Its about time. Thats how pet owners nationwide reacted to NUTRO Products' decision last Thursday to recall two varieties of its dry cat food.
NUTRO pulled seven flavors -- in 28 different bag sizes -- of its dry Natural Choice Complete Care and NUTRO Max cat food off store shelves, saying the products had incorrect levels of zinc and potassium. The company blamed the problem on a production error by its U.S. premix supplier, Trouw Nutrition.
NUTRO said it discovered the error on May 18 during an audit of documentation from that Illinois-based supplier. The company, however, waited another three days -- until May 21 -- to recall the products. Some pet owners wonder why it took so long for NUTRO to pull the cat food, but are grateful the company finally took some action.
I was relieved, but not very surprised, says Kristin K. of Trenton, N.J., whose kitten started vomiting bile and experiencing uncontrollable diarrhea after eating NUTRO Natural Choice. I figured with all the complaints Ive seen on your Web site about these (health) problems, they werent coincidence and eventually NUTRO would do something. But I definitely think that NUTRO needs to take a hard look at all its food -- not just its cat foods.
NUTRO claims it hasnt received any reports of illnesses linked to the recalled products -- distributed in the United States and ten other countries -- but warned pet owners to monitor their cats for vomiting, diarrhea, reduction in appetite, refusal to eat food, or weight loss.
That claim outraged pet owners nationwide, who have told ConsumerAffairs.com for the past two years that their cats and dogs have experienced those same health problems after eating various flavors and varieties of NUTRO. ConsumerAffairs.com now has more than 800 complaints from dog and cat owners who say their pets have battled sudden and recurring bouts of vomiting yellow bile and explosive and often bloody diarrhea after eating NUTROs foods.
Many pet owners also say their dogs and cats became lethargic, had elevated liver enzymes, crystals in their urine, or been treated for pancreatitis and gastroenteritis after eating NUTROs pet food.
In nearly every case, pet owners say their animals health improved once they switched to another brand of food. Some pet owners also suspect NUTROs food played a role in their animals deaths.
NUTRO, however, says its food is 100 percent safe and meets all federal guidelines. The company also denies that it's under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- even though the FDAs Freedom of Information Office confirmed that probe to ConsumerAffairs.com.
New Jersey probe
Weve also learned that two FDA agents spent four hours last Friday investigating the recent and unexplained death of a 10-year-old Dalmatian in New Jersey. That is the third case ConsumerAffairs.com has confirmed in which FDA agents have investigated the deaths of dogs that have eaten NUTROs pet food.
In this latest case, Cheryl M. says her beloved Dalmatian, Ember, ate NUTRO food all her life. But earlier this month -- after Cheryl opened a new bag of NUTRO Light Lamb and Rice that she said had a foul smell -- Ember started spitting out the food.
Then she started vomiting the food and yellow bile that had a horrible smell, says Cheryl, who contacted the FDA and NUTRO before and after Ember's death.
Cheryls veterinarian diagnosed Ember with pancreatitis and an abdominal infection. Blood tests revealed the Dalmatian had an elevated white blood cell count. The vet prescribed anti-vomiting and other medications to help the sick dog. An ultrasound also revealed Embers liver and pancreas were normal and the Dalmatian did not have any tumors.
Ember died in Cheryls arms on May 18. My vet has no clue why she died, Cheryl told us, her voice cracking with sorrow.
During the FDAs visit to her home, Cheryl says the agents told her Embers death was a high priority. The agents said they were rushing Embers health records and lab results to the FDAs veterinarian in Maryland -- and promised to immediately test the Dalmatians food.
The FDA agents seemed extremely upset that Ember died, Cheryl says, adding the agents planned to also test the bag that Embers food came in. They did not look happy. When they opened the bag of her food, they did not want to touch it and said it smelled like petroleum.
They asked me what I wanted and I said, 'I want justice.' I dont want anybody else to go through what were going through. Were devastated by this.
News of NUTROs cat food recall only fueled Cheryls fury against the company. I was totally outraged and thought it was very convenient.
Her husband agrees.
When we first saw the news about the recall, we were angry, says Ken M., a New Jersey fireman. This (loss) has been really tough for all of us. And all these people are saying the same thing about NUTRO and NUTRO is not doing anything about it.
Other pet owners -- whose cats and dogs have become sick or died after NUTROs food -- echo the couples outrage and concerns.
Its a first step, but NUTRO cannot just look at that little bit of cat food. It needs to look at all its food, their ingredients, and sources, says Jean B. of Terre Haunte, Ind.
Earlier this year, Jeans kittens -- Rosie and Angus -- started vomiting yellow foamy bile, shedding hair, and having gas after she slowly introduced NUTRO into the felines diets.
NUTRO definitely needs to look at both its cat and dog foods -- they need to look at everything, Jean says, adding that her kittens health improved once she stopped feeding them NUTRO. Most of the complaints (on ConsumerAffairs.com) are from dog owners. I dont know why NUTRO wouldnt be concerned by all these complaints and why they would ignore them.
Someone is cutting corners, she adds. I just have to believe it comes down to money. Or NUTRO must have too much to lose -- and it must be something really bad if it comes out -- for them not to be taking care of this.
Jean is also shocked by the companys claim that it hasnt received any reports of illnesses linked to the recalled cat food.
Youve got to be kidding me. All these complaints are more than coincidental. Something is wrong. And in reading many letters (on ConsumerAffairs.com), pet owners say theyve called NUTRO and not gotten a warm reception. I dont believe they (NUTRO) havent received any complaints about the food. Everyday, there are new complaints on your Web site.
NUTROs cat food recall didnt come as any surprise to Vinny B. of Tacoma, Washington.
It made sense, especially the way my cats reacted to NUTRO after the company was purchased (in 2007) by Mars. All three of my cats refused to eat the food anymore, they lost weight, and got sick. One of my cats was on medicine until three months ago to clear up urinary crystals.
We wondered what was going on and we called NUTRO, Vinny says. They said everything was the same.
Vinnys cats improved once he stopped feeding them NUTROs Natural Choice Complete Care Indoor Cat formula. So did his neighbors cats, which also became ill after eating NUTROs food.
We were talking and he said he had been feeding his cats Nutro and they had stopped eating, too. I told him we had issues (with NUTRO) and had switched food. He switched food and his cats started eating again. It is hard to believe this is all a fluke, Vinny says. I believe there is something wrong with the food.
What about NUTROs claim that it hasnt received any reports of illnesses linked to the recalled cat food?
When I heard that, it made me angry, Vinny says. I dont think thats very cool. I feel like something shady going on and they (NUTRO) are not being honest with the public.
Over the weekend, ConsumerAffairs.com heard from a Texas pet owner who says her cat became sick after eating NUTRO Max. And her veterinarian is baffled by the felines illness.
For seven weeks now, my cat has been unresponsive to antibiotics for treatment of urinary tract problems, Daphene M. told us. He continues to urinate blood. It clears up for a 10-day period, but returns. There is no sign of extreme infection, and X-rays indicate no stones present -- typically the cause.
The veterinarian is puzzled about the root cause. Now I see this recall for Nutro Max dry cat food. I have fed this to my cat exclusively for over three years now. My cats diagnosis remains unknown, (but) I feel perhaps this may be the cause of his problems.
Indiana pet owner Mark E. is certain Nutros food played a role in the 2008 death of his Norwegian Elkhound, Ali.
Shortly before Alis death, the healthy 11-year-old dog suddenly started having bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and quit eating. At the time, Ali was staying at a kennel while Mark and his family were on vacation. When Ali became sick, the kennel took her to its vet.
The vet said he thought she'd eaten something at the kennel," Mark recalls. "But we asked that if that's true, how come the only dog this happened to was the one that ate NUTRO. We have two dogs; our Collie was on a different food -- not a NUTRO brand. She was in the same run and she's fine.
"And we said: what did Ali eat that the other dog didn't. The only answer was the food.
Thats why Mark wasnt surprised when he heard the news that NUTRO had recalled some of its cat food.
I told my wife that this was only the tip of the iceberg. NUTRO says its food is 100 percent safe, but this cat food recall puts a dent in that claim. ... I feel somewhat vindicated in a way, he says of the recall. And I think that more (recalls) are coming, including of the dog food.
When asked if he believes NUTROs claim that it hasnt received any reports of illnesses linked to the recalled cat food, Mark told us: I think thats a C-Y-A. They know something is wrong. They are just trying to ease into this as gently as possible.
What about NUTROs claim that it isnt under investigation by the FDA? Mark says thats not true, either.
An FDA agent came out to my house (after Ali died) and took down all the information, he says. The agent said they'd (his FDA office) gotten a number of complaints about NUTRO. He said he was aware of the problems nationally and the problems included on your (ConsumerAffairs.com) Web site.
Zinc, copper levels
ConsumerAffairs.com also uncovered an interesting connection between the NUTRO food that Ali ate before her death and the NUTRO products involved in the cat food recall.
After Ali died, Marks vet sent the NUTRO food the Norwegian Elkhound had eaten to Purdue University for testing. Those tests were negative for melamine, salmonella, and e-coli, Mark said. But they did reveal the food contained high levels of zinc and copper.
Marks vet could not say if the food caused Alis death, but "he could not rule it out.
That isnt the only case in which NUTROs dog food has tested positive for high levels of zinc and copper.
Last August, tests by the non-profit Pet Food Products Safety Alliance (PFPSA) revealed samples of NUTROs Natural Choice Chicken Meal, Rice, and Oatmeal formula and Nutro Puppy Max contained levels of zinc and copper that PFPSA said exceeded the recommendations of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Specifically, the levels of zinc in the NUTRO dog foods tested were 260 parts per million, which PFPSA calculated would come to on the order of 40 times the amount of zinc recommended for human dietary requirements.
PFPSAs founder Don Earl says NUTROs cat food recall -- trigged by incorrect levels of zinc and potassium -- gives credence to his organizations test results.
I feel a certain amount of vindication as a result, particularly as the symptoms are identical to those reported by legions of dog owners, he told us.
But Earl is still worried about what pet food makers can legally put in their products.
The most frightening aspect of the situation is that from the research I've done, I believe it's possible to formulate a food within AAFCO tolerances, and still end up with a product that would be lethal to pets within a matter of days to weeks.
NUTRO, however, disputes PFPSAs lab results.
The claims regarding the safety of Nutro pet food in a recent report posted on the Pet Food Product Safety Alliance website are unfounded, the company states on its Web site. In order for a food to provide all the essential nutrition for a pet, it must exceed the minimum requirements for all essential nutrients. AAFCO has established Nutrient Profiles which identify these minimum dietary levels for all essential nutrients in canine pet food products.the 260- 400 mg/kg diet levels of Zinc found in NUTRO Natural Choice Chicken, Meal, Rice and Oatmeal Formula (which converts to approximately 288-444 mg/kg dry matter) are well within AAFCO recommended levels.
NUTRO didnt disclose the levels of zinc and potassium in its recalled cat foods, but said it was taking immediate action to pull the products off the market.
ConsumerAffairs.com contacted Trouw Nutrition, which supplied the zinc and potassium premix used in NUTROs recalled cat food. The company did not return our call.
NUTRO, however, has advised consumers to immediately stop feeding the recalled food to their cats.
But Gayle S. of Nevada -- whose Labradoodle recently become gravely ill after eating NUTROs dry puppy food -- says that warning isnt broad enough to calm her fears. She urges pet owners to immediately stop feeding their dogs and cats any NUTRO products.
I want them (NUTRO) to pull every single product off the shelves, she told us. It almost killed my puppy. I know something is wrong with that food. And, as a consumer, I would to see NUTRO off the market until it (the company) is 100 percent sure its food is not tainted.
Gayle says her five-month-old puppy, William, recently stopped eating, started vomiting yellow bile, and experiencing explosive diarrhea.
My dog exploded in the vets office, she says. There was urine and blood dripping from the dog. He had terrible diarrhea. When he tried to poop, red blood would be dripping out of the dog. Thats what scared me.
Tests revealed William had Giardia, an infection that Gayle says the puppy could have caught from his litter mates. William in now on medication for that illness.
But the tests also revealed that William had another disease -- one Gayles vet said could be caused by contaminated food. That disease is called Campylobacter.
We shared Williams test results with veterinary toxicologist Steven Hansen, director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Poison Control Center.
This looks like an interesting case, he said. Campylobacter can be found in normal dogs and cats, which does complicate this. Yes, this bacterium can be obtained from contaminated food, water, fresh meats and the environment. I am very hopeful that the exact packets that were fed this pup will be cultured for possible bacterial contamination. Otherwise, there are many ways that dogs can consume material contaminated with Campylobacter.
Back in Nevada, Gayle continues to search for answers about her puppys illness.
Shes already contacted NUTRO and the FDA about Williams illness. NUTRO, she says, told her nothing could be wrong with its food and did not offer to test Williams food.
The FDA is now is trying to make arrangements to test Williams food. PetSmart has also offered to analyze the puppys food.
NUTROs recall came just days after ConsumerAffairs.com appealed a denial by the (FDA) to release consumer complaints and lab results related to the companys pet food.
ConsumerAffairs.com requested the documents last Spring under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The FDA denied the request, saying the release of those the records could interfere with law enforcement proceedings. An FDA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also told ConsumerAffairs.com that our request was denied because the agency was investigating NUTRO.
The FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), however, later issued a press release claiming NUTRO was not under investigation. But the CVM is not the FDA division that handles complaints about pet food and is not the division that confirmed the investigation.
ConsumerAffairs.com has also independently confirmed that FDA agents have investigated the deaths of dogs that ate NUTRO pet food.
Though the reports on whether the FDA is investigating Nutro have been conflicting, the FDAs official position is that there is no pending investigation of Nutro, said New York attorney, Cameron Stracher, who filed the appeal for ConsumerAffairs.com. Therefore, the FDA may not rely on the 'law enforcement' exemption of FOIA because, according to the FDA, there is no pending enforcement proceeding against Nutro.
Meanwhile, NUTRO said pet owners who have any of the recalled cat food can return the products for a full refund. Pet owners who have questions or concerns about the recall can contact NUTRO at 1-800-833-5330.
Read more ...
• Verbatim complaints and comments from consumers.
• Recall notice
Consumers React to NUTRO Recalls; Zinc, Copper Levels Cited...