What Next For Evanger’s?

Evanger's Hunks of BeefThe pet health blogosphere is alive with questions and speculations over the February 3rd recall of five production lots of Evanger’s Hunk of Beef canned pet food. For anyone who has been in hibernation for the last several days, I’ll begin with a timeline.

June 6-13, 2016: Evanger’s produces five lots of Hunk of Beef canned food, using beef chunks furnished by a single unnamed USDA-inspected supplier.

December 31, 2016: A Washington state woman feeds Hunk of Beef to her five pugs as a special New Year’s Eve treat. Four of the dogs became severely ill within 15 minutes, and were rushed to an emergency veterinary center. One of the four dogs died; the other three required treatment in the veterinary ICU. The fifth dog, which ate the least amount of the food, did not require veterinary treatment.

January 3, 2017: The remains of the dead dog are submitted by the veterinarian to the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for necropsy and lab analysis.

January 4, 2017: Evanger’s posts its first comment on the reports, indicating that the Company was in touch with the pet owner and that Evanger’s had submitted the batch in question to a third-party lab for testing. Evanger’s also reported that “the entire lot went to one distributor in Washington State, and no other cans from this lot would be anywhere else in the country.” The samples were received by the laboratory on January 13th, according to the lab reports on the Evanger’s website.

January 11, 2017: Samples of the stomach contents of the dead dog and of the remainder of the opened can of dog food are received by the Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population & Animal Health (MSU) for toxicology testing.

January 16, 2017: Evanger’s posted an update on its investigation, including initial lab test results for Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium spp. and Enterobacteriaceae. The test results were negative.

January 17, 2017: Dr. John Buchweitz, Clinical Toxicologist at MSU reports finding pentobarbital in the stomach contents and a ‘large quantity chromatographically’ in the sample of food. In reporting this result, Dr. Buchweitz adds, “If this sample came directly from a can, this is an urgent matter and needs to be reported to the FDA Feed Safety Portal.” Click on Toxicology Report to read the full report.

January 21, 2017: Evanger’s shared another lab report on its website, stating that the sample did not contain botulinum toxin.

January 23, 2017: Evanger’s posted its final lab test, reporting that the Hunk of Beef sample was ‘Commercially Sterile’.

January 30, 2017: Evanger’s posted yet another update, disputing reports that pentobarbital had been found in their dog food, adding, “These “claims” are simply fear tactics and either unrelated or unsubstantiated claims against our company and our foods.”

February 3, 2017: At FDA’s request, Evanger’s recalled five production lots of its Hunk of Beef canned pet food.

So, what happens next?

I have reached out both to FDA and to USDA, since Evanger’s procured their beef from a USDA-inspected facility to get an answer to that question. FDA, according to its standard policy, declined to comment on an in-progress investigation. In response to my email query, I was told by a USDA-FSIS spokesperson, “FDA is currently the lead on the investigation in Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food. USDA-FSIS is working with their federal partners at FDA to determine whether more Agency action is required.“

Reading between the lines, I think it is safe to say that FDA inspectors have been, and probably still are, swarming over and through Evanger’s production facility at 221 Wheeling Road, Wheeling, IL. Based on Evanger’s history, which I summarized in yesterday’s report, I hope and expect that the investigation will be exhaustive.