Cat Food Recalls - What Do They Mean? - Cat Info Detective

Cat Food Recalls – What Do They Mean?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Greetings curious cats! Skye Blake here snooping out answers to questions about cat food recalls.

Every once in a while, we hear that some company has issued a product recall.

Anything from cars to shrimp can be recalled when there’s either a real or potential problem with them.

paw prints coming in from a distance

Do cat food recalls mean anything? Let’s find out…

What Is a Recall?

siamese cat licking front paw, cat food recalls

A recall is when a company notifies the FDA and the public that there may be a safety problem with a product or group of products.

Recalls happen whether or not there are confirmed illnesses or injuries.

Products are returned to the company, repaired, or properly destroyed after being documented.

kitten lounging by computer

“Recalls – of which there are three types – are actions taken by a firm to remove a product from the market.

Recalls may be conducted on a firm’s own initiative, by FDA request, or by FDA order under statutory authority.” 1 Recalls & Withdrawals”, U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

It’s important to note that a voluntary manufacturer recall indicates the company’s quality control procedures are working well.

tabby cat and kitten outside

They’re testing their products and catching problems before they become an issue for the public.

If the FDA initiates a recall, it usually means the company didn’t have quality control procedures in place or failed to properly follow them and weren’t testing products themselves.

kitten asleep in clay pot

Just looking at a history of recalls can be deceiving because companies that aren’t testing their own products won’t have voluntary recalls since they’re not identifying problems.

“In such instances, a clean recall record may not indicate top-notch production at all, but rather non-monitored production.”2 Rap on Recalls in Pet Food“, Doc of All Trades (alltradesdvm.com)

Why Is Cat Food Recalled?

tabby cat in odd shaped furniture

Recalls for pet food usually happen because of possible or confirmed contamination with mold, bacteria, fungus or other toxins.

This is true with any type of food, especially raw because there’s no cooking to kill bacteria.

The most common contaminates are salmonella, listeria monocytogenes, and aflatoxin.

graphic of bacteria

Any recall due to rodents at distribution centers or other storage areas is a precautionary measure since rodents spread disease.

Bacteria, parasites and other contaminants can transfer from animals to people through saliva, feces, and urine.

Cats clean themselves by licking… and then you bury your face in their fur.

Young children, elderly people and anyone with a weakened immune system are the most vulnerable.

3 kittens playing in a basket, cat food recalls

This is why good hygiene is so important.

Occasionally, a recall has nothing to do with safety, such as one in 2018 caused by a label mix-up.

Label errors are technically considered “withdrawals” rather than recalls but are the same thing.

Other recalls can be for minor changes in ingredients or levels of nutrients that won’t cause an immediate danger.

Examples of Recalls

British shorthair playing with cat tower

July 6, 2022: Primal Pet Foods Voluntary Recalls a Single Lot of Raw Frozen Patties Beef Formula Due to Potential Contamination with Listeria Monocytogenes

June 17, 2022: Freshpet Voluntarily Recalls One Lot of Freshpet Select Fresh from the Kitchen Home Cooked Chicken Recipe 4.5-Pound Bags Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination

July 29, 2021: Sunshine Mills, Inc. Issues Voluntary Recall of Certain Products Due to Potentially Elevated Levels of Aflatoxin

Recall Lists

dark tabby cat on cat tree looking down, cat food recalls

Here are a few sites you can check for specific recalls and the reasons for them…

Recalls & Withdrawals | FDA – This is the official FDA recall site where you can search by name of the company (check product info for cat food).

This list includes the company’s announcement and photos of the product.

Cat Food Recalls (Updated on Daily Basis) – All About Cats – This is an easy-to-read list of all cat product recalls (not just food).

Understanding Recall Information

kitten standing on an open book-popular topics. recall information

To understand recalls better, look further into the specifics and any related scientific documentation.

In some cases, the manufacturer did the recall out of an abundance of caution.

Tests indicated a possibility of contamination or other hazard but there was no evidence it became a problem.

orange, ginger tabby kitten eating, drinking from dish

In other cases, people or pets became ill and it was traced back to a particular product.

Recalls are usually much less expensive than costly lawsuits, so most companies choose to prevent problems rather than wait until one occurs.

A Recall Example

tabby on curb stretching front paw, leg, cat food recalls

An example you can study is Update: Recall of Dry Dog and Cat Food Products Associated with Human Salmonella Schwarzengrund Infections — United States, 2008 (cdc.gov).

This recall occurred because claims of illness were made even though there wasn’t much evidence beyond a few unopened bags of dog food that tested positive for Salmonella enterica serotype Schwarzengrund.

tabby, siamese licking nose

There were so few people who got sick that it’s likely poor hygiene practices are what led to the illnesses. 

The animals involved didn’t get sick.

There are so many variables in these situations, it’s very difficult to pinpoint one specific cause.

What Do Recalls Mean About a Company?

2 cats hanging out together, friends, cat food recalls

When a recall happens it can damage the company’s reputation because it raises questions about the quality of their products.

But do recalls mean a company isn’t trustworthy?

Not necessarily…

2 siamese kittens watching intently

You have to look at the company’s recall history, the reasons for each recall and how the company responds to identified problems.

Are they taking responsibility, fixing any problems, and adjusting their procedures to prevent future problems?

Repeated recalls can be a cause for concern if they show a pattern of problems.

3 kittens in a basket

“If a manufacturer disputes the concern, refuses to pull products back until mandated to do so, fails to investigate the issue, and makes no changes to their quality control protocol following event, that may be highly concerning, particularly if they have a track record of violations.”3 Rap on Recalls in Pet Food“, Doc of All Trades (alltradesdvm.com)

Do the Math on Recalls

Even if there are a few recalls, are they in proportion to the overall amount on the market?

Tabby, white cat playing, cat food recalls

For example, almost 2 billion, yes, billion, units of wet cat food were sold in the year ending August 7, 2022.

If 1,000,000 units of a specific product were recalled, the percentage recalled is only 0.5%!

A recall can damage a company’s reputation but the percentage of recalled cat food products per year is very small.

shopping, register tape, receipt, food

Ethical company executives know to use proper manufacturing techniques and prevent recalls as much as possible.

A good reputation keeps their company in business!

Claims About Recalls

raw pork, food, recalls

Proponents of raw food diets make the claim that dry food (and sometimes canned wet food) is bad because there have been recalls of it over the years.

The implication is that raw food is better because it has no history of recalls.

This claim also assumes that every recall is due to contamination, which isn’t the case.

3 kittens, cat food recalls

But is this claim really true? Does the evidence support this conclusion?

There are two different categories of raw food…

  • Homemade (“do-it-yourself”)
  • Commercially produced (freeze-dried treats, etc.)

Homemade Raw Food

raw chopped beef

This claim refers to homemade (“DIY”) food, where cat owners buy meat, supplements, etc., and make their own cat food.

If someone gets salmonella or other food poisoning, there’s no official recall or government testing and the actual source isn’t traceable.

Dry food usually has food left in the bag to sample and culture, while raw food has nothing left to check.

sliced beef liver, offal

Meat has gone through inspections by the time you buy it at grocery stores and butcher shops, but after that, there’s no way to inspect processing and storage.

Even if a person has raised and butchered their own meat, good hygiene and storage practices are vital.

Nobody can collect comparable data about contamination with raw food, so this claim is simply not legitimate.

Commercial Raw Food

freeze dried meat

Commercial raw foods such as fresh, frozen, and freeze-dried have recently gained popularity, so there are more coming on the market all the time.

Over the last few years, the majority of recalls have been for commercial raw food.

There are handling, inspection, and storage protocols in place to catch and record any problems.

For more about the various types of cat food, check out these related pages…


Cat Food!How Is Cat Food Made?
Cat Food Companies – Which Are Best?Big Cat Food Paying Off Vets & Other Myths
Meat By Products In Cat FoodPet Food Regulations & Oversight
Reading Cat Food LabelsHow to Feed a Cat
Cat Food & Water BowlsCat Food Puzzles
What Nutrients Do Cats Need?Are Carbs Bad for Cat?
Can Cats Drink Milk?Food for Kittens – Giving Them Good Nutrition
What Vitamins Do Cats Need?What’s the Best Cat Food?
Dry Cat Food (Kibble)Homemade Cat Food
Raw Cat Food – Good or Bad?Raw Meat Diet for Cats – Benefits vs. Risks
The Best Cat Food BrandsThe Best Kitten Food
Wet Cat FoodCat Food Allergies & Sensitivities
Dental Care For CatsFat Cats – Unhealthy or Cute?
What’s a Veterinary Nutritionist?

Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

Sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

Cat Food Recalls (Updated on Daily Basis)” – All About Cats

Latest Pet Food Recall Information:” PetfoodIndustry.com

Pet Food Recalls – post on Facebook

Rap on Recalls in Pet Food“, Doc of All Trades (alltradesdvm.com), April 28, 2020

Recalls & Withdrawals“, FDA

Updated January 13, 2023

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