Feline’s Pride Responds to Dancing Dog Blog on Recall

by Mary Haight on August 10, 2010

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I received an email over the weekend from Shelby Gomas, owner of Feline’s Pride  responding to the recall  expansion and contesting the FDA’s finding.  Quoted information makes this a long post, but I think a pretty quick and interesting read. I did let him know I would be publishing it for readers:

“Hi Mary[,]my name is Shelby[.]  I’m the owner of Felines Pride.  I thought I would drop you a line as I am interested in preserving the integrity of my company and my products where I can on the internet. 

 There has been a lot of questionable publicity and I have been trying to answer questions on the comments on the internet that I feel are adverse and [not]clearly understood.  Considering the years of donations of money, food and other articles to no kill animal shelters, I thought maybe I could just grab a quick moment of your time. 

I’d like to preface by saying big government doesn’t essentially do the greatest job of monitoring anything except their own comfort levels, paychecks, benefits and other self serving agendas.  People have jobs and just do what they are told to do to maintain status quo. 

The events that happened here at our company were attributed to the FDA’s lack of diligence to their own procedural manuals for attaining samples. You can catch the sentence where they mandate one pound of refrigerant to one pound of sample to maintain integrity of the sample for overnight shipping. (The link is below the body of this e mail.)  They did not do that.

Roughly 8 lbs. to 50 lbs. of samples taken didn’t do the trick.  Samples were already contaminated by the time they received them in FDA labs and consequently tested positive for salmonella. 

Mind you, we have been in business for five years taking care and due diligence to what we market to the public.  I also have 13 of my own “kids” that eat our product before it goes out.  They are our professional taste testers and we have always had a 2 paw rating for every batch.  Our FDA “swab test” for pathogens of all types, including salmonella came back negative.

If salmonella is in the food at production levels traces will be found by doing this test for pathogens.  The remarks from the officiating officers were that they “ have never seen such a clean place “ that makes food.  If your readers can fathom being run over by a bus and being left for dead,[that] is basically what happened here. 

The FDA has been of absolutely no assistance at all in “ getting to the bottom of the issue.”  Emails have not been answered, phone calls not returned, the whole issue has been left to me to solve with further testing using FDA “Elisa” technique for microbiological testing at New Jersey Feed Labs.  NJFL is a New York State Agriculture and Markets endorsed lab.  Our samples were shipped to them, using proper FDA guidelines.  Our product tested negative for pathogens ( i.e. salmonella) and our raw ingredients tested negative as well.  Those results are documented on our website. 

I hope your readers take the time to understand this company was founded after 6 of my guys died of aflatoxin poisoning and all died within a two-month period.  Digging six graves and putting six big holes in my heart…gave me the resolve to start this company, knowing full well, that major, commercials [food companies] could care less about our animals and someone had to do something to be part of the solution… I guess that’s why I jumped in and tried to make a change and give something better for our “guys.”  It’s also a reason why I am e mailing you.

There will be more to this story as it unfolds as Senator Patty Murray (D) from the State of Washington has taken interest and is willing to help make changes where changes need to be made.  There is more political support on the way to help overturn the wrongdoing done to this company[...] I hope you and your readers follow the story because each of us can make a difference, even if it’s one at a time to help the furry ones that can’t speak for themselves.  Thank you for your efforts for what you do and all the other people who are doing the right thing…….one at a time.”

http://www.felinespride.com/pdfs/FDASampleProcedures.pdf

I asked Gomas what proof he had that samples were improperly packed and shipped:

“I am quite sure, under subpoena , they [the three FDA agents] would have to testify to the validity of our concern.  After years of shipping food myself, I tried to interject that more refrigerant was needed.  The initial sample were 50 lb. lots or ( 20 x 2.5 lb. containers) that were packed.  Roughly 6-8 small packages of refrigerant totaling about 8-10 lbs were added to used and dilapidated insulated box.  We never ship anything here used… If they had used proper refrigerants the box should have weighed 100 lbs. min.

No way that was done…they would have killed themselves lifting it.  Samples were placed in the back of a hot car instead of a refrigerated carrier.  I do not know how long [the] product was exposed but I do have the lab report stating the samples were received brown colored. 

When we hear, after years and years of shipping perishables nationally and internationally, that product has been received brown, we know it has been exposed to heat and the food is compromised.  Our food arrives red in color to our customers unless shipments have been mishandled…”

FDA won’t admit or retract anything. In further email exchanges, Gomas let me know his lawyer had to intercede to get answers as to the condition of the packaging and contents. He  said he has written confirmation from the testing facility as to the condition of the samples and the packing inadequacies.  

We will be very interested to see what develops. Here’s the kicker: The FDA is not allowed to inspect USDA approved meat as a particular slab of meat, but they can when it’s in the form, or bag, as pet food.  Small companies must buy human grade food from the USDA. USDA has standards for meat and assumes that it’s got bacteria on it. FDA does not assume this, so when tests are made of meaty bone type raw food the pet food product will likely show Salmonella and be recalled.

To make matters much worse, while all States are supposed follow the FDA Food Code, it’s not mandatory. All States can have different standards for bacteria allowed!  Whatever happened to the idea of a uniform code?  I knew of the USDA/FDA conflict, but did not know that without a rewrite of both agencies rules that cover this market, and a uniform code, raw food makers appear to be doomed to recall hell.  Check out this interesting post by Susan Thixton . It will either remind you of your dog chasing his tail or perhaps an old Three Stooges episode. Ouch!

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9 comments
shelby gomas
shelby gomas

Tidbits.. I appreciate your taking the time to reconsider and indulge in looking into the issue further. I was shocked at all of the reference material we put up on our website under " Newsletter." I was even more amazed that the FDA and USDA has statistics that clarify that 15 people out of every 100,000 increase in population is expected to die from salmonella poisoning. Even more surprising, is it was stated so casually as to implicate both agencies as accomplice in murder. There is no standardization, it does not make sense as to the reason why this issue cannot be addressed.Much legislation is in need but when a law gets passed, that's one more lobbyist out of work The University of Pennsylvania's research into hydrolyzed water lies the answer and solution to pathogen contamination problem... but nothing is done. It must be financially more feasible to fund the research than to institute the practice not just for the safety of our "kids," but also for us as consumers. Furthermore, free range, locally and humanely, slaughtered animals are subject to more contamination than USDA sources subject to HAACP regulations . The University of Cornell's pilot programs, for small start up operations bear that out under microbiological testing. For every answer there gives room for more questions. It's a a never ending saga on how the public is used and abused. I would also like to invite anyone to e mail me with any further questions.....shelby

dogtidbits
dogtidbits

Initially, I was put off by Gomas' propaganda about his "years of donations of money, food and other articles to no kill animal shelters" -- which has nothing at all to do with preventing a batch of his pet food from becoming tainted. But as I read on, I began to have second thoughts and now will reserve judgment. I can see the inspectors screwing up sometimes. But I also can see a pet food company that has a good reputation screwing up sometimes as well. (After all, Merrick has a good reputation and look what's been happening with their Beef Filet Squares.) And in this controversy, both sides have a vested interest in being right. Personally, I think the best way to avoid Salmonella in your dog or cat's meal of raw meat is to make it yourself using locally raised and humanely slaughtered meat. But who has the time for that? This is really a thought-provoking post. Thanks, Mary.

melfr
melfr

I actually believe Gomas on this one Mary. I can totally see the FDA not refrigerating the samples properly. I can totally see them putting the onus on the small business owner or company to figure out what went wrong versus checking to see if they screwed up on their side. Having worked for a state agency in the past, I have seen that type of stuff go on before. It's like asking Jabba the Hut (i.e., FDA) to personally get up off his a** and walk across the deck and pick up a box. It's so much easier to keep the status quo, stay where he is, and let the other guy do the heavy lifting. What is sad is that knowing how state and federal agencies operate (inefficiently and ineffectively), I was still shocked to find out that the FDA and the USDA approach raw meat so differently. Seriously? So meat for human consumption is ok to have bacteria on it, but it's not ok on raw meat for dogs? What the heck is that? I guess getting two Jabba the Huts into one room to coordinate ideas and policy would be asking too much. And, if you add a 3rd one (the states) it would be like asking pigs to fly. Wow. What an eye-opener. Now I have to go read Susan Thixton. Should I be prepared to be even more disgusted?

David Prossen
David Prossen

When will our US Government get out of the way and let small business provide services to its customers. Our bloated FDA botched this inspection as I know being a customer of FP for the past 1 1/2 years for the quality of their food is of the highest level. When I receive the food it's well packed in plenty of refrigerant and I personally push on each container to be sure it's in a frozen state prior to placing it into my freezer. You must keep the food in a frozen state and I guess our FDA personnel have not advanced in their knowledge level to understand how important this action is. I can just imagine the qualifications of the FDA inspection and food sampling personnel, as well as, their focusing seriously on their work. Long live Feline's Pride and its hard working, quality minded people as lead by Shelby. David Prossen, FP Customer

EdieJ
EdieJ

Mary, thanks for giving us the opportunity to learn the other side of a recall. You're right, it's a gripping story, and a sad one of a clearly caring pet food maker caught up in government bureaucracy -- in what I suspect was an instance of someone saying "we'll show the public we're on top of the pet safety issue." I hope you'll continue to report this story as it unfolds.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

I worked the State Department, Foreign Service division (embassies) so I can see this too, which is why I always try to provide a space for the other side of the story here. Life is not black and white. Yes, we can be mad now at the mess and the dangerous position our food supply has been put in because of this type of nonsense, but we've got to focus on moving out of these black holes of inefficacy. As Edie mentioned, if this is for "show" and they've "made an example" here, we have to let our representatives know this level of "service" doesn't cut it.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Thanks for adding your voice to this discussion, David!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

You're welcome, Edie! It was great that Mr Gomas communicated. Silence doesn't help any of us and I was glad I could get the other side of the story in front of readers. We are always left with a sketchy series of events that is sure to lead to the assumption of the worst. I'm tired of getting a templated response on these alerts. I'd like to know the story as is unfolds, from both sides. And why not? We learn a lot about systems that don't work, overlapping responsibilities, and pieces of the picture that are not covered by either agency from observation. It can help gvt be more efficient. as they see their agency's policies at work. More importantly, we get to see it. It's public accountability that is the glaringly missing element.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Yes, you will be even more surprised. But the only reason the meat from the USDA has so much bacteria on it - I mean besides the sloppy sloppy slaughtering practices that throws feces all over the carcasses - is that it is not "table ready" and has not gone through all the processing steps, like chemical cleaning apparently, that the USDA table ready for human consumption goes through. Yes, it is still meat graded for human consumption, unlike the meat that goes into kibble which is Not fit for human consumption. But it is not meat that can be wrapped in cellophane and sold as steak in markets until those other steps are completed. Fine lines are everywhere. Glad you stopped by, Mel!

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