Supplier identified in Hill's pet food vitamin D-related recalls

FDA document names DSM Nutritional Products

Published: July 10, 2019
By Jennifer Fiala

This story has an important update

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DSM Nutritional Products, worldwide supplier of vitamins to companies in animal and nutrition health, is implicated in a major recall this year of Hill’s Prescription Diet and Hill’s Science Diet canned dog foods.

Two lots of premix vitamins by DSM Nutritional Products, Inc. are linked to the broad vitamin D-related recalls of Hill's Prescription Diet and Hill's Science Diet canned dog foods.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently published an enforcement report that identifies the Dutch chemicals manufacturer as maker of Canned Canine PMX — the vitamin premix used in the recalled Hill's products. It says:

"DSM Nutritional Products was notified by a customer (Hills Pet Nutrition) that they were doing a recall after a dog had become ill after consuming Hills Prescription Diet W/D canned dog food. DSM Nutritional Products supplied Hills Pet Nutrition the DSM vitamin premix: Brand name: 2217 Canned Canine PMX, Product Code: NP15268025, net weight: 25 Kg per package, package type: woven polyethylene bag. Lot numbers 9100058130 and 9100058131, produced on 8 August 2018. Out of abundance of caution DSM Nutritional Products initiated a recall of DSM vitamin premix."

Between January and March, Hill's pulled 33 varieties of canned dog food from the market due to concerns that the food contained too much vitamin D. Thousands of pet owners say they believe their dogs were sickened, some fatally, from eating Hill's diets.

Signs of vitamin D overdose in dogs range from drooling, constipation and/or vomiting, to seizing, increased urination and thirst. In high amounts, vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia, or abnormally high blood-calcium levels, leading to bone loss and kidney or bladder stones, in addition to other maladies. Untreated, the condition can cause renal failure and death.

At least 30 class action lawsuits are pending against the pet food manufacturer. Court documents show that Hill's is accused of negligence, fraud, false advertising and being slow to respond to the recall, among other allegations.

A DSM official did not keep a telephone appointment with the VIN News Service to discuss the supplier's connection to the recall. In a statement provided today to VIN News, Hill's said it is aware of the FDA document. Bottom line: Hill's will continue to use DSM vitamin mixes, as it has for 15 years. 

"It is important to note that since the supplier ingredient issue that led to the recall early this year, we've cooperated with the Food and Drug Administration and have instituted even more stringent quality standards and protocols," the Hill's statement reads. "Every vitamin premix is now tested by a certified, third-party laboratory and the results are delivered directly to Hill's for review by our quality and food safety experts. No vitamin premix is accepted for delivery without a Certificate of Analysis that confirms it has been properly formulated."

Until today, Hill's had not publicly acknowledged its relationship with DSM. In a previous interview with VIN News, Hill's blamed the mixup on "human error" by a premix vitamin maker but refused to identify the company, apart from noting that it's a "well-known" U.S. supplier. Colgate-Palmolive Co., owner of Hill's, referenced the recall in its first-quarter 2019 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The document noted that the supplier is contractually obligated to pay recall-related compensation to Hill's.

A court hearing in May to consolidate some of the class actions unveiled another hint about the supplier's identity. When a judicial panel asked a Hill's attorney for the supplier's location, she responded that it was Fort Worth, Texas.

DSM has a facility on Rondo Drive in an industrial area of Fort Worth that's home to many major manufacturers. With U.S. headquarters in New Jersey, DSM acquired the site and a vitamin division in 2002 from Swiss pharmaceuticals company Roche for €2.25 billion (US$2.53 billion).

By late June, consumers began making the Hill's-DSM connection. In a post to Hill's on Facebook, Winston Randle wrote, "Slowly the truth is coming out.

"The Vitamin D supplier to Hill's is now known," he said. "DSM, a global supplier. I sent them an email asking for ALL the truth surrounding this sad chapter for pet owners who thought they could trust Hill's Pet Nutrition. As the third largest pet food company in the world, Hill's was dishonest in their efforts to 'slow walk' their recall. At a minimum, the board of Colgate Palmolive (UK) should fire the CEO or better still just close Hill's Pet Nutrition forever."

Update: After this story was published, Hugh Welsh, president and general counsel of DSM North America, explained by phone that a seasoned DSM employee accidentally added an extra drum of vitamin D instead of a drum of vitamin E to batches of premix vitamins for Hill's canned dog foods, later recalled. Control measures have been put into effect to guard against future mixups, he said. 

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