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Recent Salmonella Outbreak Stresses Need for Pet Food Manufacturer Accountability

Written by Robert Brice
August 27, 2015

Contaminated dog food products have to be recalled.

Contaminated dog food products have to be recalled.

Product recalls are an unfortunate part of food manufacturing. Government agencies and consumers make health a high priority. The moment a product is suspected of containing harmful ingredients or outside contamination, the manufacturer is responsible for removing it from the market. These strict procedures are not just upheld for goods consumed by people, but for animal food as well.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced recalls for two popular brands of dog food, The Seattle Times reported. Batches of Bravo Chicken and Nature Variety’s Instinct Raw Chicken Formula for Dogs have been recalled because of possible Salmonella contamination.

According to Food Safety News, this recent recall is not surprising. Between August 2014 and July 2015 almost a dozen unique federally recognized incidents involving pet foods and treats occurred.

The Danger of Contaminated Pet Foods

Contaminated food is a health risk for dogs and cats. Pets suffering from salmonella infection may become lethargic. They often experience bloody diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever. In some cases, the infection can cause death.

The bigger concern is animals passing the illness on to humans through physical contact, environmental contamination or through fleas and ticks. When pet foods are the source of the infection there are additional concerns such as handling products and small children consuming materials meant for animals.

Salmonella is very dangerous to humans. People also experience diarrhea, vomiting and fever. If left unchecked it can cause arterial infections, arthritis and urinary tract symptoms. Salmonella infection has been found to be fatal in children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

The Cost of Recalls

Besides the health risks, product contamination is extremely costly to food manufacturers. Recalls cause companies to remove and destroy merchandise. Production plants have to be shut down so government officials can inspect operations. On top of reduced profits from useless products and lost customers from bad publicity, companies that distribute unsafe goods have to pay government fines.

There are additional legal dangers. Manufacturers that produce foods that are dangerous or less healthy than advertised leave themselves open for litigation. Fortune recently reported on a lawsuit against a dog food manufacturer claiming the company misrepresented its ingredients. Consumers believe the product contains industrial-grade glycols as opposed to propylene glycol. The industrial-grade variety is dangerous for dogs and plaintiffs held the company responsible for the illness and death of numerous pets. They are suing the manufacturer for the damages and the grief they have suffered.

Manufacturing and Distribution Reporting

The pet food manufacturer in the glycols lawsuit stated the company has never included the harmful materials the plaintiffs claim in its ingredients. To win the suit, the defense has to provide evidence of their manufacturing process. The data submitted to the court should demonstrate a clear representation of every step of their production processes.

Many manufacturers use software programs to capture information from each phase of product creation and distribution. These companies utilize ERP software and automated data collection software to create the distribution visibility and traceability it needed.

Time is a real problem when tracing salmonella contamination. Some dogs can carry the infection without showing any symptoms, so discovering when they first come into contact with contaminated materials is tough. Salmonella can survive in food products for a very long time. On top of that, the FDA doesn’t check pet food before it is distributed to consumers.

It is up to the manufacturer to ensure the production process was held to strict standards. Companies also have to create checkpoints for inventory as it is released into the market. Automated data collection software is easy to implement and employees can create constant checks on products. If a recall is needed, a company has a complete timeline created by real-time reporting. Accurate production and distribution information prevents contamination from spreading and helps limit recalls so safe products are not included in the return.