So now we hear there's a euthanasia drug in some of our pets' food. How nice. Two years after five dogs were poisoned by it, and one of them died from the poisoning, we are just finding out that there was and is pentobarbital - a drug commonly used to euthanize animals - in some dog foods.
Where did the drug come from?
Not from some malcontent employees in the canning company. Nope.
It came from the meat itself. Meat from a cow who was supposed to have been slaughtered, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) law, but instead was euthanized with the drug pentobarbital. The pentobarbital stayed in the meat even after it was cooked, processed, canned, and fed to at least five poor dogs that we know about.
In 2016 the contaminated food in question was in one batch of Evanger's Hunk of Beef, and it, along with other batches, was recalled six months after the five dogs were sickened by the food.
According to the FDA: "Although pentobarbital was detected in a single lot, Evanger's is voluntarily recalling Hunk of Beef prooducts that were manufactured the same week, with lot numbers that start with 1816E03HB 1816E04HB, 1816E06HB, 1816E07HB, and 1816E13HB, and have an expiration date of June 2020. The second half of the barcode reads 20109, which can be found on the back of the product label."
What's Being Done About Current Findings of Pentobarbital in Pet Food?
More recently, a Washington, DC television station, WJLA/ABC7, consulted with a nearby food specialty lab, Ellipse Analytics, to see if possibly other cans of food had been tainted by pentobarbital. The lab tested and re-tested some 62 samples of wet dog food across two dozen brands and pentobarbital turned up in 60 percent of Gravy Train's samples, although none of them contained lethal amounts.
The maker of Gravy Train, Big Heart Pet Foods, is owned by Smuckers. Big Heart Pet Foods also produces Meow Mix, Milk Bone, Kibbles'n Bits, and several other popular brands of pet foods and treats. (You can find the complete list here.)
The news team at WJLA pressed the matter doggedly with the FDA, which referred the reporters to the Pet Food Institute, which replied it would "investigate the matter and take appropriate enforcement action."
But the FDA itself acknowledged that "pet food consisting of material from diseased animals or animals which have died otherwise than by slaughter" is illegal. But it also adds that animals who die otherwise than by slaughter "will be considered fit for animal consumption." Yes, this is a quote.
So pentobarbital is dangerous for humans and animals, a possible killer, but "it is fit for animal consumption," according to the FDA. The FDA is admitting, in writing, that it is not monitoring or enforcing its own pet food laws.
Seems like not much is being done about the pentobabital issue in pet food, at least on the government side.
Kudos to WJLA and Ellipse Analytics for exposing additional instances of pentobarbital in pet foods. Hopefully, additional private labs, or preferably, the manufacturers themselves, will be examining pet foods. One group that is doing an excellent job inspecting our pets' foods for contaminants is called the Clean Label Project. It needs our support.