UPDATE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokesperson Anne Norris tells TCR, “FDA has received at least one report about Sunshine Mills products in that timeframe, however, we are still in the process of following up to verify the report(s) and to determine whether there is a link to the recalled product(s).” In the recalls issued by Sunshine on Aug. 24 and Sept. 2, the company noted “no illnesses have been reported in association with these products to date.” That’s a statement the company may no longer be able to make.
Sunshine CEO Alan Bostick has not returned TCR’s email requests for comment, including whether the company has subsequently become aware of any complaints or reports of illnesses in association with the recalled products. A voice message left with Sunshine’s vice president for marketing Ryan Brown was also not returned.
Last week, on September 2, Alabama-based pet food company Sunshine Mills — whose products are sold at big box retailers like Walmart, grocery stores like Kroger, and discount stores like The Family Dollar–issued its second recall in less than two weeks.
Sunshine makes what it describes on its website as “value” pet food products, “marketed under various Sunshine brands as well as private label offerings. These items can be purchased at most of the major retailers across the USA….”
The reason for the September 2 recall, according to the company announcement, was excessive levels of Aflatoxin, a mold by-product, detected in “routine” sample testing. According to veterinarian Gary D. Osweiler, writing in the Merck Veterinary Manual, “aflatoxin concentrations in feed twice the tolerable levels given above [<50 in dogs (in ppb)] are associated with acute aflatoxicosis. Recently, acute and fatal aflatoxicosis with many of these signs and laboratory changes has been documented in dogs.”
Only nine days before, on August 24, Sunshine Mills recalled its Nature’s Menu Super Premium Dog Food with a Blend of Real Chicken & Quail for possible Salmonella contamination.
“No illnesses have been reported in association with these products to date,” the company recalls on September 2 and August 24 noted.
“With the firm’s Salmonella issue, things are still unfolding,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokesperson Anne Norris told The Canine Review. “Investigational integrity is critical,” she added, “so there may be some details that we can’t disclose publicly yet.”
UPDATE: On Wednesday, FDA spokesperson Anne Norris told TCR: “FDA has received at least one report about Sunshine Mills products in that timeframe, however, we are still in the process of following up to verify the report(s) and to determine whether there is a link to the recalled product(s).”
The Canine Review has filed a FOIA request with FDA for records on Sunshine Mills as far back as 2018 through September 2020. That’s because this is not the first of Sunshine’s troubles with the FDA.
In November and December 2018, more than a dozen brands of Sunshine dog foods were recalled due to potentially excessive levels of Vitamin D.
Perhaps fortunately for Sunshine, a much larger pet food recall crisis exploded on to the front pages of every major newspaper almost simultaneously and for the exact same reason. The Hill’s recalls of 2018-2019, while also due to excess Vitamin D, were unrelated to Sunshine’s Vitamin D woes. Pet food giant Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., now a unit of New York-based Colgate-Palmolive Company, whose global revenue exceeded $15 billion in 2019, constituted the largest, deadliest pet food mishap and public relations disaster since 2007. It easily overshadowed Sunshine’s recalls, including FDA’s “warning letter” to Sunshine issued several months later in June 2019, which censured the company for failing to follow its own procedures for receiving food ingredients–procedures which FDA also noted could have prevented the Vitamin D error that necessitated the recalls.
The letter also indicated that although Sunshine had pledged to take corrective actions, it had not provided documentation of its corrective actions to FDA. No additional communications between FDA and Sunshine are posted on FDA’s website. The next time Sunshine appears is on August 24, 2020, when the company announced the recall due to possible Salmonella contamination.
TCR has asked FDA to review records of communications that have occurred since June 2019 between FDA and Sunshine regarding corrective action and, more generally, if and how FDA continues to oversee Sunshine, including the implementation of corrective action(s). TCR has asked for copies of facility inspection reports, if they exist, additional warning letters, and other communications.
TCR will continue to follow up.