Majority of 3,691 pet product recalls were dog, cat food

Majority of 3,691 pet product recalls were dog, cat food

Contamination accounted for most pet food recalls during the past nearly two decades with one incident in 2007 making up a quarter of all recalls. The Journal of Food Production published a review of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalls involving dog and cat products. The review examined 3,691 dog and cat product recalls that occurred from 2003 through 2002. The review included recalls for pet foods (food, treats, and chews), ingredients, supplements (vitamins and minerals), and drugs. Pet foods, treats and ingredients made up 68% of the total number of recalls, while drugs made up 27% and supplements accounted for 5%.

The FDA divides recalls into three classes:

  • Class I recall: a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.
  • Class II recall: a situation in which use of or exposure to a violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote.
  • Class III recall: a situation in which use of or exposure to a violative product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences.

Among the pet product recalls 51% were Class I, 35% were Class II and 14% were Class III. Products for dogs only made up 42% of the recalls, cat products accounted for 18% and products for multiple species were 40% of the total.

“The primary reasons for the recalls were biological contamination at 35%, chemical contamination at 32%, and cGMP violations at 8%,” the study’s authors wrote. “Almost 25% of the total recalls in the past 20 years were due to a melamine incident in 2007/2008 (73% of those were Class I). Salmonella recalls for the 20 years accounted for 23% of the total recalls (94 % of those were Class I). Although the recalls for vitamins and minerals accounted for only 5.6% percent of the total, 70% of those were Class I and 30% Class II.”

Melamine and Salmonella contamination of pet food

Together, melamine and Salmonella-related incidents made up 48% of all dog and cat product recalls.

“If the 914 recalls for melamine or cyanuric acid are removed, there were 42 types of contamination listed with 1676 recalls,” they wrote. “These include 859 recalls for Salmonella serovars, 169 for aflatoxin, 113 for cleaning products, 103 for mold, 93 for dioxin and more. Thus, contamination of some sort, whether biological, chemical, physical (plastic, wood, etc) was behind the majority of the pet sector recalls.”

The review’s authors traced the ultimate causes of many of these recalls to human error. The technology used to formulate, mix and fill bags, boxed, pouches, cans and other containers with pet food is safe, validated and well established. When the reviewers analyzed the recalls they found human mistakes confounded the safety of established processes.

“Examples of human error would include 239 recalls for sterility issues, 201 recalls for cGMP violations, 113 recalls for contamination with quaternary ammonium and 93 recalls for contamination with dioxin,” they wrote. “Human error can also contribute to biological contamination or recontamination if the biological pathogens are carried on or remain on clothing, gloves, boots, hair, tools, and process or measuring equipment. The management and processing team members need to continuously practice proper techniques and to be vigilant about cleanliness and sanitation in the factory. Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) need to be developed by each factory and followed properly. Each employee will need initial training, and the authors suggest refresher training annually. Constant vigilance is essential to prevent biological contamination.”


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