Horse meat and a deadly drug were found in cans of recalled Evanger’s Hunk of Beef dog food, but how they got there remains a mystery. Evanger’s vice president blamed his meat supplier for allegedly using meat from horses euthanized with pentobarbital. Yet, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected the supplier’s plant and found systems in place to keep euthanized animals out of the food stream, reported Food Safety News. However, FDA officials did note health concerns in Evanger’s facility where the contaminated pet food was made.
“It [pentobarbital] was never on the radar screen,” Evanger’s vice president Joel Sher told Petfood Industry. “It wasn’t an appropriate test in our industry, for what we do, to test for pentobarbital…I might as well start testing for radioactivity at this point. It’s certainly not on the radar screen, but if something ever happened you know someone will say we didn’t check for it.”
One Pug is known to have died after eating the pentobarbital tainted dog food, and four other dogs were sickened. Pentobarbital, a barbiturate, is used to euthanize animals and as a human sedative and anticonvulsant, as well as in human executions and physician-assisted suicides.
Sher noted that the adulterated pet food didn’t technically kill the Pug.
“The one that didn’t survive was a 13- or 14-year-old Pug that had some health issues,” said Sher. “The decision was made to euthanize the fourth Pug.”
Horse meat potentially in recalled dog food
Along with pentobarbital, private laboratory results found horse DNA in samples of the Hunk of Beef dog food that were recalled on February 3, said Sher. Against the Grain Pet Food recalled one lot of Against the Grain Pulled Beef with Gravy Dinner for Dogs on February 14. Against the Grain is owned by members of the Sher family.
FDA officials confirmed the presence of pentobarbital in both the Against the Grain and Evanger’s products, and classified the products as adulterated. In the same FDA Form 483 Inspectional Observations report, inspectors noted food safety problems at the Wheeling, Illinois, USA plant where the dog foods are produced. Some of these issues included peeling paint and mold on the walls, lack of raw meat refrigeration, and an open sewer within 25 feet of food storage trailers.
Sher contested those notes in a response to the FDA. Sher told Petfood Industry that no regulatory violations had been issued against the facility by the 483 report, just observations. He was unaware of any mold growing on the walls, nor of any peeling paint, asserting that there isn’t any paint used in the facility. The open sewer was actually on open manhole cover in the parking lot, he said.
Evanger’s response to pentobarbital in dog food
Evanger’s issued a series of pentobarbital recall updates on their website.
“The guilty party has turned out to be one of our most trusted meat suppliers,” said an update on February 19. “A USDA-APHIS inspected supplier who we had done business with for over 40 years, and whose plant we had visited numerous times over the years.”
USDA response to Evanger’s
FDA officials asserted that the Hunk of Beef meat did not come from a USDA-approved supplier of human-grade meat.
“In its recent press release announcing a limited product recall, Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Company, Inc. stated that the beef for its Hunk of Beef product came from a 'USDA approved' supplier. However, the FDA reviewed a bill of lading from Evanger’s supplier for ‘Inedible Hand Deboned Beef - For Pet Food Use Only. Not Fit For Human Consumption’ and determined that the supplier’s facility does not have a grant of inspection from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service,” stated FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine representatives on their website.
“The meat products from this supplier do not bear the USDA inspection mark and would not be considered human grade. USDA-FSIS regulates slaughter of animals for human consumption only.”
Human-grade pet food claims challenged by FDA findings
Evanger’s has described its products as human-grade since at least June 2003, reported Food Safety News. The article included screenshots of the Evanger’s website promoting the pet food as human-grade. The article suggested that Evanger’s claims, in contrast to FDA findings, may result in allegations of deception or false advertising by the Federal Trade Commission.
Sher explained this by saying that the website had been created before the Hunk of Beef product was launched. He asserted that promoting Evanger’s pet foods as human-grade was “substantially a correct statement.”
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines human-grade as, “Every ingredient and the resulting product are stored, handled, processed and transported in a manner that is consistent and compliant with regulations for current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) for human edible foods as specified in 21 CFR Part 117.”
However, Sher told Petfood Industry that their plant is not certified to make food for human consumption.