Is it possible that everyone at Evangers Pet Food company has lost their freaking minds?
Hot on the heels of Evangers being accused of stealing 2 million dollars worth of electricity and natural gas comes new accusations – that they are intentionally mislabeling some of their premium canned dog foods.
The first story was shocking enough – Evangers Pet Food owners Joel and Holly Shere were charged after they were caught systematically ripping off Con Ed and Nicor for over two million dollars worth of utilities.
From Chicago News Center:
Prosecutors charged a Lincolnwood couple today with illegally diverting nearly $2 million in utilities to their dog and cat food company through an elaborate scheme where workers performed highly dangerous maneuvers.
An employee was given a pair of rubber gloves and told to go up in a forklift to disconnect an illegal bypass attached to a high-voltage line shortly before ComEd inspectors arrived.
Another time, prosecutors say, the worker was ordered to use a jackhammer to tear up concrete and asphalt so gas could be diverted to the plant in Wheeling. The smell of gas fumes wasn’t unusual at Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co.
“The brazen nature of these thefts is exceeded only by the dangerous conditions that these individuals were willing to expose their employees to,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
Joel Sher, 54, and his wife, Holly, 52, were arrested Tuesday. Each was charged with felony theft and money laundering in the scheme, which allegedly had gone on for several years. The company and couple once were featured on the Rachael Ray food show.
Investigators seized $2.3 million from a Chicago bank account belonging to the Shers, as part of an ongoing money-laundering investigation related to the alleged diversion of gas and electricity, according to the state’s attorney’s office.
At the time it happened, loyal Evangers customers defended the company’s products on several mailing lists and discussion boards. They claimed that, while the actions of Evangers owners Joel and Holly Sher might have been criminal, the made a quality pet food and had never skimped on ingredients or product integrity. Personally, I believed the adage “once a con artist, always a con artist” – and it turns out, I might well be right, as the contents of a May 5th letter sent to Evangers by the Food and Drug Administration illustrates:
From December 2, 2010 through February 10, 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted an inspection of your low-acid canned food manufacturing facility located at 221 Wheeling Road, Wheeling, Illinois. In addition, on August 19, 2010, FDA received samples of (b)(4) Lamb and Rice Dog Food from the distributor, (b)(4). This letter notifies you of the violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act) that we found during our inspection and from the samples we received from the distributor. You can find the FD&C Act and its associated regulations on the Internet through links on FDA’s web page at www.fda.gov1.
We found that you offered for sale (b)(4) Lamb and Rice Dog Food which was adulterated. Under Section 402(b)(2) of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. § 342(b)(2), a food is deemed to be adulterated if any substance has been substituted wholly or in part therefore. Our analytical sample results of this product revealed that a substance (lamb) was not detected in the product and another ingredient (bovine material) detected in the product was substituted therefore. Furthermore, this product was misbranded. Under Section 403(b) of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. § 343(b), a food is deemed to be misbranded if it is offered for sale under the name of another food. This product was offered for sale under the name of “(b)(4) Lamb and Rice Dog Food.” However, the analytical sample results did not detect the presence of lamb, but detected the presence of bovine material.
On December 14, 2010, FDA collected samples of your Evanger’s Grain-free Duck Pet Food during the inspection of your facility. We found that the Evanger’s Grain-free Duck Pet Food product was adulterated. Under Section 402(b)(1) of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. § 342(b)(1), a food is deemed to be adulterated if any valuable constituent has been in whole or in part omitted or abstracted therefrom. Our investigation revealed that a valuable constituent (duck) was not detected in the product and had been omitted or abstracted therefrom. Furthermore, this product was misbranded. Under Section 403(a)(1) of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. § 343(a)(1), a food is deemed to be misbranded if its labeling is false or misleading in any particular. The labeling indicates that Evanger’s Grain-free Duck Pet Food contains duck, but the analytical sample results did not detect the presence of duck in the product.
So, to sum up: Evangers Lamb and Rice Dog Food didn’t actually have any detectable amounts of lamb in it – but it did have beef. Their Duck Pet Food didn’t actually have any duck in it. We’re not sure what was in there, because the FDA never specified. This is possibly even more worrisome than the absence of Duck, because I sat here for ten minutes pondering all of the possible things that could have been in a can of Duck, if there wasn’t any duck in the can.
Ethics in pet food matters.
Many pet owners turn to alternative proteins because their dogs suffer from serious, debilitating illnesses. I have a pancreatitis prone dog who can no more eat chicken than she could eat a ten pound bar of Dark Chocolate. I have to trust that the company I choose to buy her food from isn’t lying to me about the ingredients they’re using, or it’s my dog’s health on the line. Ultimately, even if I simply chose to buy Duck or Lamb food on a whim, I still deserve to get what I paid for. Don’t sell me a can of cut rate beef, and charge me for premium lamb or duck.
As I said, a lot of customers were willing to defend Evangers when they were ripping off the ‘evil’ utility companies. I wonder if they’ll be so loyal now that they’re the ones who were getting ripped off?
Evangers has a statement addressing the FDA letter on their website:
Recently the FDA notified Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Company that out of 300 different types of products, two production runs consisting of a total of four pallets of finished product manufactured in 2010, may have been misbranded by the FDA’s definition.
Apparently, the FDA’s definition of a food labeled as containing Lamb needing to actually contain real lamb is just a persnickety, nitpicking little detail.
We, at Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Company Inc., would like to assure our valued customers, distributors, and constituents that there is ABSOLUTELY NO HEALTH OR SAFETY ISSUE associated with this inquiry.
All of Evanger’s manufactured products, as always, remain safe, nutritious, and of the highest quality.
Well, unless of course you consider ‘highest quality’ to be pretty much defined by the food actually containing the ingredients the label says it has in it.