A drug used to execute American prisoners and to put animals to sleep has been discovered in canned dog food in the US, triggering an emergency recall.
The Food and Drug Administration said it found low levels of pentobarbital in tins of Gravy Train dog food produced by JM Smucker.
The drug is most commonly used by vets as a sedative or anaesthetic and to euthanise pets.
At high doses in humans it cause respiratory arrest and has been used to carry out executions often as the first step – inducing unconsciousness – in a three-drug protocol.
It was one of the drugs used by Marilyn Monroe when she took her own life.
The recall followed an investigation by WJLA, a TV station in Washington, which found pentobarbital in almost two thirds of cans it tested.
The FDA said: “Pets that eat pet food containing pentobarbital can experience drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea, nystagmus (eyes moving back and forth in a jerky manner) and inability to stand. Consuming high levels of pentobarbital can cause coma and death.”
It concluded that the small amounts detected posed little risk to dogs.
“However, any detection of pentobarbital in pet food is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act—simply put, pentobarbital should not be in pet food,” it said.
Smucker said it had identified the problem at a single supplier, from a single, minor ingredient, used at one manufacturing facility.
“We take this very seriously and are extremely disappointed that pentobarbital was introduced to our supply chain. We will continue to work closely with our suppliers and veterinarians to ensure the ingredients used in our products meet or exceed regulatory safety standards and our high-quality standards,” said Barry Dunaway, president of the companies pet foods division.
“Above all, we are a company that loves pets and understand the responsibility we have in providing high quality food for the pets our consumers love.”