Pentobarbital pet food ingredients sold after FDA warning

JBS Souderton continued to sell pentobarbital-contaminated tallow to pet food companies after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had alerted the pet food ingredient supplier.

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Last year, JBS Souderton continued to sell pentobarbital-contaminated tallow to pet food companies after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had alerted the pet food ingredient supplier of the drug’s presence. Drug-tainted beef tallow from JBS Souderton, doing business as MOPAC, was involved in the recall of numerous J.M. Smucker canned dog foods, including Gravy Train, Kibbles ‘n Bits, and Skippy products, starting in February 2018.

“Our investigation revealed that you [JBS] continued to distribute adulterated products after you received formal notification of pentobarbital contamination from your customer on February 13, 2018, and after formal notification of positive pentobarbital samples from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture on or about April 5, 2018,” wrote Evelyn Bonnin, FDA program division director, in a warning letter issued April 23.

Pentobarbital is a barbiturate used to euthanize horses, dogs, cats, humans and other animals. It’s presence in pet food is prohibited.

FDA issued that warning letter to JBS Souderton about pentobarbital traces found in JBS’ Souderton, Pennsylvania rendering facility in August 2018. FDA investigators found pentobarbital on a piece of equipment that was cleaned after previous inspections in May and June.

“This indicates that the changes you have made to your examination of raw materials and other ingredients from your suppliers may not be sufficient to prevent pentobarbital contaminated ingredients, such as those potentially sourced from euthanized animals, from entering your facility and contaminating your finished tallow product…” wrote Bonnin. “It is not clear whether these trace amounts occurred due to insufficient cleaning, or whether the tank was contaminated by an incoming raw ingredient containing pentobarbital.”

If federal and state inspectors continue to find contamination problems, JBS may face seizure and injunction.

Previous FDA scrutiny of pentobarbital-laced pet food ingredient supplier

During the previous visits, FDA and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture inspectors recorded that JBS employees did not test most raw materials, including tallow, for contamination. Likewise, workers did not inspect raw materials upon arrival. Inspectors found traces of pentobarbital on equipment in the facility.

After the inspections, JBS representatives stated that the company would make changes. These actions included refusing to receive horse products, having suppliers complete a questionnaire about their food safety practices, having suppliers sign guarantees that they do not pick up euthanized animals, and excluding suppliers that could not meet these new requirements. The pet food ingredient supplier also stated that they had cleaned their equipment.

History of pentobarbital contamination of pet foods

In March 2018, 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. 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. The class action lawsuit sought 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.

In February 2017, Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food of Wheeling, Illinois, USA recalled specific lots of its Hunk of Beef product because of potential contamination with pentobarbital, then expanded that recall in March. Party Animal recalled dog food in April 2017 for the same reason.

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