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.
Do cat food recalls mean anything? Let’s find out…
What Is a Recall?
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Why Is Cat Food Recalled?
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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?
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.
“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?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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…
Related Pages of Interest
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
“Rap on Recalls in Pet Food“, Doc of All Trades (alltradesdvm.com), April 28, 2020
“Recalls & Withdrawals“, FDA
Updated January 13, 2023