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Nutro Pet Food

Important recall information appears below.

Nutro dog food was originally the invention of Herben Serois. But how much of today’s Nutro dog food recipe was actually his, and how much of it was the brainchild of 3 brothers who used to raise foxes? Well, that’s a tricky question.

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We’ll discuss Nutro’s somewhat confusing history below — plus, we’ll share up-to-date Nutro pet food recall information going back many years.

Nutro Quick Facts

Brand line includes: Nutro, Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet, Nutro Wholesome Essentials, Nutro Ultra, Nutro Cuts in Gravy, Nutro Hearty Stew, Nutro Premium Loaf, Nutro Perfect Portions, Nutro Paté, Nutro Mini Bites
Cost: $$$
Where to buy: Latest deals on Nutro pet food
Company: Nutro Company Inc., a subsidiary of Mars, Inc.
Headquarters: 1550 West McEwen Drive, First Floor, Franklin, TN 37067
Contact info: 1-800-833-5330, emailwebsite

Nutro History

In 1933, brothers John, Herman and Albert Saleen were raising foxes and making their own fox food. One day, inspiration struck and the 3 brothers got the brilliant idea to launch a dog food line.

The resulting dog food was distributed by Kal Kan. It was a success, and John Saleen took over the business in 1947.

Still with us? This is where things start to get a little confusing.

OK, so around the same time, a little business called Nutro Dog Food Company was also producing and selling pet food. Herben Serois operated the business in downtown Santa Monica. He had the name trademarked in 1936.

Serois stayed involved with the production of pet food until his death in 1942. And that’s where his story begins to merge with the Saleen story.

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Saleen Takes Over the Nutro Name

In 1947, a few years after Serois died, John Saleen — one of the 3 brothers — purchased the Nutro business. Then, in 1953, he acquired the Nutro trademark after it expired.

These 2 critical decisions gave Saleen’s dog food business a shot in the arm because the brothers were able to leverage the Nutro reputation as well as their own local reputation.

History does not tell us how much of today’s Nutro dog food recipe was the invention of Serois and how much was the brainchild of the Saleen brothers.

The new Nutro moved its production to El Monte, California. Stephen Saleen, John’s son, took an interest in the company after he graduated with a business degree from the University of Southern California in 1971.

Using the business tips he learned in university, Stephen developed a considered marketing strategy for Nutro dog food. He also developed the company logo, a version of which is still in use today. Perhaps most important, he redesigned the company stores to improve efficiency.

1935 vintage Nutro dog food ad
This is a vintage ad from 1935 for Nutro, when the name was used by Herben Serois, who died in 1942.

More Changes in Company Ownership

Over time, Stephen Saleen became interested in something completely different — racing — and distanced himself from Nutro.

His father, John Saleen, continued to lead the enterprise until 1975.

Finding himself without an heir apparent interested in taking over the business, he sold it. The partnership that bought Nutro consisted of several silent partners, represented by Ed Brown and Dave Traitel.

Over the next few years, Brown bought the dog food company from the other partners. He became the sole owner and remained in ownership until 2005.

Mars Inc. Acquires Nutro in 2007

Brown sold the company to Bain & Associates, who retained it for 2 years before selling to Mars Inc. in 2007. The acquisition was part of a large-scale expansion in which Mars Inc. became a world leader in pet products. (Mars also owns Iams, Eukanuba, Pedigree, Royal Canin and Sheba.)

As of 2020, Mars Petcare Inc. was the No. 1 pet food company in the world, with over $18 billion in annual revenue, according to data provided by Pet Food Industry.

Nutro pet food logo
The current logo for Nutro pet food features the “Feed Clean” tagline.

Nutro vs. Iams

In the early 2000s, Nutro started taking a hard look at one of its competitors, Iams, after Iams made a series of changes to lower its prices. Iams had reformulated certain recipes (using chicken byproduct meal instead of chicken, for example) and, most concerning, reduced the serving size of its dog food by 25%.

Nutro claimed it had commissioned several independent studies to investigate Iams’ formula changes — and that the dogs in these studies lost so much weight, and so quickly, that the studies had to be halted early.

“Iams broke ranks,” said Nutro Products President Jerry Sicherman. “The entire pet food industry has relied on scientific findings to establish their feeding instructions for years.”

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In response, Iams filed a lawsuit against Nutro, claiming it had made false and misleading statements. Nutro sued, too, claiming Iams was making false and misleading advertising claims. In March 2001, a consumer class-action lawsuit (Karen Pollack v. The Iams Company) was filed against Iams (and Eukanuba) after dogs allegedly starting losing weight.

None of this escaped the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which began looking into the matter and found reason to be worried about Iams’ formula changes.

“We are concerned that the recommended amounts listed on Iams products for adult maintenance … are insufficient for the intended use of the product represented on the label,” an FDA nutrition expert wrote in a 2001 “preliminary letter” issued to Iams, according to a 2002 report in the Washington Post.

The letter said the FDA had seen no study to date demonstrating “the appropriateness of amounts in the feeding instructions of Iams products.”

The class-action lawsuit against Iams was settled in 2003, with the Iams Company agreeing to make any formula/labeling changes required by the FDA.

“Feed Clean”

Nutro’s current slogan is “feed clean.” The brand says it is committed to using “recognizable ingredients.”

In June 2020, Nutro announced that it was discontinuing its Nutro Max line of pet foods. In its place, “we suggest feeding [dogs] our Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult Farm-Raised Chicken, Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Recipe. This recipe offers chicken as the main ingredient,” a company representative shared on Facebook.

Has Nutro Ever Been Recalled?

Yes. A market withdrawal (technically not a recall) was issued for certain packages of Nutro Apple Chewy Treats in December 2015 because of the possibility of mold contamination.

In October 2009, Nutro announced a “voluntary retrieval” of certain bags of Nutro Ultra and Nutro Natural Choice puppy food because melted plastic pieces had been found in the production run. The cause was a worker’s plastic hat. No pieces were believed to have entered the products themselves. “Only 3 SKUs reached retail stores. These were delivered to a small number of PetSmart and Petco stores,” the press release noted.

Some dry cat food products were recalled in May 2009 because of incorrect zinc and potassium levels. The mistake was blamed on “a production error by a U.S.-based premix supplier.” The products had been distributed both within the United States and to a handful of other countries.

And in March 2007, as part of the massive Menu Foods/melamine recall that shocked the country, various cans and pouches of Nutro Natural Choice, Nutro Ultra and Nutro Max 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 FDA identified Nutro 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.

2002 Pentobarbital Investigation

In 2002, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) released the results of its investigation into the presence of pentobarbital in popular dog foods. This euthanasia drug was finding its way into dog food by way of euthanized, rendered cattle and horses.

“Rendered” means some of the meat ingredients were created from the process of byproducts and other materials being cooked together and then centrifuged. Rendered ingredients can include animal digest, animal fat, beef and bone meal, beef tallow, and meat and bone meal.

A previous study (by the University of Minnesota in 1995) had already demonstrated that pentobarbital survives the rendering process virtually intact. In other words, high-temperature cooking does not destroy it.

CVM scientists analyzed nonrepresentative samples of dozens of dog foods purchased from retail stores in 1998 and 2000. Brands that ended up testing positive for the presence of pentobarbital included Nutro, Ol’ Roy, Dad’sPurina Pro Plan, Kibbles ’n Bits and Gravy Train. Yes, all of these brands were shown to contain some level of pentobarbital, a deadly drug.

According to the CVM, its researchers concluded, however, that “the low levels of exposure to pentobarbital that dogs might receive through pet food [was] unlikely to cause them any adverse health effects.” Also, the center stressed that there was “a complete absence” of dog or cat DNA in the samples — meaning that, contrary to decades-old, horrifying rumors and myths, no euthanized dogs or cats had been rendered into the pet food.

The lab results released upon completion of the CVM’s investigation in 2002 showed that, along with several other dog food brands, 2 different samples of Nutro Premium Dog Food tested positive for the presence of pentobarbital — but not in amounts thought to be harmful to dogs.

Understand that these tests results from 2002 simply reflect “a snapshot in time,” as the CVM describes it. The investigation took place many years ago, and the pet food formulations have most certainly changed since then. Therefore, “the data cannot be used to draw inferences about dog food being produced and sold in the U.S. today,” the CVM says.

You can see the full test results here, including the results for other brands like Alpo, Ol’ Roy, PedigreePurinaNature’s Recipe and Hill’s Science Diet. About half of the tested dog foods contained low levels of pentobarbital.

List of Nutro Recalls

December 2015 (Withdrawal)

Cause: Potential for mold. Announcement: PetSmart news release from Dec. 13, 2015 (archived here). What was withdrawn: 4 oz. Nutro Apple Chewy Treats, UPC #7910511344, with Lot Codes beginning with “4 50,” “5 02,” “5 03” or “5 05” (regardless of “best by” date).

October 2009

Cause: Plastic found in production line. Announcement: Company announcement from Oct. 1, 2009 (archived here). What was recalled: The following varieties and sizes of Nutro dry dog food:

  • Nutro Ultra Puppy, 4.5 lb., UPC #7910551313, best by Sept. 10, 2010
  • Nutro Ultra Puppy, 30 lb., UPC #7910551315, best by Sept. 10, 2010
  • Nutro Natural Choice Chicken Meal, Rice and Oatmeal Formula Small Bites Puppy, 5 lb., UPC #7910523050, best by Sept. 10, 2010

May 2009

Cause: Incorrect zinc and potassium levels. Announcement: FDA report dated May 21, 2009 (archived here). What was recalled: The following varieties of Nutro dry cat foods with “best by” dates between May 12, 2010 and Aug. 22, 2010:

  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Kitten, 4 lb., 8 lb., 9.2 lb. (bonus bag), 20 lb., 1.5 oz. (sample bag)
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Adult, 4 lb., 8 lb., 9.2 lb. (bonus bag), 20 lb., 1.5 oz. (sample bag)
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Adult Oceanfish, 4 lb., 8 lb., 9.2 lb. (bonus bag), 20 lb.
  • Nutro Max Cat Adult Roasted Chicken, 3 lb., 6 lb., 16 lb., 1.5 oz. (sample bag)
  • Nutro Max Cat Indoor Adult Roasted Chicken, 3 lb., 6 lb., 16 lb., 1.5 oz. (sample bag)
  • Nutro Max Cat Indoor Adult Salmon, 3 lb., 6 lb., 16 lb.
  • Nutro Max Cat Indoor Weight Control, 3 lb., 6 lb., 16 lb.

March 2007

Cause: Melamine. Announcement: Nutro website list dated May 2, 2007 (archived here); FDA reports as of May 30, 2007 (dog foods; cat foods). What was recalled: Various cans and pouches of Nutro Natural Choice, Nutro Ultra and Nutro Max dog and cat foods:

Dog foods:

  • Nutro Natural Choice Senior Lamb & Rice Recipe Chunks in Gravy, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910532809
  • Nutro Natural Choice Puppy Chicken, Rice & Oatmeal Formula, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910532795
  • Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Adult Chicken & Rice Formula Chunks in Gravy, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910532260
  • Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Adult Lamb & Rice Formula Chunks in Gravy, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910532791
  • Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Weight Management Chicken & Rice Formula Chunks in Gravy, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910532266
  • Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Senior Chicken & Rice Formula Chunks in Gravy, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910532268
  • Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy Chicken & Rice Formula Chunks in Gravy, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910532262
  • Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy Lamb & Rice Formula Chunks in Gravy, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910532793
  • Nutro Natural Choice Chicken & Brown Rice Entrée Slices in Gravy (Adult), pouches, UPC #7910532806
  • Nutro Natural Choice Midwest Beef Stew Chunks in Gravy (Adult), pouches, UPC #7910532804
  • Nutro Natural Choice Savory Lamb Stew Slices in Gravy (Adult), pouches, UPC #7910532802
  • Nutro Natural Choice Turkey & Veggie Casserole Chunks in Gravy (Adult), pouches, UPC #7910532800
  • Nutro Natural Choice Chicken & Cheese Casserole Slices in Gravy (Puppy), pouches, UPC #7910532798
  • Nutro Natural Choice Yankee Pot Roast Entrée Chunks in Gravy (Puppy), pouches, UPC #7910532796
  • Nutro Ultra Adult Chicken, Salmon & Lamb Formula, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910537310
  • Nutro Ultra Weight Management Chicken, Salmon & Lamb Formula, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910537312
  • Nutro Ultra Senior Chicken, Salmon & Lamb Formula, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910537313
  • Nutro Ultra Puppy Chicken, Salmon & Lamb Formula, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910537311
  • Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult Chicken, Salmon & Lamb Formula, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910536209
  • Nutro Ultra Large Breed Puppy Chicken, Salmon & Lamb Formula, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910536211
  • Nutro Max Large Breed Adult Beef & Rice Dinner Chunks in Gravy, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910537324
  • Nutro Max Large Breed Puppy Beef & Rice Dinner Chunks in Gravy, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #7910537326

Cat foods:

  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Kitten Tuna & Chicken, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105352048
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Kitten Beef & Chicken, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105352031
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Kitten Chicken & Lamb, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105352024
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Adult Chicken & Liver Formula Chunks in Gravy, pouches, UPC #7910531024
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Adult Oceanfish & Tuna Formula Chunks in Sauce, pouches, UPC #7910531025
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Adult Salmon & Oceanfish Formula Chunks in Sauce, pouches, UPC #7910531027
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Adult Turkey & Giblets Formula Chunks in Gravy, pouches, UPC #7910531026
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Weight Management Chicken & Liver Formula Chunks in Gravy, pouches, UPC #7910531028
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Senior Chicken & Turkey Formula Chunks in Gravy, pouches, UPC #7910531029
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Kitten Chicken & Liver Formula Chunks in Gravy, pouches, UPC #7910531023
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Kitten Oceanfish & Tuna Formula Chunks in Sauce, pouches, UPC #7910537302
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Kitten Salmon & Oceanfish Formula Chunks in Sauce, pouches, UPC #7910537304
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Indoor Adult Chicken & Giblets Formula Chunks in Gravy, pouches, UPC #7910536227
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Indoor Adult Oceanfish & Shrimp Formula Chunks in Sauce, pouches, UPC #7910536225
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Indoor Adult Whitefish & Tuna Formula Chunks in Sauce, pouches, UPC #7910536223
  • Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Indoor Adult Turkey & Liver Formula Chunks in Gravy, pouches, UPC #7910536229
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Kitten Chicken & Oceanfish, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105381017
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Chicken Cacciatore, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105352055
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Orlean’s Seafood Jambalaya, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105352062
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Beef Ragout, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105352079
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Alaskan Halibut & Rice, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105352215
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics California Chicken Supreme, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105300117
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Lamb & Turkey Cutlets, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105300148
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Salmon & Whitefish Entrée, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105300131
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Beef & Egg Skillet, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105300155
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Turkey & Chicken Liver Saute, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105300162
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Seafood & Tomato Bisque, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105300179
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Savory Hunter Stew with Duck, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105300186
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Savory Hunter Stew with Venison, 3 oz. cans, UPC #79105300193
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Adult Beef & Brown Rice Platter Chunks in Gravy, pouches, UPC #7910536259
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Entrée Slices in Gravy, pouches, UPC #7910536255
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Adult California Tuna Supreme Dinner Chunks in Sauce, pouches, UPC #7910536257
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Adult Salmon Entrée Slices in Sauce, pouches, UPC #7910536261
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Senior Whitefish & Crab Platter Chunks in Sauce, pouches, UPC #7910536265
  • Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics Kitten Chicken & Tomato Dinner Slices in Gravy, pouches, UPC #7910536263

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About Petful

This content was written by the lead research team at Petful®, led by publisher Dave Baker, a longtime advocate for pet food safety. Our team has been tracking pet food recalls for 10-plus years, and we spend countless hours combing through databases and news archives going back 40 years or more to bring you the most accurate pet food information possible. Tens of thousands of safety-conscious pet parents are subscribed to our free recall alerts, and Animal Radio has called Petful’s list of pet food recalls “the best, most complete list” online. Learn more about Petful, or explore our Pet Food Recall Center.
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