The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed that the agency is investigating NUTRO pet food, following a series of unexplained illnesses and deaths. Consumers have been complaining for more than two years that their pets have become ill after eating NUTRO products; many have recovered when they were switched to other foods. The company has steadfastly denied that its food is to blame.
Until now, the FDA has been mum about whether it was actively investigating the company. Today, the FDA’s Division of Freedom of Information confirmed the agency has an ongoing investigation into NUTRO — and said that investigation could be criminal or civil in nature. The office did not elaborate on the nature or focus of that investigation.
The investigation came to light when the FDA denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by ConsumerAffairs.com seeking a list of complaints and lab results the agency has collected regarding NUTRO pet food. The agency denied the request and said that releasing the information could hamper “prospective or ongoing” action by law enforcement.
“The document(s) constitute record(s) compiled for law enforcement purposes, the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings,” wrote the FDA’s George A. Strait, Jr., assistant commissioner for public affairs.
Another pet food company, Menu Foods, said in a recent financial filing that the FDA had commenced a criminal investigation to determine whether Menu violated the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act. The company noted that “additional actions or investigations may arise in the future.” It did not mention any other pet food companies. Menu last year settled a $24 million lawsuit that grew from the largest pet food recall in U.S. history.
NUTRO, which has extensive international operations, was acquired in 2007 by Mars, Inc., the privately-held Virginia-based food products company. Mars was fined a record €4.5 million (about US$5.8 million) last year by the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) for not observing the required waiting period before closing the transaction. Mars had been by far the leading provider of cat and dog food in Germany prior to the merger.
Under pressure from the German regulators, Mars divested NUTRO's Austrian and German businesses.
ConsumerAffairs.com filed its Freedom of Information request for NUTRO records last year after we uncovered a worrisome trend among dogs and cats across the country. An analysis of our complaints revealed that scores of pets from California to South Carolina had experienced sudden and recurring bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, and other digestive problems.
The only common denominator among those dogs and cats was NUTRO pet food. In nearly every case, we also learned the pets’ conditions improved once their owners stopped feeding them NUTRO pet food.
ConsumerAffairs.com continues to receive complaints about NUTRO from dog and cat owners nationwide. In the past year, we’ve received nearly 500 complaints from pet owners who say their dogs or cats suddenly became ill after eat NUTRO. The problems these pets have experienced are similar: vomiting, diarrhea, and other digestive issues.
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