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FDA Investigates Contaminated Pig Ear Pet Treats Connected to Human Salmonella Infections

Originally posted July 3, 2019

On this page: 

Fast Facts
What is the problem?
What products were involved?
What do consumers need to do?
What do retailers, manufacturers, and distributors need to do?
What is Salmonella and what are the symptoms of Salmonella infection?
Why is the FDA concerned about Salmonella in pet food and treats?
What should I do if I think I have salmonellosis?
What should I do if I think my pet has salmonellosis?
How can I report a human or animal illness related to pet food?
Additional information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration coordinated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state agencies to investigate human cases of salmonellosis related to several Salmonella serotypes linked to exposure to pig ear pet treats from Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. FDA continues to carry out a public health investigation into the issue of pig ears contaminated with Salmonella.
October 30, 2019 Update:
According to the CDC, this outbreak appears to be over, as the rate of new human illnesses reports has slowed and returned to baseline levels. FDA continues to investigate and work with state partners to monitor the marketplace. FDA advises retailers who wish to introduce pig ear pet treats into the market to take appropriate steps to ensure that their suppliers are controlling for pathogens, and that products are not cross-contaminated after processing. FDA urges firms to remain vigilant about taking measures to control pathogens such as Salmonella, and to conduct regular assessments, including testing, to ensure the effectiveness of their processing and the safety of their products. Consumers who choose to feed pig ears should take caution to practice safe pet food handling.

Fast Facts

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State partners, investigated a link between pig ear pet treats and human cases of salmonellosis.
  • As of October 30, 2019, CDC reports that this outbreak appears to be over, as the rate of new human illness reports has slowed and returned to baseline levels. During the outbreak, there were 154 cases of human infection tied to exposure to pig ear pet treats with Salmonella enterica serotypes I 4,[5],12:i:-, Cerro, Derby, Infantis, London, Newport, and Rissen in 34 states. CDC reported that many of these cases were multidrug-resistant. Thirty-five people were hospitalized. Ill people ranged in age from less than one year to 90 years. Twenty-seven illnesses were among children younger than 5 years.
  • The FDA has traced back some of the pig ear treats associated with cases of illness to sources in Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. Three U.S. firms associated with cases in the outbreak have recalled. Some of these treats have tested positive for Salmonella.
  • Based on the slowed rate of human illness reports, the FDA and CDC are no longer recommending that people avoid purchasing or feeding pig ear pet treats entirely. If you choose to feed pig ear pet treats, you should exercise caution and practice good hygiene to prevent human exposure by: monitoring your pet while they have the treat, picking up the treat when they are done with it, keeping treats away from small children, cleaning the areas the treat contacted, washing hands, and not allowing your pet to lick you, your family members, or surfaces in your home.
  • Retailers who wish to introduce pig ear pet treats into the market should take appropriate steps to ensure that their suppliers are controlling for pathogens, and that products are not cross-contaminated after processing. FDA urges firms to remain vigilant about taking measures to control pathogens such as Salmonella, and to conduct regular assessments, including testing, to ensure the effectiveness of their processing and the safety of their products.
  • FDA will continue to work with impacted firms to remove any contaminated pig ear pet treats from the marketplace and identify places where they may have been distributed.
  • Salmonella can affect both human and animal health. People with symptoms of Salmonella infection should consult their healthcare providers. Consult a veterinarian if your pet has symptoms of Salmonella infection.
  • Although the outbreak appears to be over, FDA will continue to monitor the marketplace as product is introduced and will provide the public with any new information as it becomes available.

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What is the problem?

FDA has coordinated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state agencies to investigate 154 human cases of Salmonella serotypes I 4,[5],12:i:-, Cerro, Derby, Infantis, London, Newport, and Rissen across multiple states. Testing found that some of the strains of Salmonella were antibiotic resistant. Many of these cases reported exposure to pig ear pet treats. FDA traceback of some of the treats indicated that they came from sources in Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia.

Testing conducted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) revealed that samples of pig ear pet treats collected from Pet Supplies Plus were positive for Salmonella London, Salmonella Typhimurium, Salmonella Newport, and Salmonella Infantis. On July 3, 2019, Pet Supplies Plus notified the public about a recall of all bulk pig ear products supplied to all its retail locations by several different vendors, including Lennox Intl Inc.

Further traceback by FDA found that many of the people who became ill had encountered pig ear pet treats that were distributed by Lennox Intl Inc. Lennox reported that it sourced these pig ears from Argentina and Brazil. FDA worked with Lennox and other firms to identify the source of the pig ear treats and where they were distributed.

On July 26, 2019, Lennox notified the public about a recall. On July 30, 2019, the firm expanded that recall and issued an additional public notification.

On August 16, 2019, Dog Goods USA LLC announced a recall of non-irradiated bulk and packaged Chef Toby Pig Ears after a product sample from their Brazilian supplier tested positive for Salmonella. On September 3, 2019, the firm announced an expanded recall to include all 30-packs of Berkley & Jensen brand pig ears sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club stores.

In the course of investigating the outbreak, products from two firms were discovered to be contaminated with Salmonella; however, the strains were not linked to the outbreak.

  • On August 27, 2019, Brutus & Barnaby recalled all varieties of their Pig Ear Natural Treats for Dogs. This product was sourced from Colombia.
  • On September 23, 2019, TDBBS, LLC announced a recall of certain lots of 8-Packs and 20-Packs of USA Thick Pig Ear pet treat products sold through Amazon.com. This product was sourced within the United States. Labeling and records obtained by FDA indicated that the product was irradiated.

On October 11, 2019, Hollywood Feed announced on their website a recall of Made in South America Brand bulk pig ear pet treats sold in their retail stores after the firm identified positive samples during a self-initiated audit to identify potential hazards involved with bulk product displays. Hollywood Feed has named Dog Goods USA as its supplier, but to date, FDA does not have sufficient data about the firm’s third-party test results to determine whether or not the Salmonella was connected to the current outbreak or linked to any human illnesses. The recalled Hollywood Feed pig ear pet treats were sourced from South America.

Human Salmonella infections have been linked to pig ears imported from Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. However, these pig ears did not account for all of the illnesses in this outbreak. Pig ears in bulk bins (not packaged or wrapped) may have been comingled from multiple sources which did not allow the products to be distinguished. In addition, effective product irradiation may not have occurred for bulk products and for packaged or individually wrapped products.

In addition to the existing Import Alert 72-03 (“Detention Without Physical Examination and Intensified Coverage of Pig Ears And Other Pet Treats Due To The Presence of Salmonella”) on pig ear pet treats, FDA has increased its scrutiny of pig ears imported into the United States through sampling and examination.

On August 22, 2019, the FDA updated Import Alert 72-03 to include three firms that presented pig ears for import that then tested positive for Salmonella: Custom Pet S.A.S. (Colombia), Suarko, SRL (Argentina) and Anabe Industria e Comercio de Proteinas (Brazil). On November 1, the FDA added Vitapet Comercial, Industrial e Exportadora Ltda (Brazil). This Import Alert will remain in place.

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What products were involved?

  • On July 3, 2019, Pet Supplies Plus announced a recall of all bulk pig ears from its stores in AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI and WV.
  • On July 26, 2019, Lennox Intl Inc. announced a recall for some of its pig ear pet treat products. On July 30, 2019, the firm announced an expanded recall.
  • On August 16, 2019, Dog Goods USA LLC announced a recall of non-irradiated bulk and packaged Chef Toby Pig Ears. Product lot codes for the recalled products are 428590, 278989, 087148, 224208, 1168723, 428590, 222999, 074599, 1124053, 226884, 578867, 224897, 1234750, 444525, 1106709, 215812, 230273, 224970, 585246, 327901, 052248, 210393, 217664, 331199, 225399, 867680, 050273, 881224, 424223, 225979, 431724, 226340, 880207, and 334498.  On September 3, 2019, the firm announced an expanded recall  to include all 30-packs of Berkley & Jensen brand pig ears sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club stores.
  • The following products tested positive for Salmonella but were not involved in the outbreak.   
    • On August 27, 2019, Brutus & Barnaby recalled all varieties of their Pig Ear Natural Treats for Dogs.    
    • On September 23, 2019, TDBBS announced a recall of USA Thick Pig Ear 8 Pack (lot codes 1129T1 and 1549T1) and USA Thick Pig Ear 20 Packs (lot codes 1129T1, 1339T1, and 2179T1) sold through Amazon.com.
  • On October 11, 2019, Hollywood Feed announced on their website a recall of Made in South America Brand bulk pig ear pet treats sold in their retail stores located in AL, AR, FL, GA, IN, KY, LA, MS, NC, OH, OK, SC, TN, and TX. These products were sourced from Dog Goods USA and sold between January 2019 and October 2019.
  • The FDA has placed importers for recalled pig ears originating from outside the U.S. on Import Alert 72-03, preventing them from further importation of pig ears into the U.S. until they meet certain criteria to demonstrate they are free of Salmonella

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What do consumers need to do?

As of October 30, 2019, the FDA and CDC is modifying their recommendation that people avoid purchasing or feeding pig ear pet treats entirely. This change in advice is based on the slowed rate of human illness reports. If you choose to feed pig ear pet treats, you should exercise caution and practice good hygiene by: monitoring your pet while they have the treat, picking up the treat when they are done with it, keeping treats away from small children, cleaning the areas the treat contacted, washing hands, and not allowing your pet to lick you, your family members, or surfaces in your home.

What do retailers, manufacturers, and distributors need to do?

FDA reminds pig ear pet treat retailers, manufacturers, and distributors of their responsibility to ensure that they are sourcing, producing, distributing, and selling a safe product. For more specific information, please see Pig Ear Pet Treats: Q&As for Retailers, Distributors, Importers, Suppliers, Manufacturers

Retailers who wish to introduce pig ear pet treats into the market should take appropriate steps to ensure that their suppliers are controlling for pathogens, and that products are not cross-contaminated after processing. Products that have been in storage during the investigation should be subject to further processing to kill any potential pathogens. FDA urges firms to remain vigilant about taking measures to control pathogens such as Salmonella, and to conduct regular testing to ensure the effectiveness of their processing and the safety of their products.

FDA remains concerned about the hygiene risks posed by the pig ear pet treats stored and sold in bulk. Retailers, distributors and other operators who offer bulk pig ears for sale should regularly wash and sanitize bulk bins, other storage containers, and any surfaces (e.g., counters, displays, floors) that have come into contact with potentially contaminated products. In addition, you should advise employees and customers to wash their hands after handling pet treats and food. If you are in possession of bulk product imported by any of the firms on the Import Alert before January 2019, these products should undergo further processing to kill potential pathogens before they are offered for sale. Alternatively, you may carefully dispose of the pig ear pet treats in a secure container where animals, including wildlife, cannot access it.

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What is Salmonella and what are the symptoms of Salmonella infection?

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause illness and death in humans and animals, especially those who are very young, very old, or have weak immune systems. According to the CDC, people infected with Salmonella can develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Most people recover without treatment, but in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. Consult your health care provider if you have symptoms of Salmonella infection.

Pets do not always display symptoms when infected with Salmonella, but signs can include vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, loss of appetite and/or decreased activity level. If your pet has these symptoms, consult a veterinarian promptly. You should also be aware that infected pets can shed the bacteria in their feces and saliva without showing signs of being sick.

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Why is the FDA concerned about Salmonella in pet food and treats?

Pet food and treats contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella are of particular public health importance because they can affect both human and animal health. Pets can get sick from Salmonella and may also be carriers of the bacteria and pass it onto their human companions without appearing to be ill. The FDA is aware of cases in which humans and/or animals have gotten sick from exposure to contaminated pet foods and treats (Salmonella-human cases, Salmonella-kitten, Salmonella-kitten, dog).

Once Salmonella gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria, and the contamination will continue to spread. Because animals can shed the bacteria, it’s particularly important to clean up the animal’s feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed. Pets should also be discouraged from licking you or other family members particularly in the face and it is also important to clean items in the home that may have come into contact with contaminated pig ears or pet food.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) requires that all animal foods (including treats), like human foods, be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled. Pet food and treat manufacturers must effectively manage sourcing of ingredients, processing and packing to control pathogens. Pet owners who choose to feed pig ear treats to their pets should be aware of the risks associated with these products.

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What should I do if I think I have salmonellosis?

If you think you have symptoms of Salmonella infection, consult your health care provider. 

What should I do if I think my pet has salmonellosis?

People who think their pets have become ill after consuming contaminated pet food should first contact their veterinarians. Veterinarians who wish to have pets tested for Salmonella may do so through the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN Network) if the pet is from a household with a person infected with Salmonella.

How can I report a human or animal illness related to pet food?

FDA encourages consumers to report complaints about pet food products electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal. This information helps FDA further protect human and animal health.

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The information in this release reflects the FDA’s best efforts to communicate what it has learned from the manufacturer and the state and local public health agencies involved in the investigation. The agency will update this page as more information becomes available. 

Additional Information

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