Q&A response to University of Edinburgh Press Release entitled: ‘Cat TB cases may be linked to raw pet food diet, study suggests’
We are aware of the recent news and media coverage regarding the circumstantial link between our Wild Venison Cat Food and TB. We have collated a wealth of information regarding this issue for all concerned pet owners. We want to make our customers aware that we are continuing to work with the Food Standards Agency and all necessary organisations, not only as part of the investigation into the Wild Venison Cat Food product, but to ensure that the highest standards continue to be met across the industry.
When did you stop selling venison cat food?
- Since the launch of the Venison Cat Food product, its production and therefore availability within the Natural Cat food range has been seasonal. This is because supply of ingredients used in the manufacture of the Will Venison Cat Food is seasonal, coinciding with the deer hunting seasons. Open season (the time when you can legally hunt deer depends on the species of deer being hunted (red vs. fallow vs. sika vs. roe etc), their gender (stag vs. doe) and location in the UK (England & Wales vs. Scotland vs. Northern Ireland).
- Given the seasonality and variability in the species consumers accept that there can be differences between aesthetics and aroma of the Wild Venison Cat Food when available.
- The last manufacturing run of Wild Venison Cat Food was on the 16th November 2018
- Our Wild Venison Cat Food was recalled by Natural Instinct in early December 2018 on being informed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that our suppliers of the wild venison offal had not had the offal inspected in line with EU requirements; no other reason was given by the FSA at that time. Nonetheless, we have not manufactured Wild Venison Cat Food since.
- Why is it just the venison which is linked with TB?
- A wide range of animals, wild and domesticated, can be infected with Mycobacterium bovis (M.bovis), the bacterium usually responsible for causing Tuberculosis (TB) in cattle. Whilst cattle are the natural host of M. bovis many other mammals may also become infected, including badgers, deer, voles, shrews and mice. The strains of M. bovis identified in overspill animals such as deer and rodents are usually the same as those found in cattle and badgers in the same area.
- A known risk factor for mycobacterial infection in cats is hunting rodents, the infection being transmitted through infected bites, scratches and wounds. However, the cats presented in this study exhibited different symptoms than those typically documented from hunting cats. Rather than skin lesions around the face, extremities and tail base (indicative of biting and scratching), the cats presented with unusual abdominal and systemic features, more suggestive of ingestion of the mycobacterium.
- This led the authors to suspect diet and to then ask the owners about dietary habits. It is from that investigation, the authors have suggested that there may be a link with Natural Instinct’s Wild Venison Cat Food. It should be emphasised that at this point however, the evidence linking TB and diet is circumstantial only.
How much venison cat food did you sell?
- The cat food range (all products) is the smallest of the ranges within the Natural Instinct frozen raw food portfolio, and accounts for 4-5% of total sales of all pet food by volume. The Wild Venison Cat Food was launched in 2012. The Wild Venison Cat Food product produced in 2017 was approximately 1.1% of the total raw food produced that year. In 2018, it was 0.6% of the total raw food produced that year.
- The Wild Venison Cat Food product is no longer produced and / or sold by Natural Instinct.
Please list all your varieties of raw food available – for both cats and dogs
- Natural Instinct offer several different ranges of frozen raw pet foods for cats and dogs. For dogs there are the Natural and Working Dog Ranges; for cats there are the Natural and Country Banquet Ranges. For those wanting to create their own meals for their pets, there is also the Pure Range, 100% of the named ingredient.
- Each range has a selection of different flavours and combinations.
- Products are available in different tray sizes, to allow the owner to defrost just the right amount of food for each mealtime.
*Please note, production of the Wild Venison Cat Food has been discontinued and is no longer available
How long have you been selling commercial raw pet food?
- Natural Instinct Limited was first incorporated as a Company in England & Wales in May 2009 (Company No. 06901981) and has been manufacturing and selling raw pet food commercially for almost 10 years.
Where did Natural Instinct source it’s wild venison from?
- The wild venison was sourced in Britain from suppliers who supply meat which is supplied for and used in products which are for human consumption.
Please explain the inspection process that goes on from field to food bowl? How many different inspections does it go through?
- The supply of venison into the food chain is heavily documented and regulated, and there are a number of different inspection processes and assessments that should take place before the venison even makes it to Natural Instinct, let alone through the manufacturing process.
- Before the venison reaches Natural Instinct, it should have already passed through the hands of a number of people e.g. the deer stalker / hunter, potentially a Game collector / transporter, the Approved Game Handling Establishment (i.e. our supplier) and the Meat Inspector. All of whom inspect the venison for signs of disease. Please also see the last bullet point under question 8 below.
- The various stages from the field to food bowl can be listed as follows:
i. Hunter’s assessment of the deer before shooting – this includes the appraisal of the health and behaviour of the deer. If there is no indication of ill health this must be certified by the hunter, who also must be trained.
ii. Hunter’s assessment of the deer after shooting – this includes the appraisal of the external pelage. There must be confirmation that there is nothing to indicate the presence of disease at that time.
iii.Hunter’s assessment of the deer after shooting – there is also an appraisal of the internal organs to see if there is any indication of disease being present. The absence of disease on the internal organs must also be certified by the hunter.
iv.Approved Game Handling Establishment assessment of the carcass (and hunter’s declaration) on receipt from the hunter – there must be nothing to indicate presence of disease or decomposition of the carcass or organs.
v.Meat inspector’s assessment of the carcass and grading – there must be nothing to indicate presence of disease or decomposition of the carcass or organs.
vi.Natural Instinct assessment of the inbound meat before production – there must be nothing to indicate the presence of disease or decomposition.
It is estimated that there can be up to 6 different checks from field to food bowl.
A number of risk factors have been identified for cats contracting TB. These include:
- Contact with an infected human, cat or other animal. This can either be through direct contact with an infected wound or skin lesion, or potentially through contact with blood, saliva, faeces or urine. It can also be through inhalation of aerosol droplets in the breath from the infected animal
- Consumption of infected rodents – if the cat is a voracious hunter eating prey, or even being bitten, scratched or wounded by infected prey can transmit the disease.
- Consumption of contaminated milk or milk products (unpasteurised) or uncooked infected meat.
- M. bovis, the bacterium which causes bovine tuberculosis in cats is killed by sunlight but is resistant to dehydration and therefore thought to survive in water and soil – which can then be sources for infection.
- M. bovis can be carried on the clothing or shoes of personnel in contact with infected animals, and survive on furniture, equipment and utensils.
Which external organisations does Natural Instinct work with?
Natural Instinct works with a variety of different external organisations to ensure the quality, safety and efficacy of the frozen raw pet foods that they manufacture and sell. Natural Instinct follows every food standard, hygiene regulation and best practice required to produce raw pet food in the commercial marketplace.
- The manufacturing facilities are registered with / approved by DEFRA (Plant Registration No. 40/044/8114 ABP/PTF). There is a detailed Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan in place. The facilities are regularly inspected by the Animal and Plant Health Authority (APHA), who have confirmed that Natural Instinct have complied with and met all of the necessary requirements and standards for commercial raw pet food manufacture.
- Natural Instinct also work with an external analytical laboratory to ensure all the required microbiological testing is carried out to the satisfaction of APHA.
- Natural Instinct are also members of a number of industry bodies including the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA).
- Natural Instinct has worked closely with FSA, firstly as members of the PFMA Raw Pet Food Group, and secondly during the Voluntary Recall of the Venison Cat Food last year.
How long does a Natural Instinct product last?
All frozen Natural Instinct Raw Food Meals have a shelf-life of 9 months from date of manufacture.
Should I be worried about other Natural Instinct products? E.g. your dog food?
There is no evidence of any other raw pet foods being affected. Additionally, we have never made or sold any venison-based food products for dogs.
What are the symptoms my cat may display if s/he has TB?
If you have any concerns with regards to your cat, we would suggest that you take them to the vet as soon as possible.
As we are not vets or experts in the field of TB, we are unable to comment from our experience as to the symptoms. However, the University of Edinburgh, who produced the recent article regarding TB and domestic cats, have stated:
“Most cases of TB in cats are caused by infected bites, so skin wounds and swollen lymph nodes are usually the first signs. When TB is passed on by eating contaminated food products, it typically affects the intestines and/or lungs. It can cause swollen abdomen, enlarged lymph nodes, and persistent cough. It can also spread to joints and eyes. Cats may also be more tired than usual and may have signs of weight loss.”
Please give me more information on how I can test my cat for TB? Can I still test him or her when they have no symptoms?
As with question 12, we are unable to comment on how you can test your cat for TB and our recommendation would be for you to speak with your vet. Testing practices and requirements vary depending on where they reside in the country, England, Scotland or Wales. More information can also be found in the Government’s document “Bovine tuberculosis (TB) in domestic pets”
Is it true that TB can lay dormant in a cat for 2 years?
As with question 12 we are unable to comment on how TB can lay dormant and our recommendation would be for you to speak with your vet.
However, the University of Edinburgh, who produced the recent article regarding TB and domestic cats, have stated:
“Infected cats usually develop symptoms within six months. The infection can lie dormant, however, and some of the cats who appear healthy may go on to develop symptoms later in their life.”
How easily can TB be passed to humans?
We are unable to comment on how easily TB can be passed on to humans and our recommendation would be for you to speak with your GP if you have any concerns.
However, the University of Edinburgh, who produced the recent article regarding TB and domestic cats, have stated:
“The risk of people catching TB from their cats is extremely low. There have been only six confirmed cases of owners catching the M. bovis bacteria from their cats in the past 150 years.”
What batch numbers were affected?
We cannot say which batches the University of Edinburgh believes could potentially be the source of the TB infection as they have not tested any of the food or indeed advised us of what batches they believe could be infected.
Were you aware of the paper being released by Danielle Gunn-Moore?
Natural Instinct was only provided with a copy of the report two days before the results of the study were released. We were very disappointed to only receive the study itself in mid-May, with the additional proviso that we were unable to share anything until the University of Edinburgh had released it to the press.
How much Venison was in the product?
Confirmed recipe formation is:
Venison Bones and Trim 89%
Venison Heart & Liver 10%
Where did we send our recall notice?
- To our customers who had purchased the affected product online from us where we had their contact details
- To all our stockists who had purchased the affected product
- The Recall Notice was displayed in our own store
- The Recall Notice was also displayed on our website
Tell us the benefits of our pets eating raw food as a normal diet?
We receive many testimonials from our customers who tell us the health benefits from feeding their pets with a raw diet include the following:
- Increased health and vitality of the pet.
- Resolution of skin, coat, teeth and joint conditions after transition from a commercial kibble/ wet food
General improvement in problems relating to digestion, unpleasant breath and behaviour.
Feeding Natural Instinct frozen raw food also offers:
- A convenient solution to feeding your cat or dog a raw food – the no stress, no mess way to feed raw! The raw pet food is complete and balanced to ensure your dog or cat receives all the nutrients it needs to maintain strong bones, muscles and digestion, all packaged in easy to store and easy to dispense tubs of various sizes. All you need to do is simply defrost and serve – it’s that easy.
- Food made with the finest ingredients - all recipes are made using 100% British meats, fish and poultry and using the freshest fruit, vegetables and natural supplements to create wholesome and delicious meals.
- A variety of different flavours – there's plenty of different tastes and textures available, so even if you've got a picky puppy or a fussy feline, there's bound to be something in our ranges that they will enjoy!