More than a year after Evanger’s issued a voluntary recall for its contaminated dog food products, the FDA has officially ended its investigation.
On February 16, the FDA issued a letter to the president and vice president of Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co. Inc. noting that it had officially ended its investigation of the company’s Illinois manufacturing plant. The investigation was initiated nearly a year ago after a consumer reported that her 5 dogs became severely ill after eating Evanger’s best-selling dog food product, Hunk of Beef Au Jus. One of the dogs was later euthanized. According to reports, samples taken during a necropsy of the deceased dog and from the can of food it had eaten revealed the presence of a significant quantity of pentobarbital.
Additional tests conducted by the FDA confirmed the presence of pentobarbital at varying concentrations in 13 out of 14 Evanger’s dog food samples tested. The barbiturate was present at levels as high as 81 parts per million. For comparison, the amount found in the most heavily contaminated Evanger’s sample was more than 2500 times the highest level found in any dry dog food during a 2000 FDA survey.
The incident led Evanger’s to recall 5 lots of its Hunk of Beef product in February 2017, the first recall for the company in its 82 years of manufacturing.
According to the FDA’s original warning letter, dated June 29, 2017, the company’s animal food products were considered to be adulterated under federal law because “they bear or contain a poisonous or deleterious substance which may render them injurious to health.”
The FDA’s close out letter stated, in part: “Based on our evaluation, it appears that you have addressed the violations contained in this Warning Letter. Future FDA inspections and regulatory activities will further assess the adequacy and sustainability of these corrections. This letter does not relieve you or your firm from the responsibility of taking all necessary steps to assure sustained compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its implementing regulations or with other relevant legal authority. The Agency expects you and your firm to maintain compliance and will continue to monitor your state of compliance.”
What remains undetermined, however, is how the drug found its way into the company’s products in the first place. For its part, Evanger’s claims that contaminated meat was sold to them by Wisconsin meat processor Bailey Farms. In a lawsuit filed in April 2017, Evanger’s alleges that meat sold to them by Bailey Farms in June 2016—and used in the chunk meat products containing pentobarbital—was not purely cow meat as requested, but instead included contaminated horse meat. Evanger’s is seeking $5 million in punitive damages.