Good news for fans of Ferrero chocolates

On September 16, 2022, Belgium’s food safety authority (AFSCA) issued a final authorization for production for Ferraro’s manufacturing facility, located at Arlon.

The Arlon plant produces Kinder Surprise and other novelty chocolate products, and has been operating under a conditional authorization since June.

What happened?

On April 2, 2022, the UK Food Standards Agency alerted consumers to potential Salmonella contamination in certain batches of Kinder Surprise chocolates.

On April 8th, Belgium announced its decision to withdraw Ferrero’s authorization to manufacture food products at its Arlon plant, where the Kinder Surprise chocolates were made.

The decision, according to AFSCA, was due to the presence of Salmonella in the plant’s environment, the agency’s dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency on the part of the company regarding its Salmonella problem, and reports of Salmonella illnesses associated with the products from that plant.

In response to the AFSCA action, Ferrero expanded its initial recall to encompass all products manufactured in the Arlon facility. In doing so, the company also acknowledged that it had been aware of a Salmonella contamination problem in its production plant since December 15, 2021.

According to the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC), as of July 15th, 401 confirmed (n=399) and probable (n=2) cases of monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium had been reported in 13 EU member countries and the UK. An additional 54 cases were reported in Canada (n=4), Switzerland (n=49), and United States (n=1).

Specific chocolate products from a Belgian chocolate factory were identified as likely vehicles of infection in the ECDC report, although the agency did not mention the company by name.

A new beginning

Following extensive cleaning, testing, and updates to product safety protocols, trainings, and sampling in the plant, conducted by Ferrero in concert with the AFSCA, the Belgian agency granted Ferrero conditional authorisation to restart its production lines on June 17, 2022.

After three months of probationary production, the authorization has now been finalized.

In announcing the authorization, Ferrero expressed its gratitude with AFSCA’s close collaboration and its assistance, and promised to do better going forward.

“We have learned a lot during this period and have quickly put these learnings into practice,” the company said in its news release. “The granting of our production licence means everything is in place for our factory to produce with confidence and we will continue to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again.”

You can find additional background information on a prior Salmonella outbreak associated with chocolate novelty products in Chapter 15 of TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures. Available in digital, print, and audiobook editions.

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FDA Public Health Alert: Salmonella illness in kittens linked to raw pet food

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cautioning pet owners not to feed their cats two lots of Darwin’s Natural Pet Products raw cat food after Salmonella was recovered from the products.

The products are identified as:

  • Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Antibiotic & Grain Free Chicken Recipe for Cats, Lot 9116, manufactured on May 2, 2022.
  • Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Antibiotic & Grain Free Turkey Recipe for Cats, Lot 9121, manufactured on May 4, 2022.

The items were manufactured by Arrow Reliance Inc of Tukwila, WA (dba Darwin’s Natural Pet Products).

The raw cat food is associated with reports of diarrhea in three kittens in a single household.

All three sick kittens consumed the suspect products, and Salmonella was recovered from the stool of one of the sick kittens. A fourth kitten in the same household did not consume the food and did not become ill.

The FDA sampled and analyzed unopened packages of the two lots of raw cat food. Salmonella Typhimurium was found in the turkey product, while the chicken product contained both Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Kentucky.

The FDA recommended that Arrow Reliance Inc. voluntarily recall these products and notify the public, but the company has not done so. 

Instead, on July 29, 2022, Arrow Reliance filed a request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the FDA from issuing a Public Health Alert for these products.

Why Salmonella in pet food matters

There have been multiple documented instances wherein contaminated pet food has caused illnesses in humans and their pets.

  • In 2007, dry dog food contaminated with Salmonella Schwarzengrund caused an outbreak of 62 cases of human salmonellosis.
  • In 2007, an outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo and Salmonella Give in military kennel dogs was traced to contaminated commercial dry dog food.
  • In 2012, dry dog food manufactured by Diamond Pet Products was responsible for a 49-case outbreak of Salmonella Infantis in the US and Canada.
  • In 2018, Blue Ridge Beef recalled one lot of its Kitten Grind raw pet food after the product was linked to the deaths of two kittens. One of the dead kittens was confirmed post-mortem to have suffered from Salmonella septicemia.
  • In 2018, two children in a single household developed infections with Salmonella Reading. The same strain was recovered from four samples of Raws for Paws Ground Turkey Food for Pets that was used to feed the family dog.
  • In 2018, the FDA issued a Public Health Alert notifying consumers that the agency was investigating six complaints of illness and/or death in animals that have eaten previously recalled Darwin’s Natural Selections and/or Darwin’s ZooLogics products.

What consumers should do

If you have either of the two Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Cat Foods listed above, stop feeding it to your pets and throw it away in a secure container where other animals, including wildlife, cannot access it. 

Consumers who have had this product in their homes should clean refrigerators/freezers where the product was stored and clean and disinfect all bowls, utensils, food prep surfaces, pet bedding, litter boxes, toys, floors, and any other surfaces that the food or pet may have had contact with. Clean up the pet’s feces in places where people or other animals may become exposed. Consumers should thoroughly wash their hands after handling the product or cleaning up potentially contaminated items and surfaces.

People who think their pets have become ill after consuming contaminated pet food should first contact their veterinarians. Veterinarians who wish to have pets tested for Salmonella may do so through the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN Network) if the pet is from a household with a person infected with Salmonella

The FDA encourages consumers to report complaints about pet food products electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.

Learn more about a variety of food safety issues in TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures, now available in digital, print and audiobook editions.

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“Reads like a true crime novel” – Food Safety News

Raw pet food company sues to block FDA public health alert

Arrow Reliance Inc. (d.b.a. Darwin’s Natural Pet Products) has filed suit in US federal court in an attempt to prevent the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from issuing a Public Health Alert about possible Salmonella contamination in a cat food product.

Darwin’s, which is based in Tukwila, Washington, filed the their request for a temporary restraining order on July 29, 2022, in the US District Court, Western District of Washington (Case 2:22-cv-01057).

Screen Shot 2022-08-01 at 1.58.32 PMThe lawsuit contends that the FDA “wrongfully” threatened to issue the Public Health Alert if the company refused to issue a recall of its adult cat food.

The FDA’s request for a product recall apparently arose after kittens tested positive for Salmonella.

When contacted by eFoodAlert, a spokesperson for the FDA stated that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

The background

logo-Darwins-pet-foodDarwin’s is the producer and distributor of a range of raw food products for dogs and cats.

The company was founded in 2002 by Gary Tashjian, who began producing frozen raw pet foods in his own kitchen.

In time, Tashjian moved his manufacturing operations into a facility in Tukwila, WA, just outside of Seattle.

In June 2016, the FDA received a consumer complaint about foreign objects in the company’s products. In response, the FDA and representatives from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) paid a visit to the Tukwila facility.

During the course of their visit, the FDA and state investigators noted several objectionable conditions in the production plant. They also reviewed the company’s consumer complaint log, including four complaints that mentioned Salmonella.

As part of their follow-up, WSDA inspectors sampled two of the finished raw pet food products for lab analysis. One of those samples was found to contained Salmonella.

In response, the company destroyed its inventory of the contaminated production lot. As none of the product had been shipped, there was no need for a recall.

In December 2017, following a spate of product recalls due variously to Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and/or E. coli O28 in multiple product samples, the FDA returned to Darwin’s plant to conduct an intensive investigation that lasted until late January 2018.

During the course of its investigation, the FDA became aware of at least six customer complaints about sick pets, including one dead kitten.

On April 2, 2018, the FDA issued a formal Warning Letter, notifying the company of its findings and giving the company fifteen business days in which to respond with a written description of corrective actions.

The company was reinspected in 2018/19, during which time Darwin’s management refused to supply the FDA investigation team with records pertaining to the production, sanitation, environmental testing and distribution of finished product lots using the same protein ingredients as two samples that were identified positive for the presence of Salmonella.

FDA inspected Darwin’s again in June 2021. This time, the company cooperated fully with the inspectors, who noted a few observations of concern. These were corrected by company management before the inspection was completed, and no formal list of Inspectional Observations was issued.

The current situation

At the moment, there is no information available beyond what has been included in the company’s request for a temporary restraining order.

If the request is not granted, the FDA will be free to release additional details, including a Public Health Alert, if it chooses to do so.

In the interim, any consumer who suspects that a Darwin’s product may have caused his dog or cat to become ill should file a formal complaint with the FDA, using the agency’s pet food complaint portal.

For additional information on safety issues surrounding the feeding of raw pet food to companion animals, check out the FDA website

Learn more about a variety of food safety issues in TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures, now available in digital, print and audiobook editions.

TAINTED formats 3
“Reads like a true crime novel” – Food Safety News