Catmanager received a letter from Hill’s (makers of Science Diet) today informing me (actually the letter wasn’t addressed to me but to “Our Valued Retail and Professional Partners”; yeah, right) about the pet food recall. Is late really better than never? This just seems insulting.

Now, to be fair, I should point out that the letter implies I would have heard earlier from Hill’s had my practice been in possession of any of the recalled products:

If you have not received notification from Hill’s, then the Savory Cuts you currently have in your possession are outside the scope of this voluntary recall.

Catmanager hopes veterinary practices that were in possession of affected Savory Cuts at least heard from Hill’s prior to last Wednesday, which is when the letter I received was dated.

Also to be fair, I should acknowledge that the Science Diet recall was precautionary. Hill’s did the right thing by withdrawing food that was manufactured at the same plant as the rest of the recalled foods even though neither they nor Menu had received reports of illnesses in cats eating Savory Cuts. What remains unclear is whether Hill’s supplied their own ingredients to Menu Foods or relied on that company to procure ingredients. On VIN/VSPN one person has reported a conversation with a Hill’s rep in which the rep said that Hill’s supplied its own ingredients. Catmanager hasn’t seen that claim verified, however. In fact, several posts on VIN/VSPN by a Hill’s official seem to carefully avoid the issue. Catmanager suspects that if Hill’s were supplying its own ingredients it would be taking great pains to advertise that fact.

So why do I feel it’s insulting to receive a letter from Hill’s nine days after the recall was announced? (Aside from the fact that it’s nine days after the recall was announced.) The letter concludes by noting that we might be asked by consumers about the safety of the Savory Cuts products. Why couldn’t Hill’s acknowledge that many consumers are greatly concerned about with this question? That, in fact, the question is actually more along the lines of “Are any Science Diet products safe to feed my pets?” Then the letter asks us to believe

that those products that remain in the marketplace have been manufactured with the hightest quality ingredients and production protocols to “help enrich and lengthen the special relationship between people and their pets.”

I really want to believe this statement. And I have NO evidence to the contrary. But given what I’ve learned about Hill’s in the past week, I’d like more than bland assurances.

Specific questions I’d like answered:

  • Why didn’t Hill’s notify us sooner?
  • Even if Hill’s knew my clinic didn’t have any affected products, what about my clients? How were we supposed to notify them?
  • Why was the Hill’s notification letter signed by the vice president of sales? (A letter from their head veterinarian, vice president of quality control, or the president of the company would have carried more weight. A letter from sales just implies that their primary concern is $.)
  • When did Hill’s know about the recall?
  • What is the basis for Hill’s claim that their nonrecalled Savory Cuts products are safe?
  • Does Hill’s supply their own ingredients to Menu Foods or rely on Menu Foods to supply them? If the latter, how does Hill’s ensure quality control? (Are they inside Menu’s factories? Do they supervise the cleaning of equipment prior to manufacture of Hill’s products? Do they test and monitor the raw ingredients?)
  • How can we believe that their foods are made with the highest quality ingredients? (Just because they say so isn’t going to cut it.)
  • Why were we told that Hill’s doesn’t farm out their production?
  • Why is Hill’s making diets that place marketing concerns (cuts and gravy foods are apparently highly popular with customers) before the health of cats and dogs (again, why is wheat, a well-known allergen, in these and other foods made by Hill’s)?