Consumer Watch: More mould complaints about Montego's dog food
Montego’s mouldy dog food problem hasn’t gone away, despite issuing a recall last September.
But it said it receives on average 48 mould complaints a month - and views the recent complaints about spoiled kibble as unrelated to that recall. In recent weeks, more complaints surfaced about mouldy Montego. Some pet owners said their animals had taken ill after being fed Montego, which went off within days of purchase. Some of the contaminated food had been mixed into “old” batches before pet owners realised it was off.
On Friday, @gav148 tweeted: “@TAKEALOT for the past two months we bought @Montegopets “Monty & Me”. Our bulldog and Labrador have developed allergies with the one losing excessive hair. Our vet and online forums blame the product, so how do you conduct QA tests? How do we return the 20kgs just bought.”
On Hello Peter, Deon C wrote: “In the passed (sic) few months I have received poor quality food (mouldy) from Montego on two occasions. The first time I dealt with it privately on Facebook and was resolved, I left it at that and continued to feed my dog the food. The second time, more recently I received another mouldy batch. I this time posted to their Facebook page. The reason I am posting this is not that it was not dealt with and refunded (because I will never purchase this food again) the reason I am posting here is because Montego has deleted the post of mine from their Facebook page. Now I understand that it’s their page, their business and can do as they please, but you cannot hide these things from your clients. When you start hiding this from others you lose complete trust.”
Chad M complained: “Poor quality food and mouldy - My dog has developed red hot spots on her skin. We have been buying Montego Karoo and having the same issue. Our dog has developed hot spots and scratching madly. Our new bag that we just got is full of mould. Very disappointing.”
Montego’s public notice blamed the spoilt food on a faulty moisture analysis scanner, but it’s believed the food was packaged too quickly, while hot, causing condensation in the packets which resulted in the mould.
The pellets, it said, were easily identifiable by colour (slightly grey or dusty) and smell (moist, musty odour). Not all batches were affected either: Montego said only 3% of its products were believed to have been spoilt. And concentrations of aflatoxin, the mould found in the food, were well within safety levels so dogs would not die.
However, Montego’s testing later discovered mould inside the pellets too. In high enough doses, aflatoxin attacks the liver, causing vomiting and bleeding. It can cause liver damage and eventually liver cancer. In 2011, Independent Media reported that 12 dogs have died after eating pet food pellets containing aflatoxin caused by a fungus in one of the ingredients.
The Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa said three brands of dog food - Hi-pro, Buddies and Legends - were identified as containing the fungus and that the food was sold in Gauteng by smaller operators, who might not have the correct safety checks. In 2007, at least 25 dogs died in SA after eating food containing gluten, imported from China, that had been contaminated with melamine.
Montego seemed to be confused about how it had notified the public: at first, a spokesman said it had notified its sales teams to withdraw affected batches from sale, that it had made an announcement on Netwerk 24 and on its website, Facebook and YouTube, which is an astonishing response because not everyone uses social media or reads Afrikaans news websites. Then Marlee Smith, its marketing officer, responded, saying all the affected batches had been withdrawn, to her knowledge.
“We have followed the necessary procedures to ensure that all our retailers were notified, as well as our loyal customers (social media, website, a Netwerk24 article, YouTube and retailers),” Smith said.
Notices were sent to all retailers and she said were made available to the public through in-store notices.
“Our sales force personally visited stores to make sure the store staff were informed and kept up to date. We reported the matter to SGS, an auditing and certifying body of FSSC 22000, as well as the Department of Agriculture and The Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa. The global technical team of FSSC 22000 were satisfied by the recall procedure that we followed (from communication to disposal) and the procedure has been approved and signed off as finalised by them.”
Montego viewed the recall as finalised on November 18. She said it viewed “each owner’s pet as part of their family” and always recommended owners take their pets to a vet for a check-up. Should vet reports confirm that food was the cause, Montego would cover the medical costs. She denied any such links had been made despite complaints about the food causing hot spots, new skin allergies, hair loss, lethargy and vomiting.
Smith said, over the recall period, Monrego had tested more than 2500 additional samples of various batches to confirm that no toxins were present in the affected food.
“With regards to the current product in the market, we can confirm that the moisture reader was corrected and that these products are not affected. However, while uncommon and as with any food product, there are circumstances beyond our control that can negatively impact our products. Pet food is a dry perishable product and is susceptible to environment(al) conditions during transport and storage. Mould can grow on pet food once the moisture content exceeds 13%, therefore, should a bag get in contact with excess moisture there is a likelihood that the product could be affected.”
She said mould could be caused by moisture during either transport or storage, or incorrect storage. And while the bags were sealed, the product needs to “breathe” through its stitching, which is where water can seep in. “From December 2019 until today we have sold just over 1000000 bags of pet food and received the following number of mould complaints for this period. December: 191; January: 99; February: 44. The average mould complaints received for the last five years, before the recall, is an average of 48 complaints per month.”
She didn’t respond to questions about whether packaging quality would be reconsidered.
* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected], tweet her @georginacrouth and follow her on Facebook.
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