⚠ Important recall information appears below.
Developed and owned by Dick Van Patten and a friend, Natural Balance strives to provide nutritional, good food for pets.
Van Patten, the actor and animal welfare advocate whose name graces every package of Natural Balance, took an active role in advertising and distributing the pet food. He died in 2015.
Below, we share more information about the history of this pet food brand — including up-to-date Natural Balance recall information.
Natural Balance Quick Facts
Brand line includes: Natural Balance Original Ultra, Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets, Natural Balance Vegetarian, Natural Balance Delectable Delights, Natural Balance Synergy, Natural Balance Fat Dogs, Natural Balance Fat Cats, Natural Balance Platefulls, Natural Balance Crunchy Biscuits, Natural Balance Chewy Bites, Natural Balance L.I.T. Limited Ingredient Treats, Natural Balance Jumpin’ Stix, Natural Balance Mini Rewards, Natural Balance Belly Bites, Natural Balance Dental Chews
Where to buy: Latest deals on Natural Balance
Company: Big Heart Pet Inc. (a subsidiary of J.M. Smucker Company)
Headquarters: One Maritime Plaza, San Francisco CA, 94111
Contact info: 1-800-829-4493, email, website
Natural Balance History
Acting, as we all know, can be an unstable career.
Actor Dick Van Patten, who starred in Eight Is Enough from 1977 to 1981, wisely diversified his holdings by starting up his own line of dog food. After all, acting jobs can disappear, but people will always need to feed their dogs.
The brand began, casually enough, over a friendly lunch in 1982.
Van Patten was eating out with his friend Joey Herrick. They got to talking about pets. Van Patten told Herrick about the assorted alligators, snakes, rabbits, chameleons, toads, turtles and other unusual pets that he cared for as a child. Herrick shared that he was involved in pet rescue.
Herrick was, by profession, a drummer. Van Patten was a formerly successful actor whose career had taken a dive after Eight Is Enough finished its run in May 1981. What they had in common was a passion for pets.
“The only honest reaction and true loyalty that we get is from our animals,” Van Patten once said.
In 1989, the 2 men went into business together. The product would be named Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance. Van Patten brought in his tennis buddy, who happened to be a veterinarian.
The veterinarian pal told Van Patten that truly good dog food should contain no fillers, specifically no corn products, no wheat and no soy. The original recipe made good on that ideal. Wheat later crept into the product line but was subsequently replaced with rice in 2014.
Together with his business partners, Van Patten developed a line of food that purported to be healthy for dogs. The dog food was described as being oven baked and “contains a natural pet odor eliminator.”
Clever names like Irish Stew and Chinese Take-Out tapped into dog lovers’ psychological need to feed their dogs something they dream of eating themselves. Early on in Natural Balance’s history, the owners claimed their food was perfectly fit for human consumption as well.
Van Patten Becomes the Face of His Own Pet Food
Dick Van Patten was an obvious choice as the face of the company, and Herrick became its president. They located their new enterprise in Pacoima, California.
Van Patten took an active role in advertising and distributing Natural Balance. He starred in TV ads that promoted the product, and he traveled around the country shaking hands and peddling products at pet shows.
Despite those efforts, Natural Balance was unprofitable until the partners struck a deal with Petco for distribution in the megastore’s 625 locations.
In 2006, the Natural Balance brand got an infusion of funds from investment firm VGM Partners. By that time, Natural Balance was making at least $15 million annually.
In 2013, the Del Monte Company bought Natural Balance for over $337 million, making it part of the Del Monte Foods portfolio of pet food brands. Del Monte had already bought Kibbles ’n Bits as well as Meow Mix in earlier sales.
Del Monte renamed itself Big Heart Pet Brands in 2014, following a sale of all of Del Monte’s people-food assets. Natural Balance changed hands once again in 2015, when the J.M. Smucker Company bought Big Heart Pet Brands for $5.8 billion.
Dick Van Patten died in 2015 at age 86, but packages of Natural Balance products retain his name to this day. “I never met anyone who enjoyed life as much as he did,” said Herrick, the Natural Balance co-founder.
As of 2020, J.M. Smucker was the No. 3 pet food company in the world, with over $2.8 billion in annual revenue, according to data provided by Pet Food Industry.
In the next section below, we provide an overview of the history of Natural Balance recalls.
Has Natural Balance Ever Been Recalled?
Yes. There have been a few Natural Balance recalls over the years.
In May 2021, a single “best by” date of Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Chicken Formula dry cat food was recalled because of the potential for salmonella contamination.
In July 2020, one lot of Natural Balance Ultra Premium Chicken & Liver Paté Formula canned cat food was found to contain possible elevated levels of choline chloride, which could be dangerous or even fatal if fed to cats. In announcing the recall, the company said it had already “received reports of adverse reactions” in pets.
In May 2012 and June 2010, the brand experienced recalls because of potential salmonella contamination. In 2012, the recall was part of a wider recall of various brands that had been manufactured at a Diamond Pet Foods facility. Both the 2012 and 2010 Natural Balance recalls involved only dry dog foods.
Back in July 2007, a few Natural Balance “Eatables” canned dog foods were recalled because botulinum, the toxin that causes botulism, had been found in a human food (hot dog chili sauce) manufactured in the same Castleberry’s Food Company plant. “We believe we have isolated the issue to a situation of under-processing on one line of our production facility,” said a Castleberry’s official, who noted, “We have shut down this line altogether and are recalling all products produced on it.”
No reports of illnesses were linked to the Natural Balance pet food. But out of an abundance of caution, Castleberry’s recommended that the affected products be discarded. “While botulism can affect some pets, dogs and cats are inherently resistant. The disease has only been seen occasionally in dogs and has not been reported in cats,” said the July 2007 recall announcement.
Finally, in March 2007, as part of the massive Menu Foods/melamine recall that shocked the country, specific varieties of Natural Balance dog and cat foods were recalled because of potential melamine contamination.
2019 Heart Disease Investigation
We also want to alert readers to the fact that, in late June 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified Natural Balance as one of 16 pet food brands that may be linked to heart disease in dogs and cats. None of those 16 brands have been recalled as part of the agency’s ongoing investigation, though. Most, but not all, of the pet foods are “grain-free” and/or dry (kibble) dog food formulations.
The FDA says this is a “complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors,” and that it cannot even be certain that diet is a cause of the heart problems. For full details, see our article on the subject.
Below, we list the full details of every single Natural Balance recall.
List of Natural Balance Recalls
Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA alert dated May 20, 2021 (archived here). What was recalled: The following specific lot/sizes of dry cat food:
- Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Chicken Formula Dry Cat Food, 5 lb. bags, UPC #2363300233, Lot #1008080 06:42N811202:20, best by March 10, 2022
- Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Chicken Formula Dry Cat Food, 10 lb. bags, UPC #2363300235, Lot #1008080 06:42N811202:20, best by March 10, 2022
Cause: Elevated levels of choline chloride. Announcement: FDA report dated July 3, 2020 (archived here). What was recalled: Natural Balance Ultra Premium Chicken & Liver Paté Formula canned cat food, 5.5 oz. cans, UPC #2363353227, Lot Code #9217803, best by Aug. 4, 2021.
Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA reports dated May 4, 2012 (archived here) and May 5, 2012 (archived here). What was recalled: The following batches of 5 different dry dog food recipes:
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison, 5 lb., Lot Code #NBH1202, best by Dec. 12–13, 2012
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison, 5 lb., Lot Code #NBH0103, best by March 13, 2013 (date corrected by FDA)
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison, 15 lb., Lot Code #NBH0101, best by March 5–6, 2013
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison, 15 lb., Lot Code #NBH1202, best by Dec. 12–13, 2012
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison, 15 lb., Lot Code #NBH1203, best by Dec. 13–14, 2012
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison, 28 lb., Lot Code #NBH0101, best by March 5–6, 2013
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison, 28 lb., Lot Code #NBH0102, best by March 7–8, 2013
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison, 28 lb., Lot Code #NBH0103, best by March 12, 2013
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison, 28 lb., Lot Code #NBH1202, best by Dec. 12–13, 2012
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Venison, 28 lb., Lot Code #NBH1203, best by Dec. 13–14, 2012
- Natural Balance Lamb Meal & Brown Rice, 5 lb., 15 lb. and 28 lb., Lot Code #NBR1202, best by Dec. 10, 2012
- Natural Balance Lamb Meal & Brown Rice, 5 lb., 15 lb. and 28 lb., Lot Code #NBR1203, best by Dec. 21–22, 2012
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Bison, 5 lb., Lot Code #NBT1202, best by Dec. 17–18, 2012
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Bison, 5 lb., Lot Code #NBT1203, best by Dec. 28–29, 2012
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Bison, 15 lb. and 28 lb., Lot Code #NBT1201, best by Dec. 9, 2012
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Bison, 15 lb. and 28 lb., Lot Code #NBT1202, best by Dec. 17–18, 2012
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Bison, 15 lb. and 28 lb., Lot Code #NBT1203, best by Dec. 28–29, 2012
- Natural Balance Vegetarian, 5 lb., Lot Code #NBV1201, best by Dec. 9, 2012
- Natural Balance Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Large Breed Bites, 28 lb., Lot Code #NLB1202, best by Dec. 12, 2012
- Natural Balance Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Large Breed Bites, 28 lb., Lot Code #NLB1203, best by Dec. 20–21, 2012
- Natural Balance Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Dog Small Breed Bites, 5 lb. and 12.5 lb., Lot Code #NSL1201, best by Dec. 21, 2012
Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA report dated June 18, 2010 (archived here). What was recalled: The following batches of Natural Balance dry dog foods:
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Chicken Dry Dog Formula, 5 lb., UPC #7-23633-9000-4, best by June 17, 2011
- Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Chicken Dry Dog Formula, 28 lb., UPC #7-23633-99002-8, best by June 17, 2011
Cause: Potential for ofbotulinum (bacteria that causes botulism). Announcement: FDA report dated July 21, 2007 (archived here). What was recalled: The following 4 varieties of Natural Balance canned dog food, all “best by” dates:
- Natural Balance Eatables for Dogs Irish Stew With Beef, Potatoes & Carrots, 15 oz., UPC #2363359860
- Natural Balance Eatables for Dogs Chinese Take-Out With Sauce With Vegetables and Chicken, 15 oz., UPC #2363359861
- Natural Balance Eatables for Dogs HOBO Chili With Chicken & Pasta, 15 oz., UPC #2363359863
- Natural Balance Eatables for Dogs Southern Style Dumplings With Chicken & Vegetables, 15 oz., UPC #2363359862
Cause: Melamine. Announcement: American Veterinary Medical Association report dated Aug. 22, 2007 (archived here) and FDA report dated May 31, 2007 (archived here). What was recalled: The following Natural Balance foods:
- Natural Balance Ultra Premium Beef dog food, 13 oz. cans, UPC #723633001533
- Natural Balance Ultra Premium Chicken dog food, 13 oz. cans, UPC #723633001526
- Natural Balance Ultra Premium Lamb dog food, 13 oz. cans, UPC #723633001519
- Natural Balance Beef Formula dog food, 13 oz. cans
- Natural Balance Chicken Formula dog food, 13 oz. cans
- Natural Balance Lamb Formula dog food, 13 oz. cans
- Natural Balance Venison and Brown Rice dog foods, all cans and bags
- Natural Balance Venison and Brown Rice Formula Baked Dog Treats, 14 oz.
- Natural Balance Premium Ocean Fish cat food, 3 oz. and 6 oz. cans
- Natural Balance Ocean Fish Formula cat food, 3 oz. and 6 oz. cans
- Natural Balance Venison and Green Pea dry cat food, all sizes
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- Colker, David. “Dick Van Patten Dies at 86; ‘Eight Is Enough’ Star, Pet Food Firm Co-Founder.” Los Angeles Times. June 23, 2015. https://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-dick-van-patten-20150624-story.html.
- Pierce, Tralee. “The Dog Days of Dick Van Patten.” Globe and Mail. April 22, 2007.
- Gerdner, Chris. “Dick Van Patten’s Legacy Stamped With Successful Pet Food Empire.” Hollywood Reporter. June 24, 2015. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/dick-van-pattens-legacy-stamped-804661.
- “Name Droppers.” Los Angeles Times. Aug. 16, 1992. E4.
- Calvey, Mark. “Del Monte Foods Buys Natural Balance Pet Foods.” San Francisco Business Times. May 22, 2013. https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/2013/05/del-monte-foods-natural-balance-pet-food.html.
- “VMG Partners Invests In Natural Balance Pet Foods.” Mergr. https://mergr.com/vmg-partners-invests-in-natural-balance-pet-foods.
- Mackinnon, Jim. “J.M. Smucker Adds Major Pet Food Brands in ‘Transformational’ $5.8 Billion Purchase.” Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal. Feb. 4, 2015. https://www.beaconjournal.com/article/20150204/NEWS/302048782.
- “Top Pet Food Companies Current Data.” Pet Food Industry. 2020. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/directories/211-top-pet-food-companies.
- “Melamine Pet Food Recall of 2007.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Sept. 4, 2018. https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/recalls-withdrawals/melamine-pet-food-recall-2007.
- “The J.M. Smucker Company Issues Voluntary Recall of One Lot of Natural Balance Ultra Premium Chicken & Liver Paté Formula Canned Cat Food.” FDA. July 3, 2020. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/The-J.-M.-Smucker-Company-Issues-Voluntary-Recall-of-One-Lot-of-Natural-Balance%C2%AE-Ultra-Premium-Chicken-Liver-Pate%CC%81-Formula-Canned-Cat-Food-_-FDA.pdf.
- “Natural Balance Pet Foods Initiates Voluntary Recall of Certain Dry Pet Food Due to the Potential for Salmonella Contamination.” FDA. May 4, 2012. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ucm303042.pdf.
- “Diamond Pet Foods Expands Voluntary Recall of Dry Pet Food Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination (Updated and Corrected).” FDA. May 5, 2012. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/ucm303034.pdf.
- Velasco, Schuyler. “Pet Food Recall 2012 Now Includes 39 States (Updated).” Christian Science Monitor. May 14, 2012. https://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2012/0508/Pet-food-recall-2012-now-includes-39-states.
- Rothschild, Mary. “Q&A on the Diamond Pet Foods Recall and Salmonella Outbreak.” Food Safety News. May 10, 2012. https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/05/qa-on-the-diamond-pet-foods-recall-and-salmonella-outbreak/.
- “Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc. Announces a Voluntary Recall of Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Chicken Dry Dog Food Due to a Possible Health Risk.” FDA. June 18, 2010. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ucm216298.pdf.
- “Castleberry’s Expands Voluntary Recall of Hot Dog Chili Sauce and Canned Meat Products.” FDA. July 21, 2007. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ucm112242.pdf.
- “Pet Food Recall (Updated).” American Veterinary Medical Association. Aug. 22, 2007. Archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20080610134446/http://www.avma.org/aa/petfoodrecall/products.asp.
- “List of Recalls for Dog Food and Cat Food From Brand Natural Balance (Updated).” FDA. May 31, 2007. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2007-melamine-recalls-natural-balance.pdf.