Blue Ridge Beef Expands Recall to Over a Dozen States
Blue Ridge Beef of Eatonton, GA has expanded an earlier recall of its raw pet food products over concerns of potential Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The expanded recall now covers 17 brands of dog and cat food shipped to retail locations in 16 states.
Originally issued on December 30th, Blue Ridge Beef’s recall now applies to all pet food products made at their facility from April 1 through December 15, 2022. The affected products were distributed to retail stores and directly to consumers primarily in the Southeast U.S.
Pet Food Implicated in Listeria and Salmonella Outbreak
The expansion comes after the FDA and state agencies found some products tested positive for Salmonella and Listeria. There is an ongoing outbreak of human salmonellosis infections linked to handling contaminated raw pet food at multiple companies.
At least 120 people have reported being infected with outbreak strains of Salmonella from handling tainted pet food sold under various brand names since 2020. This resulted in 26 hospitalizations.
Additionally, samples of Blue Ridge Beef raw pet food yielded positive Listeria results. Listeria can cause serious illness (listeriosis) in both animals and humans, especially vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals.
So far no pet or human illnesses specifically connected to Blue Ridge Beef products have been reported. However the findings have triggered enhanced safety testing and catalyzed the recall expansion out of an abundance of caution.
Numerous Major Brands Affected
The recall encompasses some 1,200 lots of both cat and dog raw frozen and freeze-dried pet food products. Brands affected include Kitten Grind, Nature’s Advantage, Puppy Grind, Nature’s Advantage, President’s Choice, and many others sold in major retailers like Tractor Supply and Piggly Wiggly.
|Tractor Supply, Piggly Wiggly, other independent pet stores
A full list of recalled brands and lot codes is available on the FDA site. Retailers and distributors in AL, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, and WI received shipments of the implicated products.
Consumers are advised to check any raw frozen or freeze-dried pet food matching this criteria purchased after April 1st, 2022 to see if it is affected. Any products subject to the recall should be discarded or returned for a refund.
Health Risks of Listeria and Salmonella Infections
Pets infected with Salmonella or Listeria can display symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, decreased appetite and abdominal pain. Some pets may only be carriers showing no signs of illness themselves, while still posing an infection risk to humans.
Human infections often cause similar gastrointestinal symptoms. More dangerous forms of salmonellosis can spread from the intestines to infect other areas of the body, leading to serious conditions including arterial infections, pneumonia, and meningitis especially in at-risk groups.
Likewise Listeria infection (listeriosis) can have severe complications like septicemia, meningitis, miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth in pregnant women. The risk of severe illness is highest for seniors, infants, pregnant women and those with weak immune systems.
How Are Pet Foods Getting Contaminated?
Industry experts believe the root causes likely include risks inherent to raw food production, rather than a single point of processing failure. Raw pet foods are more likely to carry pathogens than dry or cooked products. Their production allows ample opportunities for bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria to infiltrate ingredients or processing areas and multiply.
Once present, frozen storage may slow but does not kill bacteria. Temperatures warm enough to thaw food (like during shipping) also enable pathogen growth. One overlooked risk is cross-contamination from the factory production environment into finished goods over time.
Proper equipment sanitization, worker hygiene, ingredient testing, in-process sampling, and cold chain management during production and distribution are all critical to mitigating contamination. But with a growing profusion of small raw pet food startups flooding the market faster than safety oversight and staff training can often keep pace, quality control failures slip through.
History of Recalls in Raw Pet Food Niche
The Blue Ridge Beef recall comes on the heels of numerous other raw pet food safety incidents over the past three years. From January 2021 to now, over 20 brands have issued recalls tied to the detection of pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria, Clostridium botulinum, and Escherichia coli in their products.
The majority have involved smaller independent companies focused on this trending category catering to pet owner demands for alternative diets perceived as more natural and healthier. But larger players like Nestlé Purina, Freshpet and Darwin’s Natural Pet Products have also initiated recalls after discovering contamination.
Underscoring the risks, the FDA has escalated educational efforts and compliance actions aimed at raw pet food manufacturers to address safety shortfalls in their operations and protect public health. The industry continues working to institute higher safety benchmarks as well.
In July 2022 the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) proposed tighter standards andprocesses specifically for manufacturers of raw frozen and fresh pet foods, defining minimum requirements to control pathogens. These have not yet been formalized but signal tighter oversight ahead for the category.
What Comes Next?
As the Blue Ridge Beef case expands, expect heightened scrutiny from the FDA and state regulators on raw pet food safety practices. More testing and potential regulatory actions against companies found lacking may transpire.
There is also likelihood of consumer legal action. Blue Ridge Beef already faces a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of customers claiming injury from purchasing the implicated products. Other brands involved in recent recalls have faced similar litigation. Outcomes often hinge on demonstrating sickness or economic damage.
Consumers feeling ill after exposure to recalled pet foods should consult their physician. Suspected infections may warrant testing to identify the pathogen, which can aid public health monitoring.
Pet owners should remain vigilant of future recall alerts and check any on-hand inventory of raw food against updated lists. Reports of more brands issuing recalls are quite possible if product sampling and safety oversight continues intensifying across the wider niche.
Are Raw Pet Foods Inherently Unsafe?
While this string of recalls casts raw pet foods in a negative light, many companies still have excellent safety records and stringent protocols in place. And some veterinary experts continue backing raw diets for certain health benefits.
But minimizing life-threatening contamination risks requires a strong culture of safety. Marked by extensive employee training, aggressive pathogen testing, auditing of ingredient suppliers, careful cold chain and stock rotation practices, equipment sanitizing regimes, and environmental monitoring in facilities.
Careful small batch preparation, like freezing immediately after processing, helps minimize the impact should an issue arise. As doesvertical integration, where companies control ingredients and production from farm sources through finished goods.
Still, raw pet foods pose inherent risks requiring extra diligence to produce safely on a large commercial scale. Contamination can still slip in despite the best laid plans. Wise precautions for consumers include:
- Purchasing only from brands with long-standing reputations for quality and safety
- Avoiding bulk freezer section raw meat diets not designed for pet consumption
- Handling all raw pet food carefully, away from other foods, sanitizing preparation areas thoroughly afterwards
- Not allowing human food utensils to contact raw pet food
- Storing promptly after opening and adhering to use-by dates
- Washing hands thoroughly with soap after handling raw pet food or pet waste
Staying informed on new developments with pet food recalls and enforcement actions better equips consumers to make educated choices balancing their pet’s nutritional needs and health with food safety risks. We will continue monitoring this situation for any notable impacts on public health or the raw pet food industry.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.