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5 Deadliest Pet Food Recalls in U.S. History

Here are the 5 deadliest pet food recalls in U.S. history — the public was not made aware of the problem until pets had already become sickened or had died.

Product recalls happen all the time in every industry. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that companies are sometimes going to mess up, but there are times when these mistakes are actually deadly.

Typically, when a company is made aware of a problem, it will issue a recall for affected products in the hopes of minimizing the amount of damage done. Unfortunately, in the case of these pet food recalls, the public was not made aware of the problem until pets had already become sickened or had died.

Below are 5 of the deadliest pet food recalls in U.S. history.


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1. Menu Foods

This is probably the most well-known pet food recall case of all time. At the time, Menu Foods was the largest supplier of wet cat and dog food in the United States. The company had nearly 100 pet food brand names under its corporate umbrella, ranging from supermarket brands to high-end names.

In March 2007, the company was forced to recall over 60 million containers of food across all of these brands due to dozens of animals becoming sick or dying after eating these foods.

In laboratory tests after the recall, scientists found that the foods were tainted with:

  • Aminopterin, a dangerous chemical used as rat poison
  • Melamine, which is found in fertilizers, pesticides and plastics
  • Cyanuric acid, a chemical used to stabilize chlorine levels in swimming pools

In the end, almost 4,500 pet deaths were officially linked to this recall.

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By: Tony Alter

2. Jerky Treats

Often, people will buy jerky treats as a special snack for their pet dogs. However, starting in 2007 and over the next few years, these imported jerky treats led to the deaths of over 1,000 dogs before major retailers pulled them off the shelves for good.

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The problems have been traced back to imported Chinese treats that may be tainted with chemicals that are dangerous to pets, but researchers weren’t able to definitively say what was causing the dogs to fall ill.

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Illustration of salmonella

3. Raw Foods

While putting your pet on a raw food diet may sound like a healthier, cleaner option, this comes with the disclaimer that it’s only better if the food itself isn’t contaminated.

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In 2015, there were 13 raw pet food recalls that left people scrambling and anxious about what to feed their pets.

Several of these companies issued voluntary recalls that amounted to thousands of pounds of food after finding out that their packaged raw foods may be tainted with salmonella. Salmonella can make pets dangerously ill, and infected animals can pass the sickness along to healthy animals and humans.

Recalls of raw foods continue in 2018, with a number of recalls so far this year.

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4. Bone Treats

Most people with dogs know that certain types of bone treats are splintery and dangerous, but it turns out that even the ones that are marketed as safe alternatives can harm your dog too.

Since 2016, these “safe” bone treats have caused at least 15 deaths and 90 reports of sickness.

The bones and rawhides have been known to be tainted with salmonella and mold, and in 2016, United Pet Group recalled thousands of chew treats that were contaminated with chemicals that can cause serious stomach upset for your dog.

Keep Your Pet Safe! Sign up for FREE pet food recall alerts now.

5. Pentobarbital — The Euthanasia Drug

This one is frighteningly recent.

The company J.M. Smucker has issued a voluntary recall of nearly 20 types of wet dog food, including brands like Gravy Train and Ol’ Roy, due to the presence of sodium pentobarbital, which is a euthanasia drug.

The company says the drug has been found only in trace amounts that shouldn’t hurt your dog, but I think that’s still too much of a risk. Thankfully, this deadly problem seems to have been caught quickly.

Keep Your Pet Safe! Sign up for FREE pet food recall alerts now.

Can You Keep Your Pet Safe?

You’re probably freaking out a bit after reading all of this. After all, pets are like family.

The good news is that most companies are quick to issue recall notices. This means that we just have to stay up-to-date on recent recalls and keep a watchful eye on our pets.

If you have not signed up to receive Petful’s pet food recall alerts, do yourself a favor and subscribe now.

This is a free service, and you’ll know about dog food recalls as soon as we find out about them.

Our recall alerts often arrive in your inbox days — yes, DAYS — before you’ll hear about them anywhere else. That gives you an extra advantage when it comes to a longer, healthier life for your pet. No one wants their pet eating an unsafe — and potentially deadly — dog food.

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(Learn more about our pet food recall alerts here.)

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Dave Baker, founder and publisher of Petful, is a journalist and editor who has worked at The New York Times and The Nation magazine. He was also part of the Pulitzer Prize–winning team at The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Petful is now based. A longtime advocate for pet food safety, Dave has been passionately tracking pet food recalls for the past decade. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from Clemson University in his home state of South Carolina. Dave has cared for a number of dogs, cats and other small pets over the years.

Don’t Miss: See why Dave from Petful thinks The Farmer’s Dog is the best new dog food in the U.S. for a happier, healthier dog: Here is his review. For cats and multi-pet households, Dave’s top pick is NomNomNow. See why here.

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