By Lisa Wade McCormick
October 15, 2009
A third pet food company in as many weeks has pulled some of its products off the market.
Wysong Pet Food confirmed that it recalled five batches of Canine Diets Maintenance and Senior dry dog food -- manufactured in June and July 2009 -- because the products contain mold.
"Penicillium and fusarium mold species have been identified," Lucas Wysong, the company's vice-president, told ConsumerAffairs.com. "All mycotoxin tests conducted thus far are negative with regard to the recalled products."
"That we released some product that was not of the highest quality and may have caused any animals harm makes us frankly ashamed and heartsick," he added.
Specifically, the Michigan-based pet food maker recalled the following batches of dry dog food:
• Wysong Maintenance: lot #: 090617
• Wysong Maintenance: lot #: 090624
• Wysong Maintenance: lot #: 090706
• Wysong Maintenance: lot #: 090720
• Wysong Senior: lot #: 090623
ConsumerAffairs.com talked to a pet owner in Hawaii who says her Doberman Pinscher recently died -- and her eight other dogs became sick -- after eating Wysong's moldy food.
Lucas Wysong said his family's company is working closely with that pet owner. He called the case "exceptional" and said his company has received only two other minor complaints -- reports of diarrhea -- linked to the recalled food.
Wysong told us his company discovered the problem in late September after it investigated customer complaints' of possible mold contamination in the food.
In a prepared statement, Wysong said "At first report of potential mold in our products, Wysong launched an internal investigation. Batch records were re-examined, numerous bags of product opened and scrutinized, product samples were acquired from customers, and testing in-house and out-of-house conducted."
That investigation, the company said, revealed the problem with the food stemmed from the "unusually high heat and humidity" on the days the products were made in June and July. The company also blamed the higher moisture issues on a "malfunctioning moisture checking device."
Wysong said his company notified its distributors about the problem on September 29, 2009.
"Once Wysong ascertained that there was mold presence and the potential for mold (based on moisture tests) in certain batches we alerted our distributors, who were the primary recipients of these batches of product," he said. "Distributors were instructed to dispose of the product, as well as pull product from stores that had already received the product."
The company also said it contacted stores that received the recalled product and asked them to remove the food from store shelves. In addition, the company destroyed any "problematic" batches that remained in-house.
Wysong also told us that his company notified the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)about the mold problem. The FDA's new Reportable Food Registry requires U.S. companies to file a report when there is a "reasonable probability" that their food will cause serious health consequences to people or animals.
Wysong also posted a recall notice on its Web site, but that warning is buried under the dry dog food section.
When asked why his company didn't immediately notify pet owners about the mold problem, Wysong said "The vast majority of the recalled product was sent to our distributors and retailers. We have therefore focused our efforts on alerting distributors and stores and asked them to dispose of the product."
"In other words, we are focusing on the supply chain because the customers at the retail/store level are not identifiable," he said.
Wysong admitted that posting a notice on the company's Web site is not the most effective way to reach customers who may have the recalled products.
"The actual recipients of the product -- distributors and retailers -- have already been alerted, and those that buy our product in stores are likely not Wysong.net site visitors," he said. "The notice on the site therefore serves as an alert to those who did not receive these products."
"We keep records of the distributors and stores that were shipped this product," he added. "Our best chance at notifying customers is through these mediums."
Pet owners who have any of the recalled food should immediately stop feeding it to their dogs, Wysong said.
"She did not deserve to die that way"
That warning, however, came too late for Julie P. of Hawaii. She says her healthy Doberman Pinscher, Scarlet, died on September 26, 2009, after eating some of Wysong's moldy food.
"Losing Scarlet was just horrible and totally needless," Julie told us. "She died a very painful and agonizing death on the morning of her fifth birthday after suffering all night long. She had gone completely toxic."
But Julie's nightmare didn't end with Scarlet's death. Her other eight Dobermans also became seriously ill after eating Wysong's moldy food.
"They're lethargic and continued to get more and more down as time went by," says Julie, who switched her dogs to Wysong in August. "They have very red eyes with yellow gunk that they have had the whole time I was feeding Wysong. That has now finally gone away because I took them off the food after Scarlet died," she said.
"They also had severe diarrhea the whole time, too. At first I thought it was from the changing of their food, but it got worse with some bloody stools and did not go away until again I stopped feeding them Wysong."
One of Julie's dogs, a male named Doug, also developed a sore on his leg that would not heal and had "dry flaky skin with red bumps on his neck."
"Several of my other dogs, including my Daddy, Ruby, and Maybelle all have a bad rash on their groin areas that I also could not get to go away for the last two months," Julie says. "They have had gaseous upset stomachs many times in the last two months. They have been throwing up, and at times, Doug refused to even get near his feeding dish."
Julie says she didn't make a connection between Wysong's food and her dogs' death and illnesses until she opened a new bag on October 4, 2009.
"When I opened that bag, I noticed a moldy look to the kibble -- a look I had seen on several previous bags in the two months I feed it to my dogs. I did not notice any smell, but I think my dog Doug did."
Julie contacted the company that same day. "I was afraid to feed them what looked to me like moldy food," she says. "And I started putting all these symptoms together as being from the food."
"I'm not sure how I can prove that all of these symptoms were from eating the bad dog food," she adds. "But now that I've stopped feeding the food to them, they are all getting better, which seems to prove that it was."
Julie says Wysong should give her some compensation -- at least enough to cover her vet bills -- but no amount of money can ever replace Scarlet.
"She did not deserve to die that way," Julie says. "She was still a young and vibrant dog and very, very special to us. She could have gone on to live another ten years...it's hard to put a price tag on that. What would you pay to have your loved one with you for all those days?"
Lucas Wysong told us his company is "immensely sorry" for any worry or inconvenience this issue has caused its customers.
In Julie's case, Wysong said his company is in "direct communication" with her regarding the death of Scarlet and the illnesses of her other dogs.
"We have requested specific tests be conducted in an attempt to definitively determined the cause of death/sickness," he said, adding the company has not received any other reports of serious adverse reactions linked to the recalled food.
The company, he added, has also taken steps to ensure a mold problem like this doesn't surface again.
"We are in the midst of scrutinizing each and every step of our quality assurance processes," he said. "All products going back for months are being tested for moisture and mold, thus eliminating the possibility of further problematic product (if any exists) being released.
"We vow to all interested parties to do everything we can to ensure that this never happens again."
Julie, however, isn't taking any more chances with Wysong's food.
"Like a lot of people I am going to be making my own food for my dogs. But with this many to feed, that's a challenge. It can be hard to get all the vitamins in there, so I would like to supplement with a small amount of kibble."
Meanwhile, pet owners who have any of Wysong's recalled food -- or questions about the recall -- can e-mail the company at Wysong@Wysong.net.
Third in a series
Wysong is the third pet food maker in recent weeks to quietly pull some of its products off the market.
Earlier this month, Diamond Pet Foods removed some of its Premium Edge Finicky Adult and Hairball cat food off the market because of deficiencies in the thiamine levels.
Diamond's action came just days after Nutro Products quietly pulled from the market three types of its puppy food because of a production error.
The company said it voluntarily withdrew the puppy food after it had discovered pieces of melted plastic in the "production line of select varieties of NUTRO dry dog and cat food products."
Wysong Pet Food Pulls Products Due To Mold...