Tukwila-based Darwin’s Natural Pet Products’ raw pet food is under investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Washington Department of Agriculture over a pattern of salmonella and listeria contamination in its products.
The FDA, in making the announcement Monday, warned it has a “zero-tolerance policy” for salmonella or other pathogenic bacteria in all pet food, meaning the agency will take action, “as appropriate,” against any pet food found to be contaminated with the bacteria.
There have been multiple complaints and four recalls associated with Darwin’s Natural and ZooLogics pet foods, manufactured by Arrow Reliance, from Oct. 17, 2016, to as recently as Saturday, the FDA says.
In each case, it says Darwins recalled the products after being alerted of salmonella and/or listeria monocytogenes found in samples of its raw pet food.
The company says it only sells its products online through direct-to-consumer sales.
The FDA says it has investigated six complaints of illness and death, including the death of one kitten from a severe systemic salmonella infection. The salmonella isolated from the kitten was analyzed using whole genome sequencing and found to be indistinguishable from the salmonella isolated from a closed package from the same lot of Darwin’s Natural cat food that the kitten ate, the FDA says.
In addition, the FDA says it knows of complaints of at least three animals injured by bone shards in Darwin’s products.
Darwin’s Natural has notified its customers directly of the recalls, but, so far, has not issued any public notification announcing the recalls, the FDA says.
The issue is of particular public-health importance because salmonella can make both people and animals sick, the FDA warns. Pets can get sick from salmonella, but they may also be carriers of the bacteria and can infect humans. Pets do not have to be apparently ill to be able to pass salmonella to humans, the FDA says.
Since 2016, Arrow Reliance/Darwin’s Natural has recalled:
▪ ZooLogics Duck with Vegetable Meals for Dogs because of salmonella: Lot #41957, manufactured 11/16/17, and ZooLogics Chicken with Vegetable Meals for Dogs because of salmonella: Lot #41567; manufactured 11/2/17.
▪ Darwin’s Natural Selections Duck with Organic Vegetables Meals for dogs, because of salmonella: Lot #40487, manufacture date 9/29/17, in 2-pound flexible-film packages, recalled on 12/04/17
▪ Darwin’s Natural Selections Chicken with Organic Vegetables Meals for Dogs, because of salmonella and listeria: Lot #40727, manufacture date 9/26/17, in 2-pound flexible-film packages, recalled on 12/04/17
▪ Darwin’s Natural Selections Turkey with Organic Vegetables Meals for Dogs, because of salmonella: Lot #39937, manufacture date 8/24/17 and Lot #40507, manufacture date 9/20/17, in 2-pound flexible-film packages, recalled on 12/04/17
▪ Darwin’s Natural Selections Frozen Duck Meals for Cats, because of potential contamination with salmonella: Lot #38277, manufacture date 6/1/17, in 2-pound flexible-film packages, recalled on 09/08/17
▪ Darwin’s Natural Selections Frozen Raw Beef with Organic Vegetables Meals for Dogs, because of listeria: Lot #3146070, manufacture date 7/21/16, in 2-pound flexible-film packages, recalled on 10/17/16
▪ Darwin’s Natural Selections Frozen Raw Turkey with Organic Vegetables Meals for Dogs, because of listeria: Lot #3142070, manufacture date 7/20/16, in 2-pound flexible-film packages, recalled on 10/17/16
▪ ZooLogics Frozen Raw Turkey with Vegetable Meals for Dogs, because of listeria: Lot #3155070, manufacture date 7/25/16, in 2-pound flexible-film packages, recalled on 10/17/16
The recalled lot codes and the manufacturing dates are printed directly on the flexible film packages, the FDA says.
People infected with salmonella can develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, with symptoms developing 6 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment, the FDA says.
In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. The FDA says in these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
Young children are particularly at risk, the FDA says, if they handle or ingest contaminated pet food or unwashed pet-food bowls. Others at increased risk are the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, the FDA says.
Pets do not always display symptoms when infected, but signs can include vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, loss of appetite and/or decreased activity level.
The FDA says gastroenteritis caused by listeria monocytogenes has a relatively short incubation period, from a few hours to two or three days, with symptoms including diarrhea, fever and muscle aches. The severe, invasive form of the illness can have a very long incubation period, estimated to vary from three days to three months, the FDA says. Listeriosis is not common in pets, and when infected, typical symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting. Pets can pass listeria to humans without showing any signs of the illness themselves.
The FDA advises consumers to not feed their pets recalled lots of raw pet food manufactured by Arrow. If you purchased this food, the FDA suggests that you throw it away. If you think you or your pet might have been sickened from exposure to the tainted food, the FDA advises that you talk to your health-care providers or veterinarians.
Consumers who had this product in their homes should clean their refrigerator 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, the FDA advises. Because animals can shed the bacteria when they have bowel movements, it’s particularly important to clean up the animal’s feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed.