The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today it was suspending Evanger's Dog & Cat Food Co.'s emergency permit to ship pet food because the company's procedures could allow the bacterium that causes botulism to survive in some of its products.

The FDA is stopping Evanger's ability to ship pet food in interstate commerce, said Dr. Bernadette Dunham. Todays enforcement action sends a strong message to manufacturers of pet food that we will take whatever action necessary to keep unsafe products from reaching consumers.

Botulism is a powerful toxin that affects the nervous system and can be fatal. The disease has been documented in dogs and cats. Signs of botulism in animals are progressive muscle paralysis, disturbed vision, difficulty in chewing and swallowing, and progressive weakness to the body. Death is usually due to paralysis of the heart or the muscles used in breathing.

The symptoms fit those described by consumers who complained to In December 2008, Chris of Monrovia, Md., described what happened when she fed her two Pomeranians some Evanger's Beef Chunks in Gracy.

"Within 45 minutes they were both in critical condition with signs of complete neurological shutdown, blindness, inability to stand or walk, difficulty breathing and swallowing," she said. "Both dogs were treated for symptoms of botulism and the food was to be sent out for testing through Greenbriar Emergency Hospital."

And how did Evanger's react to the near-disaster?

"When I called the office number listed on Evanger's Web site on November 19th, I was hung up on. When Dr. Rossi called Evanger's on November 20th, she was told by the person who answered that they would not speak another word to her because she could not prove she even was a vet," Chris said.

Earlier FDA action

In April 2008, Evangers was issued an Order of Need for Emergency Permit after the FDA determined that the company had failed to meet the regulatory requirements to process a product that does not present a health risk.

In June, 2008, FDA issued Evangers a temporary Emergency Permit. During inspections conducted between March 2009 and April 2009, the FDA said it determined that Evangers was not operating in compliance with the mandatory requirements and conditions of the Temporary Emergency Permit.

In order for Evanger's to resume shipping in interstate commerce, the company must document that corrective actions and processing procedures have been implemented to ensure that the finished product will not present a health hazard.

The FDA said that Evanger's, operating in Wheeling, Illinois, "deviated from the prescribed process, equipment, product shipment, and recordkeeping requirements in the production of the company's thermally processed low acid canned food (LACF) products" and that under-processed pet food could be the result.

While FDAs Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition is responsible for regulating all human and animal LACF processing, FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine has authority over animal feed and foods. The two centers are collaborating on the Evanger's enforcement action, the agency said.