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Latest Salmonella Scare Permanently Closes Mars Petcare Factory in PA

Oct 3, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Mars Petcare, the company that has recalled salmonella-tainted pet food twice since 2007, is shutting down the Pennsylvania factory that was responsible for the contamination.  According to a notice dated Sept. 18 that Mars Petcare sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, some of the Everson, PA plant's 53 workers will lose their jobs as early as Nov. 12. All employees will be out by Dec. 19.

Salmonella in pet food can cause serious infections in dogs and cats. But it can also cause illness in people if they come in contact with tainted food, or sick animals.  Pet food manufactured at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Mars Petcare factory sickened 66 people nationwide in 2006 and 2007. About 40 percent of those infections involved infants, according to a report published in the May 16 issue of the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Of the 38 people for whom clinical information was available, 15 (39 percent) had bloody diarrhea. For the 45 persons whose hospitalization status was known, 11 (24 percent) had to be hospitalized. No deaths were reported, according to the report.  While 25 cases of Salmonella poisoning were reported in Pennsylvania, the pet food also made people sick in Alabama, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Carolina and Virginia.  

That outbreak prompted the company to recall its Red Flannel Large Breed Adult Formula and Krasdale Gravy Dry Dog Food in August 2007.  After that recall, Mars Petcare closed the Pennsylvania plant for cleaning and inspection.

Then, just last month, Mars Petcare recalled more food made at the plant, again over Salmonella worries.  Brand names of affected products include some items under the names of Country Acres, Retriever, Doggy Bag, Members Mark, Natural, Ol’ Roy, Special Kitty, Paws & Claws, Pedigree, Wegman’s, Pet Pride, PMI Nutrition, and Red Flannel.  Two people had become ill with the same strain of Salmonella (Schwarzengrund) found at the plant, but no direct link was found between the recalled pet food and the illnesses.

As a result of the contamination problems, production at the Everson plant was again halted on July 29.  But unlike the first recall, Mars Petcare has now decided to shutter the factory for good.

"Since we have not yet identified the source of the salmonella Schwarzengrund at the Everson facility, we do not plan to resume production out of a commitment to the safety of our pet owners and their pets, customers and associates," Debra Fair, public relations manager for Mars Petcare US, said in a statement.

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