Understanding Raw Food Recalls

As raw food becomes a larger part of the pet food market, the problematic pet food regulation maze becomes more apparent.

We’ve all been warned about Salmonella contamination in our own food, like bagged spinach or peanut butter, and it is important to acknowledge that some strains of Salmonella can be dangerous – but that’s primarily a risk to humans. Healthy dogs and cats are well designed to accommodate naturally occurring levels of bacteria, and common safe handling habits should be done for ALL raw meats.

It’s also important to know that dry pet food is also easily contaminated, and that there is an expectation of contamination in meat destined for your grocery store. The fact is that raw pet food is being sought out for testing (they actually go to stores to buy it), while dry pet foods are not, a situation that ends up making raw food look like a dangerous option when it’s optics controlling your view of the whole picture.

We’ve opened our blog up to an expert who can speak from direct experience and provide the details that clarify the situation.


Hi, my name is Michael Vogel and I am one of the owners of Smallbatch Pets.

I want to address your concerns about this recall and overall quality of Smallbatch products. First let me say, there is nothing wrong with our products. This simply is a matter of jurisdiction and common sense.

Allow me to walk you thru the current situation and help you understand why these recalls keep happening.

1. Smallbatch purchases the highest grade USDA INSPECTED HUMAN GRADE poultry on the market. We do not use “Pet food Grade” or “Inedible” meats. In fact we do not use mechanically separated poultry which is high in fat and high in bacteria and that many pet food manufactures both in and out of raw sector currently use in their formulas.

2. The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) oversees human food and its processing and has a “performance level” or allowed positive rate of 7.5% for salmonella bacteria.

3. The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) oversees pet food and its processing and has zero tolerance for salmonella bacteria (Side note: there are 2300 serotypes of Salmonella many of which are not harmful and we weren’t given the serotype for this request for recall.)

Jurisdiction
The USDA and FDA not are not created equal: USDA poultry farms are allowed to sell poultry with salmonella if it is within this “performance level,” however once it’s made into pet food something astonishing happens; it crosses an invisible line into the FDA’s jurisdiction and is now non-compliant and in risk of being recalled. I’m sure you are just as surprised as we were years ago when we found this out.

Common Sense
The good news for you and your pets: Dogs and cats don’t get ill from these types of pathogens unless their immune system is severely compromised and we advise customers of this slight risk and how to mitigate it by simply cooking our food. All you have to do to keep things safe is practice the safe handling procedures that are located on the back of our bags and on our website and on any raw product.

If raw pet food companies were allowed to put a disclaimer on our bags explaining that raw meat has a risk of bacteria and how to mitigate or eliminate those risks, this recall and all future recalls for salmonella would stop happening.

As we suspected no illnesses have been reported. We also requested the statistics for confirmed illnesses from feeding raw pet food (humans or pets) that would justify close to 30 recalls over the past 7 years in the raw pet food sector. We were told to file a FOI (Freedom of Information) request with the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and CVM (Center for Veterinary Medicine).

Thank you for your understanding and I hope this addresses your concerns about this recall and helps you understand why they are happening over and over. It is going to take a cultural or generational change inside the CVM to think outside the box (or bag of kibble) and to understand and accept raw pet food and how the benefits far outweigh any of the minimal risks that are associated.

I encourage you and everyone to direct questions, concerns or frustration to the CVM at askcvm@fda.gov

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