Darwin's Natural Pet Food questioned regulators' findings, telling customers there aren't any safety issues to worry about.
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cat eating from bowl; is raw cat food Salmonella-tainted?
Credit: Valeri Luzina / Adobe Stock

Federal regulators are urging cat owners to avoid feeding their pets select kinds of Darwin's Natural Pet Food, saying the two lots of raw food are linked to positive salmonella tests. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended a voluntary recall of the food, but Darwin's declined. In a statement, the company said its food is safe and the FDA requesting that Darwin's warn its customers was "wholly unnecessary." 

On Friday, the FDA announced samples of Darwin's Natural Selections Antibiotic & Grain Free Chicken Recipe for Cats and Natural Selections Antibiotic & Grain Free Turkey Recipe for Cats had tested positive for salmonella, representing "a serious threat to human and animal health." 

The FDA advised cat owners in possession of the food to throw it away and disinfect any surfaces or containers—or hands—the food has touched. The warning only addresses two lots of food, and you can see if yours is affected by checking the information on the packaging. 

Darwin's Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Antibiotic & Grain Free Chicken Recipe for Cats

  • Lot: 9116
  • Manufactured on May 2, 2022

Darwin's Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Antibiotic & Grain Free Turkey Recipe for Cats

  • Lot: 9121
  • Manufactured on May 4, 2022

According to the FDA, three kittens in the same house—more on that below—ate the food and developed diarrhea. Investigators tested the food and genome sequencing revealed salmonella bacteria in both kinds of food. 

Salmonella poisoning can make both us and our cats sick. Our feline friends can experience vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and loss of appetite. If your cat has consumed any of the potentially tainted food, it's a good idea to call your veterinarian. 

Darwin's: 'There Are No Pet Health Risks To Address'

In its response to the FDA, Darwin's Natural Pet Products contended that its food is safe and argued that salmonella poisoning wasn't the reason the kittens became ill. 

The company wrote that the three kittens ate the raw food out of an adult cat's food bowl. Darwin's warns customers not to feed their kittens raw food because it can upset their newly functioning digestive symptoms.  

"The kittens did not experience any other health issues and did not require further veterinary care," the company wrote. "The adult cat never developed any adverse effects."

Darwin's then took issue with the FDA's testing, saying regulators only found "trace" amounts of salmonella. Additional independent testing found no salmonella. That suggested to Darwin's that the amount of salmonella in the chicken and turkey foods was so low "that it would not pose a risk to pets."

The company said it has received no additional complaints from customers about the food in question—probably because it's already been consumed. Darwin's sells its food online directly to customers. 

"Overall, there is no action needed by our customers and the Darwin's community other than to remember that all raw food requires safe handling practices," the company wrote. 

Should I Feed My Pet Raw Food? 

Ask your veterinarian. They know you and your pet better than some guy on the internet. 

Raw food proponents say the uncooked morsels—many times organ and muscle meat—resemble what cats' and dogs' wild ancestors ate. They argue it's "real food," free of preservatives, synthetic additives, and antibiotics. Some customers will anecdotally report pets showing more energy, healthier coats, and eased allergies after consuming the food.

However, plenty of people urge pet owners to reconsider feeding their animals raw food, including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association. They warn that raw food can transmit harmful parasites and cause illnesses like liver or kidney disease.

Again, if you're considering raw food for your pet, talk with your vet about it.