A class action lawsuit against J.M. Smucker and its subsidiary Big Heart Pet Brands was filed in a New York district court related to the discovery of pentobarbital in Kibbles ‘n Bits dog food, according to court documents. The lawsuit alleges that the dog food was marketed as safe, although tainted with the drug.
The lawsuit states that since the labeling of Kibbles ‘n Bits doesn’t mention adulteration with pentobarbital that the “omissions are false, misleading, and reasonably likely to deceive the public,” according to court documents.
In February, another class action lawsuit against Big Heart Pet Brands was filed in a United States District Court in California. According to court documents, the class action lawsuit seeks to compel Big Heart Brands to “disclose its pet food sold throughout the United States is adulterated and contains pentobarbital…” The lawsuit also aims to make Big Heart refund the purchase of that pet food to consumers.
"While we cannot speak to the specifics of this claim, our focus is on the enhanced quality assurance protocols underway as an added assurance to pet families that include testing our products for the presence of pentobarbital," a representative of J.M. Smucker told Petfood Industry.
Smucker pet food withdrawal upgraded to recall by FDA
On March 2, the United States Food and Drug Administration informed J.M. Smucker that the company’s withdrawal of pet food products, including Kibbles ‘N Bits, Ol' Roy and Skippy, from the marketplace is now considered a recall. The FDA based this decision on a test by the firm confirming the presence of pentobarbital in the tallow ingredient used in the affected products.
“Testing done by scientists at an independent, third-party microbiology laboratory indicates a single, minor ingredient (animal fat), used only in the four wet dog food brands, was the source of the contamination,” according to a statement about the pentobarbital-tainted pet food from J.M. Smucker.
“We stopped production at our manufacturing facility that makes these product lines until we could obtain the ingredient from a new supplier, and we are no longer sourcing the ingredient from the original supplier,” said Barry Dunaway, J.M. Smucker president of pet food and pet snacks in the statement.
Ongoing FDA investigation of J.M. Smucker pet foods
The FDA is continuing its investigation and has collected finished product samples for testing that is currently pending. While the firm and FDA testing was pending, the FDA agreed to allow the firm to withdraw products from the marketplace because it was the quickest way to remove potentially adulterated product.
However, now that the firm has verified that the pet foods contain pentobarbital, an illegal substance in pet food at any amount, the firm has agreed to continue to remove product under the voluntarily recall process. The FDA will share more information as it becomes available.
FDA announced the status change in an update to the federal agency’s original February 16 alert.
Alleged pentobarbital in Gravy Train dog food led to lawsuit
A Washington D.C. ABC-affiliate news station, WJLA, reported that a laboratory they contracted, Ellipse Analytics, found pentobarbital in Gravy Train dog food, a brand produced by J.M. Smucker under Big Heart Pet Brands. WJLA’s report led to a class action lawsuit against Big Heart Pet Brands filed in a United States District Court in California. In Missouri, one woman believes Gravy Train may have contributed to her dog’s death, reported KMOV, a St. Louis, Missouri, USA-based CBS affiliate.
WJLA contracted a laboratory to test 62 samples of wet dog food from two dozen brands for the presence of pentobarbital. Out of 15 cans of Gravy Train, 60 percent of the samples tested positive for pentobarbital, although not at lethal levels.
Effects of pentobarbital in dog food
A woman in Fenton, Missouri, USA believes that allegedly pentobarbital-contaminated Gravy Train dog food may have been responsible for her dog’s illness and death, reported KMOV. She stated that in October 2017, her Miniature Schnauzer became ill after eating Gravy Train and other Big Heart products. The dog passed away two months later.
Last February, pentobarbital-contaminated dog food was in the news. One Pug was euthanized after eating pentobarbital-tainted Evanger’s Hunk of Beef dog food, and four other dogs were sickened.
The adulterated pet food didn’t technically kill the Pug, Evanger’s vice president Joel Sher told Petfood Industry.
“The one that didn’t survive was a 13- or 14-year-old Pug that had some health issues,” he said. “The decision was made to euthanize the fourth Pug.”
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. Oral exposure to pentobarbital can cause drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea, nystagmus (eyes moving back and forth in a jerky manner), inability to stand, coma and death, according to the FDA.