Review of 3,691 FDA pet food product recalls over the last 20 years

The Journal of Food Production analysed all 3,691 FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) pet food product recalls over the last 20 years (2003-2022). They found that the substantial majority of recalls at 68% specifically concerned pet food. Of these, over half were Class I recalls. This means that there was a “reasonable probability that the use of, or exposure to, a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death”.

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Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The study is published online (see below) and from the abstract (summary) of the study I take the following facts:

  • The survey included pet food, as mentioned, ingredients, supplements (vitamins and minerals) and drugs.
  • 51% of the records were Class I
  • 35% were Class II
  • 14% were Class III
  • 68% concerned food items and ingredients, as mentioned
  • 27% of the recalls concerned drugs
  • 5% of the recalls concerned supplements (vitamins and minerals)
  • 42% of the recalls were associated with dogs only – Thought: Owners of cats and dogs poisoned to death by commercially prepared foods should receive an automatic $10,000 payment in compensation
  • 18% concerned cats
  • 40% concerned multiple species.
  • In 35% of the cases the primary reason for the recall was biological contamination
  • in 32% of the cases, it concerned chemical contamination
  • in a percent of the cases, it concerned cGMP.  CGMP refers to the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations enforced by the FDA. CGMP provides for systems that assure proper design, monitoring, and control of manufacturing processes and facilities (source: FDA)
  • almost 25% of all recalls in the past 20 years concerned the most notorious pet food contamination of all: pet food products adulturated with melamine (to save money) from imported products from China which took place over the 2007/2008 of which 70% were classified as Class I. It caused many deaths. RELATED: Melamine in Cat Food
  • 23% of the recalls concerned Salmonella contamination of which 94% were classified as Class I. RELATED: Bravo Pet Foods recalls dog and cat food products over salmonella concerns
  • 5.6% of the recalls concerned vitamins and minerals of which 70% were classed as Class I and 30% Class II
  • 40 different federal regulations govern pet food processing and production in the US and as such it is a complex business

The study authors concluded with the following:

To avoid recalls and be successful, pet food manufacturers need a robust food safety culture to meet all of these requirements to produce a safe product. In contrast, the melamine contamination (an adulteration event) in 2007/2008 which resulted in animal deaths and recalls is a prime example of the need for an effective and robust supplier approval program in order to avoid fraudulent suppliers in the future.”

Study citation: A Review of Pet Food Recalls from 2003 Through 2022. Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfp.2023.100199.

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