Consumers’ cases against Gravy Train maker consolidated

This story by Phyllis Entis first appeared in Food Safety News and is reposted here with permission

A class action lawsuit was filed May 1 in Northern California against Big Heart Pet Brands Inc. on behalf of consumers and businesses who bought pentobarbital-contaminated dog food manufactured by the company.

Big Heart is owned by the J.M. Smucker Co. 

The lawsuit, referred to as a master consolidated complaint, consolidates four similar actions filed in February and March against the company.

The complaint accuses Big Heart of several counts, including negligent misrepresentation, violation of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, false advertising, negligence, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, fraud and deceptive and unfair trade practices.

Plaintiffs are seeking an order preventing Big Heart from selling the contaminated dog food, a mandatory corrective advertising campaign, full restitution and an unspecified amount of actual, statutory and punitive damages.

The pentobarbital problem came to light in February, when a Washington, D.C.-television station’s investigation into potential pentobarbital contamination in canned, wet dog food revealed the presence of the drug in several Gravy Train products. Veterinarians use large doses of the fast-acting drug to euthanize animals.

Gravy Train is manufactured by Big Heart.

Mark Johnson, one of the plaintiffs named in the class action suit, owned 13 border collie and Australian shepherd mixes, which he used as herding dogs for his cattle. All of Johnson’s dogs developed kidney failure within a few hours after eating a Gravy Train product and had to be put down on Jan. 14 and 15, according to the complaint. 

There is no mention in the complaint of a confirmed cause of the kidney failure, or of any laboratory analyses being carried out either at necropsies on the dogs or on the dog food.

The presence of pentobarbital at any level in animal food renders the product adulterated, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Oral exposure to pentobarbital causes primarily neurological symptoms including drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, jerky eye movements, and, in the most severe cases, coma and death. Kidney failure is not one of the reported manifestations of oral pentobarbital poisoning.  

An investigator from the FDA’s Philadelphia district office visited Big Heart’s Bloomsbury manufacturing facility five times between Feb. 23 and March 12, 2018, according to information obtained by Food Safety News in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

At the end of the inspection, the investigator cited the presence of pentobarbital in a retained sample of tallow from February 2017 and in a sample from the company’s current inventory of tallow. The tallow is among ingredients used in the manufacture of Gravy Train, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Skippy and Ol’ Roy canned, wet dog food brands.

On Feb. 16, FDA alerted consumers to the potential contamination issue and advised the public that Smucker was withdrawing from the market a wide range of canned, wet dog food products.

The withdrawal was upgraded to a Class III voluntary product recall on March 2.

A Class III recall is one in which the “… product is violative and use of or exposure to the product is not likely to cause any adverse health consequences,” according to FDA’s Regulatory Procedures Manual.

Although the concentration of pentobarbital found in the tallow was included in the investigator’s completed Form 483 (Inspectional Observations), the information was redacted from the copy supplied to Food Safety News.

According to information contained in the class action complaint, the retained sample of tallow contained pentobarbital at a level of 529 parts per billion (ppb). Levels of the drug in the current inventory ranged from 802 ppb to 852 ppb.

The tallow was allegedly supplied by MOPAC, an eastern Pennsylvania rendering facility belonging to JBS USA Holdings Inc.

When asked to confirm the reported levels of pentobarbital in the tallow samples, a spokesperson for FDA declined to comment. An FOIA request for the lab reports and for the Notice of Inspection (Form 482) was turned down on April 20, with the explanation that they were “not available” at the time. 

It is standard procedure for an investigator to issue a Form 482 Notice of Inspection at the outset of any inspection. No explanation was given as to why this document was unavailable.

FDA has issued no updates on the status of its investigation or of the product recalls since the March 2nd recall notice.

Smucker confirms euthanasia drug in popular dog food brands

Recall includes Gravy Train, Kibbles ’N Bits, Skippy, Ol’ Roy; FDA’s investigation, testing ongoing

Phote Illustration

The FDA has posted notice of a voluntary recall by The J.M. Smucker Company Inc. of canned dog food after the company confirmed pentobarbital in tallow used to manufactured the affected products.

In all, the recall covers more than 107 million cans of dog food in several flavors sold under the Gravy Train, Kibbles ’N Bits, Skippy and Ol’ Roy brands. Big Heart Pet Brands distributed the Gravy Train, Kibbles ’N Bits and Skippy dog food to retailers nationwide. Walmart Stores Inc. distributed the Ol’ Roy dog food.

Initially, the Food and Drug Administration FDA had agreed to allow Smucker to issue a “product withdrawal,” pending the results of lab tests. Once pentobarbital contamination was confirmed by the company itself, Smucker agreed to a voluntary recall.

Pentobarbital is a chemical sedative used by veterinarians to euthanize animals. The presence of it at any level in a pet food is illegal, and renders the product adulterated under federal law.

The recalled dog food is sold in individual cans and multi-can packs. Smucker products included in the recall are:

The recalled dog food is sold in individual cans and multi-can packs. Smucker products included in the recall are:

  • Gravy Train With Lamb & Rice Chunks, packaged in metal cans with Net WT 13.2 OZ; UPC: 7910005430 on flat case and 7910052543 on cans. Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021; Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803.
  • Gravy Train; With T-Bone Flavor Chunks; packaged in metal cans with Net WT 13.2 OZ; UPC: 7910005410 on flat case and 7910052541 on cans. Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021; Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803
  • Gravy Train With Beef Chunks; packaged in metal cans with Net WT 22 OZ and UPC: 7910051647 on flat case and 7910051647 on cans; or with Net WT 13.5 OZ and UPC: 7910052457 on flat case and 79100034417 on cans. Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021; Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803
  • Gravy Train With Chicken Chunks; packaged in metal cans; Net WT 22 OZ with UPC: 7910051645 on flat case and 7910051645 on cans; and Net WT 13.2 OZ with UPC: 7910052458 on flat case and 7910034418 on cans. Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021; Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803
  • Gravy Train With Strips In Gravy; packaged in metal cans with Net WT 13.2 OZ; UPC: 7910005420 on flat case and 7910052542 on cans. Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021; Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803
  • Ol’ Roy Dog Food Strips in Gravy With Turkey & Bacon; packaged in metal cans with Net Wt 13.2 OZ; UPC: 7910017570 on flat case and 8113117570 on cans. Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803; Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021
  • Kibbles ‘n Bits brand Dog Food; Chef’s Choice Homestyle Tender Slices With Real Beef, Chicken & Vegetables in Gravy; packaged in metal cans with Net Wt. 13.2 OZ; UPC: 7910052489A on flat case and 7910010380 on cans. Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803; Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021
  • Kibbles ‘n Bits brand Dog Food; Chef’s Choice Bistro Tender Cuts With Real Turkey, Bacon & Vegetables; packages in metal cans with Net Wt. 13.2 OZ; UPC: 7910052488A on flat case and 7910010378 on cans. Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803; Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021
  • Kibbles ‘n Bits brand Dog Food; Chef’s Choice Bistro Tender Cuts With Real Beef & Vegetables In Gravy; packaged in metal cans with Net Wt. 13.2 OZ; UPC: 7910052486A on flat case and 7910010375 on cans. Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803; Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021
  • Skippy Premium Chunks in gravy; Chunky Stew; packaged in metal cans with Net Wt. 13.2 OZ; UPC: 7910052469 on flat case and 7910050249 on cans. Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803; Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021
  • Skippy Premium Chunks in gravy; With Beef; packaged in metal cans with Net Wt. 13.2 OZ; UPC: 7910052508 on flat case and 7910050250 on cans. Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803; Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021
  • Skippy Premium Strips in Gravy; With Beef; packaged in metal cans with Net Wt. 13.2 OZ; UPC: 7910052509 on flat case and 7910050245 on cans. Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803; Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021
  • Kibbles ‘n Bits 12 Can Variety Pack; Chef’s Choice Bistro, containing 4 cans of Hearty Cuts with Real Beef, Chicken & Vegetables In Gravy; Chef’s Choice Homestyle, 4 cans of Meatballs & Pasta Dinner with Real Beef in Tomato Sauce; Chef’s Choice Bistro, and 4 cans of Bistro Tender Cuts With Real Turkey, Bacon & Vegetables in Gravy; packaged in metal cans with 12 – 13.2 OZ Cans per case; Total Net Wt 9 LB 14 OZ; Variety Pack paper box UPC: 7910027750; These packages are not meant for individual can sales and are sold as a 12 can Variety Pack. Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803; Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021
  • Kibbles ‘n Bits 12 Can Variety Pack; containing 4 cans of Chef’s Choice Bistro, Hearty Cuts with Real Beef, Chicken & Vegetables In Gravy; 4 cans of Chef’s Choice Homestyle, Meatballs & Pasta Dinner with Real Beef in Tomato Sauce; and 4 cans of Chef’s Choice Bistro, Bistro Tender Cuts With Real Turkey, Bacon & Vegetables in Gravy; packaged in metal cans with 12 – 13.2 OZ Cans per case; Total Net Wt 9 LB 14 OZ; Variety Pack paper box UPC: 7910027750. These packages are not meant for individual can sales and are sold as a 12 can Variety Pack. Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803; Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021
  • Kibbles ‘n Bits 12 Can Variety Pack; containing 6 cans of Chef’s Choice American Grill, Burger Dinner With Real Bacon & Cheese Bits In Gravy; and 6 cans of Chef’s Choice Bistro, Tender Cuts With Real Turkey, Bacon & Vegetables In Gravy; packages in metal cans with 12 – 13.2 OZ cans per case; Total Net Wt 9 LB 14 OZ; Variety Pack paper box UPC: 7910027685. These packages are not meant for individual can sales and are sold as a 12 can Variety Pack. Code range: 6299 through 8040, each with the suffix plant number 803; Best By range 10 25 19 thru 02 09 2021

Excluded from Friday’s voluntary recall are a number of products reported previously by Food Safety News to have been withdrawn from the market, based on information obtained directly from the company. FDA has not yet resolved this discrepancy, an agency spokesperson said.

Test results are still pending on finished product samples collected by FDA, and the agency is continuing its investigation.

What consumers should know
Pets should not be fed any of the recalled products. Consumers should safely dispose of the recalled cans of pet food and/or contact the company or the place of purchase for information about returning the products.

Pets that consume a food containing pentobarbital can experience drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea, inability to stand and nystagmus, which causes the eyes to move back and forth in a jerky manner. Consuming high levels of pentobarbital can cause coma and death. However, low levels of pentobarbital are unlikely to pose a health risk to pets, according to FDA.

People who think their pets have become ill after consuming pet food contaminated with pentobarbital should contact their veterinarians.

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

This story first appeared in Food Safety News and is reposted here with permission.

Recalls and Alerts: February 15 – 17, 2018

Here is today’s list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals, allergy alerts and miscellaneous compliance issues. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.

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United States

Outbreak Alert: USDA/FSIS issues Public Health Alert advising consumers that a Fareway Chicken Salad, produced between Dec. 15, 2017 and Feb. 13, 2018 and shipped to Fareway stores in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota may be contaminated with Salmonella. The Iowa Department of Health has implicated the product in multiple cases of salmonellosis across the state.

Pet Food Safety Alert: The J.M. Smucker Company announces a business-to-business withdrawal of 27 canned/wet dog food products manufactured and sold since 2016 under its Gravy Train, Kibbles ‘N Bits, Skippy and Ol’ Roy brands after pentobarbital was reported in several samples of Gravy Train products. Please refer to the notice posted on the J.M. Smucker web site for a complete list of affected products, which were supplied to retailers nationwide.

Pet Food Safety Recall (Update): Smokehouse Pet Products Inc. recalls Beefy Munchies Dog Treats (all lots and pack sizes) due to potential Salmonella contamination. The recalled product was distributed nationwide through distributors selling to various retailers.

Food Safety Recall: Pilgrim’s Pride Corp recalls GOLD KIST FARMS, Fully Cooked Whole Grain Home-Style Breaded Chicken Patties (30-lb. boxes with six 5-lb. clear bags; Case code 72491050xx; Product code 665400) due to possible foreign matter contamination. The recalled product was shipped to institutions nationwide.

Canada

Food Safety Recall: Marché Landry-Tardif inc (Lévis, QC) recalls Féves au lard maison / Home-style baked beans (1L; Code 260618105997; All lots up to and including 14 February 2018) and Soupe aux pois en pot / Pea soup in a jar (500 ml; Code 260597203998; All lots up to and including 14 February 2018) because the products were stored improperly.

Europe

Allergy Alert (Denmark): Mars Danmark A/S recalls Celebrations Easter Eggs filled with chocolate bars (242g) due to undeclared milk, gluten and peanuts.

Allergy Alert (Germany): Dirk Rossmann GmbH recalls ernerBio Tortilla Chips (125g; Best by 06/27/2018) due to undeclared gluten.

Allergy Alert (Germany): Global Foods Trading GmbH recalls MDH CHANA MASALA India Spice Blend (100g; Best before 30.01.2019; Lot 81; Product of India) due to undeclared sulphites.

Allergy Alert (UK): Laila Foods recalls Laila Mint Sauce (1L; Batch code PR210617C2; Best before 21 June 2018) due to undeclared egg.

Allergy Alert (UK): Morrisons recalls Morrisons Italian Penne Bolognese Bake (400g; Use by 18th,19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd & 23rd February 2018) due to undeclared celery.

Food Safety Recall Update (Germany): Wewalka GmbH Nfg. KG expands its earlier recall to include Cuisinette Blätterteig puff pastry (2x270g; Best by 09.03.2018) due to possible contamination by metal fragments.

Food Safety Recall (UK): Young’s recalls Chip shop fish cakes, frozen 6 pack (300g; Best before January 2019 [Batch no. AAL 7209K & AAL 7209L] and Best before February 2019 [AAK 7222J & AAL 7222K]) because they may contain pieces of plastic and metal.

Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands

Food Safety Recall (Hong Kong): PARKnSHOP (HK) Limited recalls Casino brand Jambon Superieur Fines tranches /Sliced Ham (120g; Use by February 13, 2018; Product of France) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Australia and New Zealand

Allergy Alert (Australia): Deeks recalls Deeks Banana Log (620g; Best before 11 Feb 18, 18 Feb 18 and 25 Feb 18) due to undeclared egg. The recalled product was sold at selected IGAs (ACT), Health food shops, grocery stores, independent stores and the Pearce Café & Lounge in the ACT, NSW, QLD, VIC and WA.

Allergy Alert (New Zealand): Importers recall Lotte brand Kancho Choco Biscuits (all batches and packaging sizes; Product of Korea) due to undeclared peanut, gluten, soy, milk, egg and tree nuts (almonds). The recalled products were sold in various ethnic stores, supermarkets, retail outlets and online stores throughout New Zealand.

Food Safety Recall (Australia): Mondelez International recalls Cadbury Caramilk Chocolate Block (190g; Best before 17/01/2019 and 21/01/2019) because some of the bars may contain small, flexible pieces of food grade plastic. The recalled chocolate was sold in Coles, Woolworths, IGA’s and independent retailers (VIC only) in NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, TAS and WA.

Food Safety Recall (New Zealand): Foodstuffs Own Brands Ltd recalls Value brand Multigrain Toast Fresh Sliced Bread (600g; Best before 26 Jan 18 and 11 Feb 18 inclusive) as the product may contain foreign matter (plastic). The recalled product was sold in New World, Pak’n Save and Four Square supermarkets throughout the North Island.