm’s Sept. 13, 2019, response indicates their food safety plan will be reviewed and acknowledges potential bacteriological risks. However, their response does not include a revised hazard analysis; therefore, the FDA is unable to assess their corrective action. The FDA will verify the adequacy of their corrective actions during a future inspection.

  1. The firm’s hazard evaluation did not include an evaluation of environmental pathogens whenever an animal food is exposed to the environment prior to packaging and the packaged animal food does not receive a treatment or otherwise include a control measure that would significantly minimize the pathogen.

Meat used in their raw, ready-to-eat products, in chunks or after the grinding step, is exposed to the environment at multiple steps e.g., during (redacted), during movement in open (redacted) carts, during grinding, during staging before the final product is bagged and sealed. As a specific example, during the inspection, open (redacted) carts containing raw meat in the grinder/mixer room were observed close to the walls, and the raw meat was touching the wall and a hose hanging on the wall. Environmental FDA sample INV1117248, collected during the investigation, yielded isolates of Listeria monocytogenes in six different locations throughout their facility, including the grinder/mixer room. The firm’s packaged food does not receive a lethal treatment or otherwise include a control measure (such as a formulation lethal to the pathogen) that would significantly minimize the pathogen. However, neither of their hazard evaluations evaluated environmental pathogens.

Their response dated Sept. 13, 2019, outlines the corrective actions they plan to take in response to their failure to identify and evaluate all known and reasonably foreseeable hazards for the animal food manufactured by their facility. Their corrective actions included a review of their food safety plan by their microbiologist and a third-party Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI). However, the firm has not provided their revised food safety plan. Therefore, the FDA is unable to assess their promised corrective actions, as they do not have sufficient information. The FDA will verify the adequacy of their corrective actions during a future inspection.

  1. The firm failed to validate that the preventive controls identified and implemented are adequate to control the hazard.

Validation means obtaining and evaluating scientific and technical evidence that their control measure, or combination of control measures, or their food safety plan as a whole, when properly implemented, is capable of effectively controlling identified hazards, specifically, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7, and Salmonella.

  1. In the document “FSMA FDA Products Preventative Controls Program” for frozen pet food, code 190827, dated Aug. 26, 2019, the firm identifies (redacted) of materials in chubs or sealed packages as a process control for “BIOLOGICAL Vegetative Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli growth and toxin production in (redacted) treated ingredients.” However, their firm does not have adequate validation for their (redacted) parameters. Specifically, the firm’s method for determining the sample size and the use of standard plate count as an indicator of log reduction, instead of inoculation with pathogens or an adequate indicator organism, are inadequate.
  2. In their document “FSMA FDA Products Preventative Controls Program” for frozen pet food, code 190826, dated Aug. 26, 2019, the firm identifies (redacted) as a process control for E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria for pet food products that do not undergo (redacted). The study presented by their firm in support of this process control is (redacted). (Redacted) is also known as (redacted). This study pertains to food contact surfaces and was not designed to validate, nor is it adequate to validate, the antimicrobial efficacy of their process of (redacted).

The firm also provided what appears to be an unpublished study entitled, “(redacted).” This study uses (redacted) cubes of beef that are (redacted) for (redacted) minutes. This differs from their process, which includes (redacted) ground meat as it enters the (redacted).

The firm’s Sept. 13, 2019, response states they will conduct new validation studies for (redacted) that will include statistically valid sample sizes and inoculation of known quantities of various pathogens to substantiate a (redacted) reduction. Further, an email received from the firm on Nov. 20, 2019, states that they have scientific evidence showing (redacted) reduction kill rates for the (redacted) and will conduct a validation study to prove the log reduction under manufacturing conditions at their plant. The FDA will assess the adequacy and implementation of their validation study during their next inspection.

  1. The firm failed to identify and implement preventive controls to provide assurances that any hazards requiring preventive control will be significantly minimized or prevented. Preventive controls include controls at critical control points and at other points that are appropriate for animal food safety.

The firm’s document “FSMA FDA Products Preventative Controls Program” for frozen pet food, code 190826, dated Aug. 26, 2019, identified a (redacted) as a preventive control for certain biological hazards. However, biological hazards may be reintroduced during further manufacturing e.g., mixing, (redacted) or when the animal food is exposed to their manufacturing environment after the (redacted). As noted above, environmental sampling found pathogens in their facility. Without a food safety plan that controls biological hazards at all critical control points and other points appropriate for animal food safety in their manufacturing process, their preventive controls are insufficient to ensure the biological hazards are significantly minimized or prevented.

In their Sept. 13, 2019, response, they stated their firm will include the (redacted) of all raw meat and poultry as a preventive control for the bacterial hazards. Additionally, their e-mail dated Nov. 20, 2019, stated that they started working on the validation and implementation of (redacted) for all raw frozen diet products. While the FDA acknowledges this corrective action, their response did not provide a revised food safety plan with changes in their manufacturing process and did not include adequate documentation for the FDA to fully evaluate their responses. The FDA will verify the adequacy of their corrective actions during a future inspection.

Undesirable Microorganisms in Pet Food and Their Processing Environment
The firm manufactures pet food and many of the circumstances described above are ways in which the pet food they manufacture could become contaminated by undesirable microorganisms for which they have inadequate control. Undesirable microorganisms include microorganisms that are pathogens, that subject animal food to decomposition, that indicate that animal food is contaminated with filth, or that otherwise may cause animal food to be adulterated.

On Aug. 27, 2019, FDA collected a sample of (redacted) Beef Recipe lot (redacted) sample 1117252, that was manufactured on Aug. 26, 2019. FDA laboratory analysis of this sample identified the presence of non-O157 Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli O88:H25. FDA conducted whole genome sequencing (WGS) analysis on the E. coli O88:H25 found in their pet food product. As discussed with them on Oct. 18, 2019, the results revealed several virulence markers in the genome suggesting it is pathogenic.

During the FDA inspection, the FDA also performed swabbing for the presence of environmental pathogens. Sample number INV 1117248 consisted of 100 subsamples of environmental swabs (18) and sponges (82). The FDA laboratory recovered Listeria monocytogenes from 7 of 37 subsamples analyzed for this pathogen. FDA conducted WGS analysis of the L. monocytogenes strains found in environmental sample number 1117248. As discussed with them on Oct. 18, 2019, the WGS analysis found that the L. monocytogenes strain in subsamples 23, 30, and 31, from the cart wheel, drain near mixer, and drain near grinder, respectively, of the environmental sample is related to a strain found in (redacted) in 2016. (redacted).

On (redacted), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) collected a sample of (redacted)”, identified as “(redacted). The sample (MDA Sample Number # (redacted)) was analyzed by the MDA Microbiology Laboratory and tested positive for Salmonella Dublin. We discussed the MDA test results and FDA’s WGS analysis results with them on Nov. 6, 2019, and Feb. 27, 2020, respectively.

The presence of undesirable microorganisms in their finished product and processing environment is further evidence of the significance of their violations of the animal food hazard analysis and risk-based preventive control requirements and demonstrates that their practices are not adequate to prevent or mitigate biological hazards.

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)

As part of its enforcement activities, the Food and Drug Administration sends warning letters to entities under its jurisdiction. Some letters are not posted for public view until weeks or months after they are sent. Business owners have 15 days to respond to FDA warning letters. Warning letters often are not issued until a company has been given months to years to correct problems.

Lea-Way Farm Inc. dba Blue Ridge Beef
Statesville, NC

A raw pet food company in North Carolina is on notice from the FDA after inspectors found Salmonella, E. coli. and Listeria monocytogenes in their manufacturing facility. This warning letter serves as a reminder that raw pet food products contain raw meat and should be handled no differently than other raw meat products.

In a June 26 warning letter the FDA described a Sept. 30 through Oct. 25, 2019 inspection at Lea-Way Farm, Inc.’s raw pet food manufacturing facility. During the inspection, FDA investigators found serious violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals regulation.

The FDA’s inspection resulted in issuance of an FDA Form 483. The significant violations listed are:

  1. The firm did not examine their raw materials to ensure they were suitable for manufacturing and processing into animal food, and they did not handle them under conditions that will protect the animal food against contamination and minimize deterioration. Specifically:
  • The firm utilizes tissues from animals that have died otherwise than by slaughter in the manufacturing of pet food without first determining whether the animals suffered any type of illness, injury, and/or whether any medications may have been administered to the animals prior to their pick up from the supplier and subsequent use in manufacturing, such that tissues from the animals would be unsuitable for manufacturing and processing into their pet food.
  1. They did not construct and maintain their plant in a way that reduces the potential for contamination of animal food. Specifically:
  • The concrete floors of the kill floor (where whole animals are skinned and eviscerated), the cooler room (where carcasses are trimmed and held), and the grinder/mixing room (where pet food ingredients are ground, mixed, and packaged into finished product) are rough and pitted, with standing pools of water. These areas are not easily cleaned, creating a possible niche for undesirable microorganisms.
  1. They did not thaw their raw materials or ingredients in a manner that minimizes the potential for the growth of undesirable microorganisms. Specifically:
  • In their grinder/mixing room we observed thawing beef parts used to manufacture their pet food coming into contact with the concrete floor. As noted in violation 2, the condition of their  floors creates a possible niche for undesirable microorganisms that could contaminate the thawing ingredients.
  1. They did not take adequate precautions to ensure that their plant operations do not contribute to contamination of animal food. Specifically:
  • In the cooler, employees were observed performing sanitation procedures. Over-spray from the pressure washer was observed falling into open tubs of exposed meat held for use as pet food.
  • On the kill floor, while employees removed hides from three cow carcasses, stomach contents and fecal matter were observed spilling over onto exposed carcasses. The FDA did not observe these carcasses being rinsed before being rolled into the cooler area where the carcasses are further separated for pet food use.
  • On the kill floor and in the cooler, carcasses were observed being dragged on the floors, dropping from the railing system onto the floors and being trimmed from the floors in these rooms. As noted in violation 2, the condition of their floors creates a niche for microbial activity that could contaminate the carcasses.
  1. The firm did not maintain holding and conveying systems in a way to protect against contamination of animal food. Additionally, all plant equipment must be designed of such material and workmanship to be adequately cleanable and must be properly maintained. Specifically:
  • The overhead metal rails used to transport meat carcasses between the kill floor, cooler room and processing room were observed to be poorly maintained. When overhead rails were in use, chipping/flaking paint and product buildup was observed. Additionally, these rails are not easily cleanable due to the chipping/flaking paint.
  1. The firm did not keep their plant physical facilities in good repair to prevent animal food from becoming adulterated. Specifically:
  • On the kill floor, deteriorating, exposed insulation was observed in the ceiling directly over where exposed beef carcasses are trimmed and separated for pet food.
  • The cooler unit in the cooler room was observed to be in poor repair and dripping condensate directly into tubs of open, exposed beef leg bones, shanks, and neck bones used to manufacture pet food.
  1. The firm’s facility does not have plumbing designed, installed, and maintained to properly convey sewage and liquid disposable waste from the plant and to avoid being a source of contamination to animal food or creating an unsanitary condition. Specifically:
  • The hand washing sinks located on the kill floor and the cooler room did not have adequate plumbing hook-ups to prevent water from running directly onto the floor. As noted above, carcasses used to manufacture pet food are dropped, dragged, and trimmed on these floors.

The presence of undesirable microorganisms in their pet food is further evidence of their significant CGMP violations.

During our inspection, FDA collected final product and raw ingredient samples for microbiological samples. Sample #1098421 consisted of an in-process sample of raw ground beef intended to be used as an ingredient in your firm’s finished product. This sample was found to be positive for Salmonella London Group B1 and generic E. coli. Sample #1098422 of a finished product sample of Blue Ridge Beef Raw Kitten Grind was found positive for Salmonella Agona Group B and Listeria monocytogenes Type One.

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

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Public health officials continue to investigate an E. coli outbreak linked to raw pet food sold under the Carnivora brand.

Of four sick people identified so far, all had the same strain of E. coli O157 infection and all had been exposed to the raw pet food for dogs who had been fed it, according to an outbreak notice posted by Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Riveriene Farm Ltd. operating as Carnivora Pet Foods of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, recalled six varieties of the Carnivora brand raw food. All were manufactured in Canada and widely distributed, possibly nationwide, according to a recall notice posted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

“The individuals became sick between early March and mid-May 2020. Two individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 3 and 43 years of age,” the outbreak notice states.

“The collaborative outbreak investigation was initiated because reports of E. coli O157 illnesses with similar genetic fingerprints were identified. All of the individuals who became sick reported exposure to Carnivora brand frozen raw pet food purchased at various pet stores before their illnesses occurred.”

It is possible that more recent illnesses will be reported in the outbreak because of the period between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between three and four weeks, according to the federal health agency.

The recalled pet food is labeled as follows, it has various date codes:

  • Whole Animal Chicken Dinner with Vegetables ‘n’ Fruit, Ultra Premium Fresh Frozen Patties for Dogs & Cats
  • Chicken Dinner with Vegetables ‘n’ Fruit
  • Whole Animal Beef Dinner with Vegetables ‘n’ Fruit, Ultra Premium Fresh Frozen Patties for Dogs & Cats
  • Beef Dinner with Vegetables ‘n’ Fruit
  • Whole Animal Turkey Diet, Ultra Premium Fresh Frozen Patties for Dogs & Cats
  • Turkey Diet

This outbreak serves as a reminder that raw pet food products contain raw meat and should be handled no differently than other raw meat products. Canadians are advised not to feed any recalled Carnivora brand frozen raw pet food products to their pets. As the investigation is ongoing, it is possible that additional products will be identified. 

“If you do not have the original packaging of the Carnivora brand frozen raw pet food and are unsure whether these products are linked to this outbreak, throw them out just to be safe,” according to the public health agency.

What you should do to protect your health
Consumers should check to see if they have recalled Carnivora brand frozen raw pet food in their freezers, public health officials urge.

Use the following food safety tips to help prevent further illnesses:

  • If you have the affected product, do not feed it to your pet. Consumers should immediately stop using any of the affected pet food products and contact the retailer where they purchased the affected product for a full refund or exchange.
  • Wash and sanitize any containers, utensils and surfaces that the raw foods touched before using them again. This includes countertops, microwaves and refrigerators.
  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after feeding, handling or cleaning up after pets. Animals fed raw meat diets are more likely to be shedding harmful bacteria like Salmonella and dangerous strains of E. coli even when they appear healthy, compared to those fed commercial kibble or other cooked diets. Regularly clean surfaces that come into contact with pet food or pets.
  • When possible, store all pet food and treats away from where human food is stored or prepared and away from reach of young children.
  • If you suspect you have become ill after being exposed to frozen raw pet food, or pets fed these diets, and have symptoms consistent with E. coli O157 infection, talk with your health care provider.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada does not recommend feeding raw pet food to pets, especially in households with young children, or individuals who have conditions that compromise their immune system that put them at greater risk for more serious illness. However, if you choose to feed your pet a raw food diet, it is recommended that you buy from companies that use meat-derived ingredients that have been prepared in sanitary conditions and passed inspection for human consumption. Also look for companies that have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points protocol in place, which sets safety standards and practices, and helps to greatly reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has handled any of the implicated products — or been around any pets who have eaten the food — and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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As part of its enforcement activities, the Food and Drug Administration sends warning letters to entities under its jurisdiction. Some letters are not posted for public view until weeks or months after they are sent.

Business owners have 15 days to respond to FDA warning letters. Warning letters often are not issued until a company has been given months to years to correct problems.

G & C Raw, LLC — Versailles, OH
The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter dated Dec. 12, 2019, to the owner of G & C Raw LLC, Cathy Manning.

During an inspection at G & C Raw LLC, raw pet food manufacturing facility April 22-25, FDA investigators found serious violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals regulation, Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 507 (21 CFR Part 507)).

The warning letter says that, “As a result of these violations, the raw pet foods manufactured in your facility are adulterated in that they were prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health. The introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of an adulterated food is a prohibited act.”

In response to these deviations, the FDA issued an FDA 483 Inspectional Observations form that lists deviations observed at the facility.

Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes can cause severe and potentially fatal infections in both animals and in humans. Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.

People are at risk if they handle the recalled pet foods. Also, surfaces such as freezers, refrigerators, counter tops and pet food bowls can become contaminated and easily infect people.

The violations noted by the FDA:

Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) Requirement Violations:

  1. “You did not handle work-in-process and rework in such a way that it is protected against contamination and the growth of undesirable microorganisms, as required by 21 CFR 507.25(c)(3). Specifically, our investigator observed:”
  • “An employee used (redacted). The (redacted) and containing raw Beef Veggie and Fruit Dog Food (redacted). Drops of water from (redacted). Employees were also observed stepping over this tote several times as drops of water from their boots fell into the (redacted). The raw dog food re-work in the (redacted) to be made into product. These practices could contribute to the contamination of your animal food with undesirable microorganisms or other contaminants, such as dirt or other foreign material, that may be present on the floor, employee footwear, the dustpan, or other non-food contact surfaces.”
  • “An employee lifted a barrel of ingredients from the floor and placed the barrel directly on (redacted), the remainder of the ingredients. The barrel was resting on its side, directly on top of raw meat and organ ingredients. This practice could contribute to the contamination of your animal food with undesirable microorganisms or other contaminants, such as dirt or other foreign material, that may be present on the outside of the barrel.”
  • “An employee placed a box of bone meal ingredient on top of a trash can that was being used to throw away containers that had fallen on the floor and raw ingredients, such as fat, that had not met quality standards. The employee scooped bone meal out of the box that was sitting on the trash can (redacted) raw meat and organ ingredients. This presents the potential to put contaminants into the box of bone meal instead of the trash can, or to accidentally take something out of the trash can to put into the animal food being manufactured.”
  1. “You did not conduct thawing of your frozen ingredients in manner that minimized the potential for the growth of undesirable microorganisms, as required by 21 CFR 507.25(b)(3). Specifically:”
  • “You stated that the frozen raw beef hearts that were used to make raw Beef Veggie and Fruit Dog Food were set out at ambient temperature on Monday, April 22, 2019, at approximately (redacted). On Wednesday, April 24, 2019, the investigator observed the beef hearts were used to make raw Beef Veggie and Fruit Dog Food and the final finished product went into the freezer at approximately (redacted). The beef hearts had been sitting at room temperature from (redacted) Monday, April 22, 2019, until approximately (redacted) Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Thawing raw meat product at (redacted) for (redacted), or portions of the ingredients, to reach a temperature that would support the growth of undesirable microorganisms in your animal food.”
  • “You reported that frozen raw meat, including beef, turkey, chicken, pork, and rabbit used to make your raw dog and cat food products, is (redacted). Thawing raw meat product (redacted), or portions of the ingredients, to reach a temperature that would support the growth of undesirable microorganisms in your animal food.”
  1. “You did not take reasonable measures and precautions to ensure that all persons working in direct contact with animal food, animal food-contact surfaces, and animal food-packaging materials conform to hygienic practices to the extent necessary to protect against the contamination of animal food, as required by 21 CFR 507.14. Specifically, on April 24, 2019, while watching the manufacturing of raw Beef Veggie and Fruit Dog Food, our investigator observed the following employee practices:”
  • (redacted) employees lifted a barrel to empty the remainder of the contents into (redacted). One employee grabbed the bottom of the barrel, which had been directly on the floor, with their gloved hand to dump it. The employee then used the same gloved hand that had been touching the bottom of the barrel to spread raw meat ingredients in the (redacted). The employee did not change gloves or wash their hands between touching the bottom of the barrel and the raw meat ingredients.”
  • “An employee was observed using their cell phone in the processing room while weighing open containers of raw Beef Veggie and Fruit Dog Food. The employee used their gloved hand to touch the raw dog food but did not change gloves or wash their hands after touching their cell phone.”
  1. “You did not take adequate precautions so that plant operations do not contribute to contamination of animal food, animal food-contact surfaces, and animal food-packaging materials as required by 21 CFR 507.25(a)(5). Specifically, our investigator observed the following operations:”
  • “An employee picked up empty containers that had fallen on the floor on their side and placed them on the cart with other empty containers. The containers that had fallen on the floor were then filled with finished raw dog food product. As employees pick-up the empty containers they could touch the floor and the inside of the containers, introducing undesirable microorganisms and foreign material to the inside of the containers.”
  • “An employee was (redacted) of raw beef heart being used to manufacture product. This can cause (redacted) to spread contamination around the processing area, including onto ingredients and animal food-contact surfaces.”
  • “An employee was seen washing a van in the parking lot of the facility with a hose that was connected to a sink in the processing room. The hose was pulled back into the processing room and used (redacted). This can introduce contaminants into the processing area from the parking lot, where they can be transferred to animal food, food-contact surfaces, and packaging materials.”

“Your firm manufactures raw pet food and many of the practices described above are ways in which the pet food you manufacture could become contaminated by undesirable microorganisms for which you have no control. Undesirable microorganisms include microorganisms that are pathogens, that subject animal food to decomposition, that indicate that animal food is contaminated with filth, or that otherwise may cause animal food to be adulterated. (See 21 CFR 507.3.)”

“The presence of undesirable microorganisms in your pet food and your processing environment is further evidence of the significance of your CGMP violations. On April 25, 2019, FDA collected sample number 1106962, which included (b)(4) unopened plastic containers, weighing 1 lb. each, of finished Raw Ground Turkey Dog Food. FDA analysis of the Raw Ground Turkey Dog Food product (#1106962) identified Listeria monocytogenes 3 in five of (b)(4) subsamples and in one of two composite samples analyzed for Listeria.”

“During the FDA inspection, we also performed swabbing for the presence of environmental pathogens. Sample number INV 1071173 consisted of (b)(4) environmental swabs. The FDA laboratory recovered Listeria innocua and Listeria grayi in one subsample. The presence of non-pathogenic Listeria species, such as Listeria innocua and Listeria grayi, is indicative of environmental conditions within your production facility that are suitable for the survival and/or growth of Listeria monocytogenes.”

Corrective Actions:
“We acknowledge that you performed recalls to remove specific lots of Ground Turkey Dog Food and Turkey Veggie Fruit Mix Dog Food from the market in response to our April 2019 sampling.”

“Further, we acknowledge receipt of your two e-mail messages on May 21, 2019, responding to the Form FDA 483. One e-mail contained a copy of an advertisement for a hand-washing sink you advised us you had ordered, without any indication of when it would be installed or how personnel would be instructed to use it. The other e-mail explained that one employee had been fired, listed some training you had conducted, mentioned that (redacted), that a paper towel dispenser had been installed, and that a separate hose had been purchased for use cleaning vehicles outside. Some photographs were included, as well, although aside from the paper towel dispenser, it is difficult to identify what these photographs are showing and their relevance.

“Although we appreciate this information, these responses do not provide enough detail for us to evaluate whether your response is sufficient to ensure long-term adoption of practices that will ensure your firm consistently meets the CGMP requirements. For example, your response included the statement “(redacted)” but you did not include any information explaining which food safety and handling procedures were discussed, or what your expectations for your employees now are. Likewise, although you (redacted), there was no explanation about how your processing practices are changing to adapt to the new equipment. How long will raw material (redacted), who will be monitoring this process and how will material be rotated, for example?”

Additional comments:
“Previous Instance of Undesirable Microorganisms in Your Facility’s Pet Food”

“Undesirable microorganisms have previously been found in your finished raw pet food products, indicating an on-going problem. In 2018, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) collected samples of finished pet foods stored in your freezer. The ODA laboratory identified Listeria monocytogenes in Ground Chicken Dog Food, Ground Lamb Dog Food, and Pat’s Cat Ground Turkey Cat Food. Salmonella spp.4 was recovered in Ground Chicken Dog Food and Chicken Veggie and Fruit Dog Food.”

“We acknowledge that you performed recalls to remove these products from the market when they were found in 2018.”

Preventive Controls Requirements:
“Although not covered during the April/May 2019 inspection, as of September 17, 2018, you are required comply with the hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls requirements for animal food (21 CFR part 507, subparts C and E), unless an exemption applies (21 CFR 507.5). To comply with the preventive controls requirements, you must develop and implement a food safety plan. Specifically, a preventive controls qualified individual (PCQI) must prepare, or oversee the preparation of, a written hazard analysis to identify known or reasonably foreseeable hazards for each type of animal food produced at your facility. The PCQI, or designee, must then evaluate the known or reasonably foreseeable hazards to determine if your firm has any hazards requiring a preventive control, and you must implement preventive controls to significantly minimize or prevent those hazards. Preventive controls are subject to management components as appropriate to ensure their effectiveness. Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes are known or reasonably foreseeable hazards in raw meat pet food.”

A complete list of the violations can be found in the FDA’s warning letter.

New 88 Japanese Food Trading Inc — Flushing, NY
The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter dated Nov. 22, 2019, to Mr. Shao Song (Kevin) Chen, president and co-owner of New Japanese Food Trading Inc.

During an inspection at New Japanese Food Trading Inc’s seafood processing facility and importer establishment on Aug. 13, 15, 19, 27, and Sept. 6, 2019, FDA investigators collected environmental samples from various areas in the processing facility, including areas that are near food and food-contact surfaces. The warning letter says that, “FDA laboratory analyses of the environmental swabs found the presence of Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes), a human pathogen, in your facility. Additionally, FDA found serious violations of the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation [Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 123 (21 CFR 123)].”

In response to these deviations, the FDA issued an FDA 483 Inspectional Observations form that lists deviations observed at the facility.

The violations noted by the FDA

Presence of L. monocytogenes:
“L. monocytogenes is a pathogenic bacterium that is widespread in the environment and may be introduced into a food processing facility from raw materials, humans, or equipment. Without proper controls it can proliferate in food processing facilities where it may contaminate food. Therefore, it is essential to identify the areas of the food processing plant where this organism is able to grow and survive and to apply controls or take corrective actions as necessary to eradicate the organism. Consuming foods contaminated with L. monocytogenes can lead to a severe, sometimes life-threatening illness called listeriosis, which is a major public health concern due to the severity of the disease, its high case-fatality rate, its long incubation time, and its tendency to affect individuals with underlying conditions.

“FDA laboratory analysis of the environmental sample INV1117726 collected on August 13, 2019, from various areas in your processing facility, including areas that are near food and food-contact surfaces, confirmed that ten (10) of the eighty (80) environmental swabs collected were positive for Listeria monocytogenes and one (1) additional swab was positive for non-pathogenic L. innocua.

“Three (3) of the swabs that were positive for L. monocytogenes were collected from the following food-contact surfaces:”

  • “The edge of the upper level of a table (swab # 17) that your firm was using to store unpackaged RTE tuna loins that were exposed to the processing environment;”
  • “The black rubber strips (swab # 26) mounted in the middle of the swinging doors that lead from your processing cooler to your storage cooler. Your firm was observed to push a table with unpackaged, RTE tuna loins exposed to the processing environment through these doors. The RTE tuna loins were observed to make direct contact with the black rubber strips; and”
  • “The top surface of a cutting board (swab # 38) that your firm reported was used to cut RTE tuna loins prior to sampling.’

“Whole genome sequencing (WGS) analysis was conducted on the ten (10) swabs obtained from INV1117726 that were positive for L. monocytogenes. WGS analysis of bacterial human pathogens provides high-resolution data, enabling direct links to be established between clinical isolates and food or environmental sources of bacterial contamination and illness. WGS data can also be used to infer the evolutionary relationships (or phylogeny) within a given set of isolates as it measures each DNA position in a bacterial genome. This analysis found two (2) different strains of L. monocytogenes in your facility. Both strains were found on food-contact surfaces (Zone 1), and one (1) of the strains was also found in Zones 2, 3, and 4, indicating cross-contamination in your facility.”

“Our findings indicate that your firm is neither achieving satisfactory control against the presence of L. monocytogenes within your facility nor implementing effective methods and controls to eliminate this human pathogen or minimize exposure to food and food-contact surfaces. Once it is established in a production area, personnel or equipment can facilitate the pathogen’s movement and contamination of food-contact surfaces and finished product. It is essential to identify the harborage sites in the food processing plant and equipment where this organism is able to grow and survive and to take such corrective actions as are necessary to eradicate the organism.”

“Your September 27, 2019 response describes intensified environmental sampling being conducted, updating your sanitation procedures, and revising an environmental monitoring program. We will verify the adequacy of your corrective actions during a future inspection.’

Seafood HACCP:
“Your significant deviations are as follows:”

  1. “You must monitor sanitation conditions and practices during processing with sufficient frequency to ensure compliance with current good manufacturing practice requirements in 21 CFR 117, Subpart B, to comply with 21 CFR 123.11(b). However, your firm did not monitor the following with sufficient frequency to ensure compliance with the current good manufacturing practice requirements in 21 CFR 117, Subpart B:”
  2. “Design, material, and workmanship of equipment and utensils makes them adequately cleanable (21 CFR 117.40(a)). FDA investigators observed grooves on a plastic cutting board that did not allow for adequate cleaning and sanitizing. Your firm stated during our inspection that this cutting board was used earlier in the day to cut RTE tuna loins.”
  3. “Conducting food manufacturing, processing, packing, and holding under conditions and controls to minimize the potential for the contamination of food (21 CFR 117.80(c)(2)). FDA investigators observed:”
  • “Apparent moldy stains on various surfaces in the processing cooler, including on a folding table, the swinging doors that lead from your processing cooler into the storage cooler, and various other locations in your processing cooler. RTE tuna loins, staged on a table, were observed to make direct contact with these black rubber strips when the employees of your firm pushed the table through the these swinging doors and into your storage cooler.”
  • “Apparent grease on the handle of hoses used for cleaning your processing cooler.”
  1. “Taking effective measures to protect finished food from contamination (21 CFR 117.80(c)(6)). FDA investigators observed:”
  • “Condensation from an air-conditioner dripping onto RTE tuna loins that were being stored on a table.”
  • “Detergent and water sprayed from a high-pressure hose splashing from the floor to a bucket of uncovered ice and two boxes of uncovered striped bass.”
  1. “Excluding pests (21 CFR 117.35(c)). FDA investigators observed:”
  • “One mouse in the ambient storage area, approximately 3-5 houseflies in the processing cooler, and a spider web near the entrance to the processing cooler.”
  • “The gate door of your facility being left open and the plastic curtain leading to the processing cooler missing one strip.”

“Additionally, you must maintain sanitation control records that, at a minimum, document monitoring and corrections set out in 21 CFR 123.11(b), to comply with 21 CFR 123.11(c). However, your firm did not maintain sanitation monitoring records required for the processing of RTE tuna loins that we observed on August 19, 2019.”

“We have reviewed the corrections identified in your responses and determined that not all of them appear to be adequate. Specifically, your root cause analysis and corrective action described in your response to address the condensation from the air conditioning system that was observed to drip onto tuna loins does not appear appropriate. Your root cause analysis determined that “condensation was not wiped off immediately,” and your corrective action is to hang a squeegee in the designated location and to use a disposable paper towel to wipe off condensation. This correction does not address protecting food contact surfaces and product from dripping condensation. It was noted during the close-out of the inspection that your firm moved the staging table to the middle of the production room, so it is no longer below the AC unit, and your solution to the condensation problem was to turn on both units. Please clarify regarding how you are addressing condensation and provide an update on the status of this correction.”

“Additionally, your response to the detergent and water that was observed splashing from the floor to the uncovered ice and uncovered striped bass was to replace all hose nozzles. It is not clear how replacing the nozzle will address the observation. Also, continued use of high-pressure hoses does not appear to be consistent with your “Sanitation Handling Techniques, Personal Hygiene Practice and Color Coding Program” procedure which indicates that “(redacted)” and “(redacted).” To prevent aerosols from contacting RTE food, food contact surfaces, and food packaging materials, FDA recommends avoiding the use of high-pressure water hoses during production in areas where RTE foods are exposed or after equipment has been cleaned and sanitized.”

“Your response includes a new sanitation monitoring form; however, it lacks actual monitoring records.”

  1. “You must implement an affirmative step which ensures that the fish or fishery products you import are processed in accordance with the seafood HACCP regulation, to comply with 21 CFR 123.12(a)(2)(ii). However, your firm did not implement an affirmative step for the refrigerated tuna that you imported from (redacted).”

“Your response includes a certificate from the (redacted) Department of Agriculture certifying that the fresh chilled tuna manufactured by (redacted) is “manufactured under the HACCP system for assuring food safety.” However, to comply with 21 CFR 123.12(a)(2)(ii)(B), the certificate must specifically certify the fish or fishery product was processed in accordance with the requirements in 21 CFR Part 123.”

A complete list of the violations can be found on the FDA’s warning letter page.

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An analysis of pet food made from raw meat by researchers from the University of Zurich has found Salmonella and E. coli.

Numerous recalls of raw pet food because of those pathogens have been posted in the United States in the past couple of years. Some human infections were confirmed.

The study out of Zurich evaluated commercially available raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) with regard to microbiological quality and antimicrobial resistant (AMR) Enterobacteriaceae. Findings were published in the Royal Society Open Science journal.

Meat-eating pets, mainly dogs, are increasingly being fed raw meat, animal by‑products, bones and additional food such as fruit and vegetables. Proponents call this mix BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food).

However, researchers believe BARF diets are a significant risk factor for the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria when pet owners come into contact with the bacteria when preparing food. Another reason is pets have close contact with humans, increasing risk of transmitting the bacteria.

Almost three quarters failed EU micro standards
Researchers tested 51 raw dog food samples from various suppliers in Switzerland to find the total number of germs present, for normal and antibiotic-resistant enterobacteria and Salmonella. They were collected in September and October 2018 and contained meat from Switzerland and Germany.

AMR bacteria were found in 32, or 62.7 percent, of samples and most were resistant to third-generation cephalosporins due to production of extended-spectrum β-lactamases (ESBLs). Resistant bacteria in raw food can be transmitted to the pets and also to humans.

A total of 72.5 percent of food samples did not meet the microbiological standards on Enterobacteriaceae set out by EU regulations for animal by-products intended for pet food. Salmonella was found twice, as were E. coli harboring the colistin-resistance gene mcr-1.

“The situation with the multidrug-resistant bacteria has spiraled out of control in recent years. Urgent measures are needed to tackle the spread of ESBL-producing germs,” said Roger Stephan, professor at the Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene of the Vetsuisse Faculty at the University of Zurich.

Isolated Salmonella and E. coli
Salmonella species were isolated from two RMBDs. Serotypes were monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium 4,12:i:- isolated from pet food containing lamb and Salmonella London from turkey.

E. coli harboring the colistin-resistance gene mcr-1 were identified in two samples. One contained offal of horse, and the other was minced quail meat. ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae were isolated from 31 RMBDs. Analysis of 42 E. coli isolates identified 28 different sequence types.

Resistance profiles were determined for 50 isolates. Resistance to cefotaxime and cefepime was seen for 44 and five of the isolates. None of them were resistant to nitrofurantoin.

Magdalena Nüesch-Inderbinen, first author in the study, said finding ESBL-producing bacteria in over 60 percent of the samples was worrying.

“They included several types of E. coli which can cause infections in humans and animals. We therefore advise all dog and cat owners who want to feed their pets a BARF diet to handle the food carefully and maintain strict hygiene standards. Pet owners should be aware of the risk that their pet may be carrying multidrug-resistant bacteria and can spread them.”

Another study, published earlier this year in the journal Veterinary Record, detected enterobacteriaceae in all 60 frozen samples of RMBD. Salmonella species were found in four and Campylobacter in three samples.

A different study, published in the same journal, found foodborne pathogens are rarely transmitted to humans through raw pet food but reports of outbreaks linked to pet treats and dry food can be found.

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Most pet owners do not think feeding their animals with raw food increases infection risk, according to a study.

The survey by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Helsinki in Finland looked at perceptions of food-transmitted pathogens among pet owners who feed their animal’s raw food.

The study, published in the Veterinary Record journal, found that foodborne pathogens are rarely transmitted to humans through raw pet food. The safety of feeding such items to pets has grown as a topic of debate. Raw food is any meat, internal organs, bones and cartilage fed to pets uncooked.

Reports of outbreaks linked to pet treats and dry food can be found across the world. For example, in the United States, CDC and FDA are advising people not to buy pig ear dog treats or feed them to their pets due to an outbreak of Salmonella with 143 infections in 35 states. People get sick after handling the treats or caring for dogs who ate them. Dogs might become ill after eating them.

Mostly Campylobacter and Salmonella

A total of 16,475 households from 81 countries responded to the internet survey. It was not possible to say if the risk of contamination is higher in some countries compared with others.

Only 39 households reported having been contaminated by pet food and were able to name the pathogen. Twenty four households had contamination from pet food but could not name the pathogen causing symptoms.

Twelve and 17 households reported Salmonella and Campylobacter infections, respectively. There were eight occurrences of E. coli, two of Toxoplasma and a single Yersinia infection. Meat fed to pets had been analyzed in only three households, identifying the same pathogen as found in samples from infected individuals. All were E. coli; one from beef, the other from a Big County Raw product but the type of meat was not specified, and the last from a product bought from an abattoir but animal species was not mentioned.

Feeding salmon and turkey, using more than 50 percent of the diet as raw foods and preparing such food in the same place and with the same utensils as the family foods had a negative association with infections.

In the study, only 7.2 percent of the non-transmission of pathogens (NTP) households handled raw pet food in a different place than human food and most (68.4 percent) used the same place and same utensils as for human food.

Correlation of infection related to children

In total, 99.6 percent of households feeding their pets raw food did not report any pathogens being transmitted from the food to humans. The time respondents had been feeding raw food to their pets ranged from several weeks to 65 years.

“It was surprising to find that statistical analyses identified fewer infections in households with more than 50 percent of the pet diet consisting of raw food. Furthermore, feeding pets raw salmon or turkey was associated with a smaller number of infections,” said researcher Johanna Anturaniemi from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

In four of the 39 households with infections, those sick were children between two and six years of age, while in two houses those ill were immunocompromised people with cancer and Crohn’s disease.

A positive correlation with infection was found in relation to children between two and six years old living in the household, even though most of the infected individuals (90 percent) were adults.

“This raises the question of whether the pathogens could have been transmitted by children from outdoors, daycare centers or other public spaces, even if pet food had been assumed to be the source of infection,” said Anturaniemi.

According to scientists, further research is needed to assess the role of other factors in infections.

The survey was available from July 2017 to February 2018, was targeted to dog and cat owners who feed pets with raw animal products and was translated into English, Finnish, Swedish, Spanish and Portuguese.

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Consumers should not feed their pets certain Aunt Jeni’s frozen raw pet foods because samples have tested positive for Listeria, which can cause life-threatening illness in humans. The food has also tested positive for Salmonella.

In a public alert this afternoon, the Food and Drug Administration said the implicated raw pet food poses a “serious threat” to human and animal health. People who handle the pet food can become infected. Cross contamination of countertops and other surfaces, as well as pet bowls and utensils, can also transfer the bacteria to people and pets. 

To determine whether they have the implicated pet food in their homes consumers should look for the following label information:

Aunt Jeni’s Home Made, Turkey Dinner Dog Food, 5 lb (2.3kg), lot 175199 JUL2020

Aunt Jeni’s Home Made, Chicken Dinner Dog Food, 5 lb (2.3kg), lot 1152013 JUL2020.

If you have any of the affected Aunt Jeni’s Home Made products, throw them away, the FDA alert says.

“Because these products are sold and stored frozen, FDA is concerned that people may still have them in their possession,” according to the public alert. “. . . If you have either of the product varieties listed and cannot determine the lot code, FDA recommends that you exercise caution and throw the product away.

“The FDA collected two samples of Aunt Jeni’s Home Made pet food — turkey and chicken varieties — during a routine inspection of the manufacturing facility. Aunt Jeni’s Home Made, Turkey Dinner Dog Food, 5 lb (2.3kg), lot 175199 JUL2020, tested positive for Salmonella Infantis. Aunt Jeni’s Home Made, Chicken Dinner Dog Food, 5 lb (2.3kg), lot 1152013 JUL2020, tested positive for Salmonella Infantis and L. mono.

“Based on the test results, the Maryland Department of Agriculture issued a stop sale for these products on Aug. 20, preventing their further distribution.”

Aunt Jeni’s Home Made pet food products are sold frozen online and through retail locations. Lot codes are printed on the lower right corner of the front of the bag.

Pets do not always display symptoms when infected with Salmonella, but signs can include vomiting, diarrhea that may be bloody, fever, loss of appetite and/or decreased activity level. If your pet has these symptoms, consult a veterinarian promptly. 

You should also be aware that infected pets can shed the bacteria in their feces and saliva without showing signs of being sick, further contaminating the household environment.

FDA encourages consumers to report complaints about pet food products electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal. This information helps FDA further protect human and animal health.

Listeria and Salmonella infections in people
Food that is contaminated with bacterial, viral or parasitic pathogens may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has handled any of the recalled product and developed symptoms of Listeria or Salmonella infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the bacteria. 

LISTERIA: Anyone who has handled any of the recalled product should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop. 

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses. 

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth.

SALMONELLA: 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.

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