Pet food recalled after traces of euthanasia drug found

The Gravy Train stops here.

So do the Kibbles ’n Bits, Ol’ Roy, and Skippy.

Big Heart Pet Brands announced on Thursday that it’s recalling 27 shipments of wet canned dog food marketed under those names following news reports that trace amounts of pentobarbital were found in some cans of Gravy Train.

Pentobarbital, specifically sodium pentobarbital, is a barbiturate commonly used to euthanize animals. It’s also been used in human doctor-assisted euthanasia and in carrying out the death penalty.

The presence of pentobarbital in cans of Gravy Train was first reported by Washington, D.C. television station WJLA on February 8 following a months-long investigation. The station partnered with a private laboratory to test 62 samples of wet dog food across more than two-dozen brands. Of the 15 cans of Gravy Train tested, 9 cans came up positive for pentobarbital.

After WJLA broke the story, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), launched its own investigation, and issued an alert earlier today.

In it, the agency stated that their preliminary testing results of Gravy Train samples “indicates that the low level of pentobarbital present in the withdrawn products is unlikely to pose a health risk to pets. However, pentobarbital should never be present in pet food and products containing any amount of pentobarbital are considered to be adulterated.”

Perhaps predictably, Gravy Train stressed the FDA findings of low health risk in a statement on their website, while also citing unnamed veterinary professionals as backup: “Veterinarians and animal nutrition specialists, as well as the FDA, have confirmed that extremely low levels of pentobarbital, like the levels referenced in this report, do not pose a threat to pet safety.”

The statement further identifies (without naming) a possible culprit: “We have narrowed the focus of our investigation to a single supplier and a single, minor ingredient, used at one manufacturing facility. We will take the appropriate steps to ensure this does not occur again.”

And while there were no specific reports of pentobarbital found in Kibble’ N bits, a statement posted on their website used much same language, right down to the focus of their investigation being a “single supplier and a single, minor ingredient, used at one manufacturing facility.”

As to how the pentobarbital got in the pet food, a lot of speculation centers on the possibility that byproducts sourced from euthanized animals are the mysterious “minor ingredient.” Big Heart Pet foods has stated that they do not use meat from euthanized animals in their products.

Big Heart Pet Foods is a subsidiary of the J.M. Smucker Co., best known for their jams and jellies.

And with a name like Smucker’s, their pet food ought to be better.

Photo credit: © iStock/joshblake

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