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FDA Seizes Pet Foods From Petco Distribution Center

Friday, August 29, 2008 by: Susan Thixton
Tags: pet food, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Warehousing and storage of pet foods is out of the manufacturer's control once it leaves their facilities. Pet owners must rely on conscientious distributors to warehouse the food properly. Unfortunately, not every distributor is conscientious. This is the press release put out by the FDA (June 19, 2008):

FDA Requests Seizure of Animal Food Products at PETCO Distribution Center

Today, at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Marshals seized various animal food products stored under unsanitary conditions at the PETCO Animal Supplies Distribution Center located in Joliet, Ill., pursuant to a warrant issued by the United States District Court in Chicago.

U.S. Marshals seized all FDA-regulated animal food susceptible to rodent and pest contamination. The seized products violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because it was alleged in a case filed by the United States Attorney that they were being held under unsanitary conditions. (The Act uses the term "insanitary" to describe such conditions).

During an FDA inspection of a PETCO distribution center in April, widespread and active rodent and bird infestation was found. The FDA inspected the facility again in May and found continuing and widespread infestation.

"We simply will not allow a company to store foods under filthy and unsanitary conditions that occur as a direct result of the company's failure to adequately control and prevent pests in its facility," said Margaret O'K. Glavin, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. "Consumers expect that such safeguards will be in place not only for human food, but for pet food as well."

The distribution center in Joliet, Ill., provides pet food products and supplies to PETCO retail stores in 16 states including Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. The FDA has no reports of pet illness or death associated with consumption of animal food distributed by PETCO, and does not have evidence that the food is unsafe for animals. However, the seized products were in permeable packages and held under conditions that could affect the food's integrity and quality.

As a precaution, consumers who have handled products originating from the PETCO distribution center should thoroughly wash their hands with hot water and soap. Any surfaces that came in contact with the packages should be washed as well. Consumers are further advised as a precaution to thoroughly wash products sold in cans and glass containers from PETCO in the 16 affected states.

If a pet has become ill after eating these food products, pet owners should contact their veterinarian and report illnesses to FDA state consumer complaint coordinators.

End of press release.

This is a serious concern for pet owners, as well as Petco. Many pet food manufacturers go to the trouble and added expense to control rodents, birds, and insects through extreme measures outside of manufacturing and warehousing structures. However, once the pet food or pet treats leave the control of the manufacturer, they are at the mercy of the many distributors and distribution centers. Just as this FDA warning points out, insecticides and/or animal feces can leach through many of the pet food or pet treat packaging, contaminating the food/treats; a health concern not only for the pet but the pet owner as well handling the products. This is one of the reasons I purchase my pet food directly from the manufacturer –- it is shipped from their controlled warehouse directly to my front door.

Typical pet food distribution would go as follows:

XYZ Pet Food Company manufactures dog and cat food selling to pet stores and retail outlets all across the U.S. and Canada. XYZ Pet Food is very careful, tests all incoming ingredients, and of course all pest control is done outside the ingredient storage and processing buildings. Finished product warehousing at XYZ Pet Food as well controls pests safely away from possible contamination of their pet foods.

Major retailers that sell XYZ Pet Food have regional distribution centers across the U.S. and Canada. XYZ Pet Food Company sends weekly shipments to five regional distribution centers for every major retail chain (Target, Walmart, K-Mart). XYZ also sends weekly shipments to five different regional distribution centers to each of the large pet store chains Petco, Petsmart, and Pet Supermarket as well as several pet product distributors servicing smaller pet shops. From all of these regional distribution centers, XYZ pet foods are again shipped to area distribution warehouses and then finally shipped to each individual store. At each stop in the shipping process, a pet owner has to rely on the assumption that every warehouse handles the pet food shipment with care to prevent possible contamination. My guess would be that many of the distributors are careful; however just as this FDA release proves, some are not.

We have the same concern with our 'people food'. Just last week on a trip to my neighborhood grocery (a chain of groceries based out of Tampa, FL), as I was walking up to the store from the parking lot, I noticed a pickup truck loaded down with large boxes marked poultry. As I was walking by, I looked closely into the holes in the side of the boxes and discovered they contained pre-packaged chicken pieces. Fresh chicken sitting in boxes, in the hot Florida sun in June, not on ice, not in a refrigerated truck, but in the back of an open pick up truck waiting to be carried into the store for sale to consumers. A store employee was waiting beside the truck for another store employee to unload the chicken.

My father told me something once that fits this situation perfectly. When I owned my kennel and was building an expansion, the contractor I hired had basically bailed on the job with $3,500.00 of my money. My father's advice didn't sit well with me at the time, but he was right. He told me, "you haven't learned who to work with yet, but at least you are learning who not to work with". And the same applies here.

To me, if Petco shows such disregard for the conditions they store the foods, treats, toys, and other pet products they sell to millions of pet owners, then at least we are learning who not to purchase pet supplies from. As the FDA release stated, Petco's inspection in April and again in May "found continuing and widespread infestation." Petco had a month to turn things around -- and they did not.

My best advice to you is to carefully monitor your pet (as always) and carefully examine each bag or can of food when you open it. If you notice any changes in the pet food such as the smell or color, I would suggest calling the manufacturer and/or discarding the food. Should you notice any unusual behavior with your pet, such as a change in activity or eating habits, please do not hesitate to seek advice from your veterinarian.

Susan Thixton

About the author

Susan Thixton has an international pet people following providing dog and cat lovers a trusted source for pet food and pet food ingredient information. She's been called courageous, perseverant, even "the Caped Crusader for Pets" for her 16 year study of pet food. Susan Thixton is the author of hundreds of pet industry articles and the 2006 released book Truth About Pet Food (currently being updated for a second edition). She developed and publishes the pet product consumer magazine Petsumer Report and is a frequent speaker and radio guest all over the U.S. and Canada with more than 70 appearances in the last 2 years.
If you are looking for straight forward pet food information that can have an almost immediate impact on your pet's health - subscribe to the free newsletter, and subscribe to Petsumer Report to see reviews of close to 700 dog and cat foods and treats (adding 40+ each month). Susan Thixton's 'truth' will help you find a safer, healthier dog or cat food that could add years to your pet's life. http://www.TruthAboutPetFood.com

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