Retailers across the United States pulled at least 31 varieties of dog food off the shelves after an investigation found the food contained the euthanasia drug, pentobarbital.
The lethal drug is most commonly used for euthanazition of dogs, cats and horses.
The FDA launched an investigation after an investigative news story by WJLA detected the drug in multiple dog foods. The news channel sent several dog foods for lab tests after dog owner Nikki Mael shared with them that four of her dogs ended up sick and one died after she fed them a can of Evanger’s pet food (product has since been recalled.
She says that minutes after feeding her dogs the food they were falling over, running into walls and convulsing. She raced them to the veterinarian, but it was too late for one of her dogs, Talulah. She requested a postmortem examination and says that the veterinary pathologist found pentobarbital in Talulah.
For seven months, WJLA investigated and tested multiple dog foods:
“We tested 62 samples of wet dog food, across more than two-dozen brands for the euthanasia drug pentobarbital. After months of tests and re-tests, one brand repeatedly came back positive for pentobarbital.
“In total, we tested 15 cans of Gravy Train. Nine cans — 60-percent of the sample — were positive for pentobarbital. And while the levels detected were not lethal, under federal law they are also not permitted at any concentration.
“Gravy Train is made by Big Heart Pet Foods and owned by Smucker’s. According to Neilsen data, it accounts for more than $40 million of the company’s annual revenue.
“Big Heart Brands is also the maker of Meow Mix, Milk Bone, Kibbles’n Bits, 9 Lives, Natural Balance, Pup-Peroni, Gravy Train, Nature’s Recipe, Canine Carry Outs, Milo’s Kitchen, Alley Cat, Jerky Treats, Meaty Bone, Pounce and Snausages.”
The FDA launched an investigation after the news channel released their findings and days later Smucker’s, the owner of almost all the brands in question, announced a voluntary withdrawal. It includes products in the Gravy Train, Kibbles ‘N Bits, Skippy and Ol’ Roy lines of canned food.
Retailers, including Walmart, removed the products from all 4,700 stores.
While the levels detected were not lethal, it is against federal law to have any level of the drug in pet food and is never allowed to be used on animals intended for food.
So just how are animals with the euthanasia drug ending up in the food supply? Dr. Nicholas Dodman, the chief scientific officer for The Center for Canine Behavior Studies at Tufts University says the answer is likely straightforward.
“It comes from euthanasia of animals using that euthanasia drug,” he said. “So, these animals could be dogs, they could be cats, they could be horses – but how is it getting into the pet food? If they say it doesn’t come from dogs, cats and horses where does it come from? It doesn’t come from outer space.”
The likely suspects are the slaughterhouses and meat suppliers who are adding contaminated animals to the food supply.
A full list of the currently-withdrawn products can be viewed here.