The recalls began on March 16, 2007. The death and destruction of pets began weeks before the first recall, and lasted for years after.
Per the Office of Inspector General evaluation report of FDA’s handling of the recall:
“According to FDA, it received approximately 18,000 consumer complaints from March through May 2007 regarding melamine-contaminated pet food that was causing illness and death among pets. The melamine-related recalls involved 27 firms and more than 1,000 products.”
“FDA’s lack of authority, coupled with its sometimes lax adherence to its recall guidance and internal procedures and the inadequacy of some of those procedures, limited FDA’s ability to ensure that contaminated pet food was promptly removed from retailers’ shelves.”
In other words, in 2007, FDA did not follow their own procedures to assure deadly pet food was promptly removed from store shelves. Pet’s died because of FDA’s failure.
From a Senate Hearing held on April 12, 2007 regarding the recall:
Statement from Senator Durbin at hearing: “Menu Foods, the pet food manufacturer involved, first noticed a potential problem on February 20, 2007. The company has reported that, on this date, it first started noticing test animals were getting sick and refusing to eat their product. How long did the company wait to notify the Food and Drug Administration? Almost 3 1⁄2 weeks.”
The pet food manufacturer – Menu Foods – waited “almost 3 1⁄2 weeks” before notifying FDA they had a problem. Pet’s died because of that manufacturer failure.
After the Senate Hearing, Senator Durbin took the lead in writing legislation that was intended to prevent another deadly disaster in pet food. Laws were written – titled Ensuring the Safety of Pet Food. These laws required FDA to establish safety/quality standards for pet food ingredients and update pet food labels to provide pet owners with more information. Congress required FDA to complete these pet food safety updates by September 2009.
But FDA did not complete the pet food safety updates. Year after year went by – the requirements of Congress and the needs of pet owners were ignored. And finally in 2018 the laws thousands of pets died for were deleted from record by an addendum to an unrelated bill submitted by Senator Rand Paul.
Where are we today?
Within the official documents (OIG Report and Senate Hearing transcript) the FDA made statements acknowledging they needed to improve how the agency handles pet food recalls. But have they?
The evidence shows the FDA continues to fail, industry continues to fail – and pets pay the price.
In January 2019, Hill’s Pet Food announced a recall due to excess vitamin D. Seven weeks later, Hill’s expanded the recall to many more foods. This delay evidences a failure with FDA investigation of the recall and Hill’s Pet Food failure to investigate the contaminated vitamin premix.
Another example is the Purina excess vitamin D recall announced February 8, 2023. Four weeks later, on March 10, 2023, Purina too expanded the recall to include more contaminated pet foods.
Expanded recalls have become a common thing. Expanded recalls result in needless pet illnesses and deaths. Expanded recalls evidence regulatory and industry failures.
Pet Food (Feed) versus Human Food
Recalls happen in both pet food and human food. However FDA handles human food recalls VERY differently. As example…
In 2009 the Peanut Corporation of America experienced a massive recall. There were 714 human illnesses linked to the peanut products, and 9 human deaths. The owners of Peanut Corporation of America were convicted of putting adulterated food into interstate commerce – and were sentenced to 28 years in prison.
By comparison, the US company that imported the contaminated ingredients from China which resulted in the 2007 pet food recall was ChemNutra. The owners of ChemNutra were also charged with multiple counts of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. There were tens of thousands of pet illnesses, and thousands of pet deaths. However the owners of ChemNutra were not sentenced to prison as in the human food incident, instead this company was fined a mere $35,000.00.
Below is just one story of the 2007 recall, a letter one pet owner sent to the Judge that issued the small fine:
“Dear Judge Maughmer
I understand that you are getting ready to sentence ChemNutra. As you are contemplating the sentence, I hope you consider all of the emotional pain this company has caused. I spent agonizing months attempting to pull my little dog back from the brink that was caused by this company. In the final days, Merlin and I sat next to each other, he in a tank attached to oxygen and I on the bedroom floor next to him so that he wouldn’t feel alone. I’m disabled and it was not easy, but I was determined that Merlin knew he hadn’t done anything to warrant his isolation. In the end, I held him in my arms while my veterinarian administered a lethal dosage that would finally separate me from my dear friend. It cost $6000 in vet bills, several friendships, and almost a marriage. I cried for months. Please make sure ChemNutra pays for this horrible crime.”
We must NEVER forget.
While all the evidence shows that many manufacturers of pet food and regulatory authorities have long forgotten those horrible days in 2007 – we cannot forget. For the many pets that died, and for the pets that continue to die due to reckless manufacturing and lax regulatory oversight – we must continue to ask questions, demand answers, and write letters. We cannot forget those pets.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
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