FDA opens investigation after report exposes euthanasia drug in dog food

A study revealed that some brands of dog food have tested positive for traces of a lethal drug used to euthanize dogs, cats and horses, WJLA reported.

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The study, which includes 62 samples of wet dog food from more than two dozen brands, was conducted with Ellipse Analytics -- a lab that tests food for contaminants. 

After months of testing, WJLA reported that one brand came back positive for pentobarbital in 60 percent of the samples tested. Fifteen cans of Gravy Train were tested, and nine contained pentobarbital. While the levels detected were not lethal, they also violated federal law that states the drug should not be allowed in any concentration, WJLA reported.

“Pet food violates federal law, is openly allowed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to violate federal law, billion dollar a year companies are making profits selling illegal adulterated products to unknowing consumers in the U.S. every day,” Susan Thixton, a pet food consumer advocate, told WJLA. “Consumers have no information. A consumer has to become a private detective to learn what’s really in their food.”

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Gravy Train is made by Big Heart Pet Foods and owned by Smucker’s, WJLA reported. According to Nielsen data, it accounts for more than $40 million of the company’s annual revenue. Big Heart also produces other dog and cat food products.

How then, did dog food become laced with a potentially lethal drug?

“It comes from euthanasia of animals using that euthanasia drug,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, chief scientific officer for The Center for Canine Behavior Studies and former director of the Animal Behavior Program at Tufts University. “So, these animals could be dogs, they could be cats, they could be horses -- but how is it getting into the pet food? If they say it doesn’t come from dogs, cats and horses, where does it come from? It doesn’t come from outer space.”

Dodman said the level of pentobarbital in the food is really beside the point.

Contacted to address the test results, the FDA and Smucker’s declined to speak on camera, WJLA reported. Smucker’s did release a statement that said the company is launching “a thorough investigation” to determine the accuracy of WJLA’s test results and the methodology used.

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