Darwin’s Natural Pet Products silent recall surpassed 11 tons of raw dog food

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

On February 7, 2019, in a move announced only via email to its direct customers, Arrow Reliance, doing business as Darwin’s Natural Pet Products (Darwin’s), recalled 11.7 tons of raw dog food.

The recall was first divulged to the public on March 26, 2019, by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) via a news release cautioning pet owners to avoid feeding the recalled products.

According to the FDA Enforcement Report issued on April 3, 2019, the recall encompassed:

  •  Natural Selections Turkey and Vegetable Meals for Dogs, frozen, raw dog meals, packaged in 2 lbs. thermo-formed sealed plastic package, divided into 8 oz. portions. Lot #5339, manufactured on 10/26/18 (listed as 5339(11)181026 on the label)
  • Natural Selections Chicken and Vegetable Meals for Dogs, frozen, raw dog meals, packaged in 2 lbs. thermo-formed sealed plastic package, divided into 8 oz. portions. Lot # 5309, manufactured on 10/19/18 (listed as 5309(11)181019 on the label)
  • •Natural Selections Chicken and Vegetable Meals for Dogs, frozen, raw dog meals, packaged in 2 lbs. thermo-formed sealed plastic package, divided into 8 oz. portions. Lot # 5375, manufactured on 11/6/18 (listed as 5375(11)181106 on the label)

Although Darwin’s claimed to have notified all of its affected customers via email of the Salmonella contamination, Food Safety News has learned that at least one customer did not receive the initial notification.

When FDA is concerned as to the effectiveness of a company’s recall action, the agency has the authority to request distribution information in order to audit the recall, as detailed within the agency’s Investigations Operations Manual.

According to a Product Information Update posted on the company’s website on March 27, 2019, Darwin’s declined to furnish distribution information to FDA, citing their customers’ right to privacy.

Darwin’s ships its products directly to end users, and does not use third-party distributors, wholesalers or retailers.

In its March 27th update, Darwin’s further claimed that FDA’s March 26th news release was in retaliation for the company’s refusal to share customer contact information.

When asked to respond to this allegation, an FDA spokesperson told Food Safety News, “The FDA’s first priority is to protect public health. In accordance with this mission, we want to ensure that anyone who may have purchased or used violative product is informed of the issue and the health risk, so that they can take appropriate steps to protect themselves and their pets. In the absence of an adequate public notification by the firm, or confirmation from the firm that it has promptly and effectively communicated the recall to all customers, the agency may issue its own public notification.”

Commenting on Darwin’s characterization of the company’s message to its customers as a warning, not a recall, the spokesperson added, “The FDA considers the actions taken by Arrow Reliance to remove the violative product from the marketplace to meet the regulatory definition of a recall.”

Finally, Darwin’s reiterated a past claim that Salmonella is not a concern for healthy animals, citing “information from experts” on FDA’s website.

The citation in question was a research article that concluded, in part, “This study suggests an overall decline in the prevalence of Salmonella-positive dogs and cats over the last decades and identifies consumption of raw food as a major risk factor for Salmonella infection.” (emphasis added).

The same study determined that almost half of the Salmonella-positive animals did not suffer from diarrhea.

Salmonella-infected animals are still capable of passing the bacteria in stool and infecting their human companions or other animals.

Salmonella-contaminated pet foods have caused illness in both pets and humans in the past. Most recently, a raw turkey meat pet food was linked to cases of Salmonella illness that were part of a nationwide outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Reading infections.

FDA recommendations to consumers

  •  If you have Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Chicken Recipe with Organic Vegetables for Dogs (5309(11)181019 and 5375(11)181106) or Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Turkey Recipe with Organic Vegetables for Dogs (5339(11)181026), 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, toys, floors, and any other surfaces that the food or pet may have had contact with. Clean up the pet’s feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed. Consumers should thoroughly wash their hands after handling the recalled 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 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.

Incident timeline

  •  December 27, 2018, FDA received a pet illness complaint from a consumer, citing Darwin’s product. FDA obtained three intact packages of Darwin’s raw dog food from the consumer and found Salmonella in all three.
  • On or about the week of January 28, 2019, FDA notified Darwin’s of their findings and recommended a voluntary recall. Darwin’s notified by email those customers who had received product from one or more of the contaminated lots but declined to issue a public recall notice.
  • February 7, 2019, Darwin’s posted a Product Information Update on their website, acknowledging the incident.
  • March 26, 2019, FDA issued a caution to pet owners, informing the public of Darwin’s Salmonella contamination.
  • March 27, 2019, Darwin’s issued a second Product Information Update, rebutting FDA’s public statement.

Recalls and Alerts: June 25 – 26, 2017

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

Allergy Alert: Ralphs advises customers who may be allergic to almonds to avoid consuming SKINNYGIRL, MILK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES WITH SEA SALT (3.6 oz; Best by 06/2018; UPC 851342-00658) as the product may contain undeclared almonds. The SkinnyGirl Milk Chocolate Truffles with Sea Salt were sold in all Ralphs stores.

Allergy Alert: Elevation Brands/Ian’s Natural Foods recalls Ian’s Italian Panko Breadcrumbs (9 oz; Use by 28 DEC 17, 29 DEC 17 and 22 MAR 18; UPC 4951277220) due to possible traces of undeclared dairy (milk protein). The recalled product was sold at Publix supermarkets.

Food Safety Recall: Publix Super Markets recalls Publix Tropical Medley Mix (5.7oz clear plastic containers; all use-by dates; UPC 41415088586) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The recalled product was sold from Publix retail produce departments in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina.


Outbreak Alert: Public Health Agency of Canada has received confirmed reports of seven cases of Salmonella Enteritidis infections linked to consumption of frozen, raw breaded chicken products. Illnesses were reported in British Columbia (1), Alberta (4), Ontario (1) and New Brunswick (1), beginning the week of April 9th. Two people have been hospitalized. A specific product or group of products has not yet been identified as the source of this outbreak.

Outbreak Alert/Food Safety Recall: The Québec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Montréal Division of Food Inspection have received reports of several cases of Norovirus infections linked to Gelsius IQF Whole Raspberries supplied by Distribution Farinex (113712 Canada Inc.) to hotels, restaurants and institutional customers in Québec and Ontario. The recalled raspberries were distributed to retailers across Québec. Please refer to the MAPAQ Food Safety Alert for a detailed distribution list.


Food Safety Recall (Belgium): Gabriel s.c. recalls Assiette nordique brand Smoked Fish (150g; Lot #17 EWYC; Expiration dates 06/07/2017, 08/07/2017, 12/07/2017, 14/07/2017, 15/07/2017 and 16/07/2017) due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The recalled product was sold in Cora, Spar, Spar concept, Eurospar, ABC, and Alvo stores.

Food Safety Recall (UK): Sainsbury’s recalls several of its Deli Fillers products due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Please refer to the recall notice for a detailed list of affected products.


Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket’s recall website.

*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains
**Includes Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs and Pak N’ Save.