When buying dog food, you’re probably trying to keep your pup alive rather than feed it barbiturates, the drugs used to euthanize dogs. But a pair of related dog food companies are issuing a voluntary recall based on fear that one such drug, pentobarbital, might be in some of their food.
Against the Grain Pet Food Inc. announced its recall yesterday afternoon, while Evanger’s dog food recalled its food earlier this month after five dogs got sick, and one died eating its food, according to a report by Food Safety News. No cases of dogs getting sick off of Against the Grain’s food have been reported. The specifics of each recall appear in their respective recall notices.
So the obvious question: how does pentobarbital end up in dog food?
Pentobarbital caused a scare back in the 1990s, Cathy Enright, CEO of the Pet Food Institute, an industry group representing companies who produce 98 percent of all American pet food and treats, told Gizmodo. Veterinarians noticed that the euthanasia drug seemed to be losing its effectiveness, and soon realized that the dogs had developed a resistance to it by eating it in their food. Consumers feared their sweet Fido was snacking on dead friends.
In 2002, the Food and Drug administration released an analysis demonstrating that yes, some pet food contained pentobarbital, but that it was probably from cattle, and furthermore, the exposure was not harmful—no more than four micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day. “A dog would have to consume between 5 to 10 micrograms of pentobarbital per kilogram of body weight” to approach harmful levels, the analysis concluded.
Suppliers have tried to reduce the amount of pentobarbital in their food by using higher-quality ingredients. The PFI said its all of its members are committed to using meat and plant based ingredients good for human consumption, for example.
Evangers and Against the Grain Pet Food are not PFI members. The two companies are run separately but share an office, and the former company manufactures some of the latter company’s products, Brett Sher, co-owener of Against the Grain, told Gizmodo. “We received some bad meat, contaminated meat unbeknownst to us,” said Sher. “We purchase wholesome beef from USDA-inspected plants. We never thougth that there would be a potential for that.” Evanger’s FDA recall notice continues: “All Evanger’s suppliers of meat products are USDA approved. This beef supplier provides us with beef chunks from cows that are slaughtered in a USDA facility. We continue to investigate how this substance entered our raw material supply.”
When pressed about exactly where Against the Grain was purchasing its meat, Sher declined to elaborate.
Could a pentobarbital-euthanized cow end up in human food? Enright thought it unlikely. “I’m not aware of any evidence ever that pentobarbital has been found in the human food supply,” she said. This could only happen if a cow received a dose of the sedative before its trip to the slaughterhouse, which would be unlikely.
Correction: The story has been updated to clarify that the PFI’s member’s use of ingredients good for human consumption is a commitment but not a requirement.