Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My name is Shelby Gomas, I am the owner of Feline’s Pride here in Buffalo, New York. My company has recently been forced into two “voluntary” recalls by the FDA on a product that we have successfully manufactured for the last five years. We are the only company to be manufacturing raw cat food in New York State. 

In June, 2010, after seeking FDA registration for my product and manufacturing facility, FDA investigators came to my establishment. They collected samples to send to the FDA laboratory in Jamaica, NY for testing. I feel it is important to note here,
FDA again visited our facility today,7/19/2010, and informed us that the turkey samples they took tested NEGATIVE for SALMONELLA, as did all of the CULTURE SWABS that were taken from our manufacturing facility!  New samples of the Cornish Hen Formula had to be collected again, because the original samples that were picked up were mishandled during shipping to the Jamaica, NY testing facility and rendered useless.
It is important to understand, at this juncture, that we produce a RAW poultry product. Our product should be handled with the same care as any other raw poultry product. Our product should be kept ON ICE at all times. This product should be kept frozen until it is ready for use. It is easy to determine this products freshness, where it is red in color and has virtually no odor.

Unfortunately, the method the investigators used in collecting and shipping the samples has been contested. We feel that they did not provide sufficient refrigeration to allow the samples to be properly shipped and maintained safely. On that basis alone, I requested an FDA hearing, and to this day I have not received any response, even after contacting the FDA Ombudsman, which still has not returned any emails or answered the phone calls left on an answering machine. 

My concerns were realized when we received the report from the lab in Jamaica, NY. The report indicated the color of the samples they had received were brown in color, indicating exposure to heat which would contribute to deterioration and lead to positive testing for salmonella. Product received by our customers is not brown, but red in color, so long as it’s not allowed to sit out in the sun or experienced some other mishandling during shipping or delivery. 

Sadly, there are many more issues that I cannot properly address. Significantly, there appear to be discrepancies within testing procedures that the FDA uses, questions regarding a common testing method (the ELISA method) and the ambiguous interpretation of FDA testing versus USDA testing. Simply put, USDA testing procedures ALLOWS small amounts of pathogens to pass to the American consumer in products the USDA certifies, but the FDA testing does not. And yet, FDA Guidance for Industry Article #122 directs that all raw food producers utilize USDA guidelines and certified materials in processing, but, by their own guidelines, are already contaminated with salmonella. It is well understood that all poultry is contaminated with salmonella, including the USDA certified source poultry we use to make our products. 

This leaves us in the position that if we are to consistently and fervently follow USDA guidelines, we are assuring ourselves that we test positive for salmonella, specifically for following FDA standards. Incidentally, FDA #122 specifically indicates at the top of the article, “NON BINDING RECOMMENDATIONS”, which obviously leads to the question, how can the FDA force us to recall product, when their own recommendations, which are non-binding, guarantee that we can’t provide for the product that will meet the FDA’s standards? 
The bottom line is that we have five years of integrity as a producer.  No person was injured or sickened.  No animal was injured or sickened.
Interestingly, you would be hard pressed to find a barn cat who adhered to HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), which is not to say we care not to adhere to them, but it’s ludicrous to take it out to its relevant conclusions as determined for people, because we are not manufacturing a product meant for human consumption. Our product is intended for cats, whose capability for handling certain environmental exposures are superior to humans, and may even constitute a critical function to their ability to synthesize nutrition. This animal’s necessity to ingest raw meat is inherent as a species. In consuming freshly killed animals, they are also ingesting that animal’s recent ingestion, and so on. Salmonella, as well as other pathogens, are most certainly a component of that cycle, and have served them well over the millennia. As it is, we as a company are producing a product in a facility which is proud to limit the amount of exposure to pathogens that already exist in our USDA graded source materials. 

Our products have tested negative for salmonella in a veterinarian lab in Arlington, VA, negative from NY state sanctioned labs in Trenton, NJ, using the ELISA method, but did test positive in FDA labs in Jamaica, NY. Still, there is no accounting for the scientific collection and delivery of the samples prior to their testing. We were also refused copies of the laboratory results until our legal counsel intervened, at much cost to us. 

We have received no answers, regardless of our attempts, with or without counsel from these governmental agencies. We are a small business, and without unlimited resources, and the FDA is aware of that. I have a right to protect my integrity, that of my company, and most assuredly, the integrity and jobs of my employees and distributors. 

As a result of our concerns with contamination, our product has been tested by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets sponsored lab, the New Jersey Feed Labs in Trenton, NJ. Carl Schultz is the owner and president of that lab. Our samples are tested for pathogens and nutrient values. Our negative test results for pathogens, such as salmonella, had delivered my vision of founding a company making raw food for felines. 

The extraordinarily clean facility we run, and techniques we use, has resulted in authorization by permit from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (Est. # 142570). Our labeling for food is also deemed correct by the State of New York and the FDA Regional Office in Buffalo also indicates this, however, we have yet to receive this indication in writing from them. 

The diet we manufacture was preened from a diet found on www.catnutrition.org, of which Anne Jablonski is the author. This diet is a relative re-creation of the nutritional value of a common field mouse, as basically outlined by Dr. Deborah Zoran’s nutritional breakdown of the common field mouse, published in the 2002 Vancouver Journal for American Veterinarian Medical Association. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they must specifically consume meat. Indeed, we now know, based on much scientific investigation, that cats cannot properly digest carbohydrates, which dominate ingredients in virtually all commercial diets. Interestingly, prior to my efforts, no one had before expended the effort to see if this diet would be a positive, nutritional diet for cats. The species has been predicated on eating small mice and vermin, birds, etc. We have prepared a nutritionally correct raw diet for cats. Without a doubt, the most difficult part of developing, manufacturing and distributing a nutritionally complete and appropriate diet for cats is the extraordinary measures it takes to make a clean product, free of contaminants that could harm those very furry customers that I have striven to protect with this endeavor. 

As a result of my efforts, Feline’s Pride produces an extraordinary product, and has been endorsed by several key professionals involved with pet nutrition. Some of our staunch supporters are as follows: 

Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins DVM, J.D. 
Author of the popular book “Your cat, Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life”, and key veterinarian adviser to Tracie Hotchner’s show on Cat Chat Channel (Martha Stuart Living) on Sirius Radio. She endorses our product as being one of the safest and most nutritionally correct diet for cats on the market. 

Dr. Lisa Pierson
Founder of www.catinfo.org, and adviser to the Feline Diabetes Message Board (FDMB). Dr. Pierson is also a staunch advocate of the product we manufacture, and mentions it generously on her site. 

Anne Jablonski
Founder of www.catnutrition.org, and an educated advocate of appropriate cat nutrition. She is also honored as the 2007 Feline Outreach Paws for Education Award recipient, as a result of her advocacy and outreach, specifically towards the veterinary industry. Feline’s Pride is noted on her site, “one of my personal favorites is Feline’s Pride…”

I have an opportunity to grow and expand, and offer more jobs to an economy that is begging for littlie companies like mine, more commonly referred to as the backbone of this country, to succeed.  It is little companies like mine that the current administration is asking to bail out the economy and provide new jobs and opportunities.

We need answers, and we’re not getting them. We see many discrepancies, and we believe that we may be on the forefront of seeing to it that policies, regulations, guidelines and even laws may need to be re-evaluated based on our case. We are in this for the long haul. Most importantly, we are in this for the cats who can’t speak for themselves, and would, simply put, prefer to eat a darned mouse without human intervention. One that hasn’t been cooked, irradiated and adulterated in any manner, thank you very much. 

For your references, here a number of resources for anyone interested to peruse: 

FDA Guidelines for Industry Article #122:
http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AnimalVeterinary/GuidanceComplianceEnforcement/GuidanceforIndustry/ucm052662.pdfELISA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELISA 

“The Carnivore Connection to Nutrition in Cats”, JAVMA Zoran, 2002: http://www.catinfo.org/docs/zorans_article.pdf

HACCP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazard_Analysis_and_Critical_Control_Points 

Thank you for your interest in our plight. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.  Your attention to this story is greatly appreciated, and of great importance to us. 

Shelby Gomas 
...and for all the kitties who cannot speak for themselves


  1. Shelby,

    As you know, Feline's Pride is the ONLY cat food that does not make my cat, Sweet Pea, sick. A purebred Persian that I pulled from the NYCACC (city pound/kill shelter), she had chronic diarrhea for 10 months after rescue. Of course chronic diarrhea in a Persian is a filthy disaster, and I am certain that was the reason why Sweet Pea was surrendered to the city pound (a likely death sentence).

    I took her to 2 different vets, our regular GP, who did fecal testing and prescribed steroids (which I refused to give her, once I researched their life-shortening side effects) and a "holistic" vet, who performed fecals and gave her Albon and Panicure, which firmed up her poop only while she was on the drugs, and had me feed Sweet Pea meat baby food, which turned her poops into pudding. I learned that "food allergies" is a euphemism for "I don't what the bleep is wrong with your cat."

    We were close to the point where the next step would have been expensive surgical procedures, requiring anesthesia, like endoscopy or possibly removal of part of her intestines. Then, MERCIFULLY, via word of mouth, I learned that my mother's BFF at work had a senior cat whose Inflammatory Bowel Disease was CURED on Feline's Pride raw chicken mix.

    So, against the vet's orders, I put Sweet Pea on Feline's Pride. Within ten days, Sweet Pea's poops had gone from sticky pudding to perfectly-formed, virtually smell-free, little light brown tootsie rolls. This was in December 2006. As of today, almost 4 years later, Sweet Pea remains healthy, full of perkiness and vigor, with a GORGEOUS silky coat (just got Mohawked today, hahaha!) and PERFECT POOPS.

    Because of our experience I had a total paradigm shift. Sweet Pea was never sick. Her healthy body was simply reacting poorly to a diet of commercial cooked food (high-end Wellness grain-free canned food) that was inappropriate to her *normal* feline digestive capabilities and nutritional needs. My two other cats tolerate Wellness just fine, but if I could get all three of them to accept Feline's Pride, you better believe THAT is what I would be feeding all of them. And if I adopt any kittens in the future, ALL of them will be raised on Feline's Pride.

    Shelby, you know we are in Rochester, and I have close family in NYC, so if you need me to be somewhere to testify on behalf of Feline's Pride, just tell me when and where, and I will be there. I will also be happy to contribute to your legal fund. That is how valuable it is to me to know that we will always have Feline's Pride RAW diet for my heart-cat, Sweet Pea.

    Here is a picture of my Sweet Pea, happy and healthy, with a belly full of her beloved Feline's Pride.

    (That is also Sweet Pea in my avatar.)

    Sweet Pea would be DELIGHTED to be the poster cat for Feline's Pride and for ALL cats who end up abandoned to a death sentence in public shelters, due to having chronic diarrhea, caused only by their inability to digest commercially-prepared, cooked cat food.

    I will email this to you, so I can give you my full name, address and phone number. We are eternally grateful to you and will FIGHT with you to keep Feline's Pride up, running, and successfully serving the true, optimal nutritional needs of our beloved cats!

  2. I live near DC and of course do business with most all of the agencies - including the FDA. I am also a customer who will be placing double the order size as my five adoptee felines deserve the best. Your food is miraculous and has really raised eyebrows with my vet on their health (Ages 7 to 15).

  3. ddawatson -- I've had that same experience: conventional veterinarians who espoused a knee-jerk opposition to raw feeding -- because their vet school programs on nutrition were sponsored by the big commercial cat food companies -- and who HAD-TO come around, at least with me, and concede that my raw-fed cat was healthy, vibrant and CURED, no thanks to all their drugs, surgeries or darned baby food.

  4. Feline's Pride is the best thing that has happened for families of cats who care about their health and nutrition.
    My cats had food from the recall date in question and the food was red when I thawed it and they ate it with no reservation. I don't believe there was a problem with the food. I believe there had to have been a serious issue with the way it was handled when it was taken from the plant. There is no way I would feed my cats brown, smelly, spoiled food.
    When I got the word from Shelby about the recall, I was shocked since my cats had already eaten several tubs from that date and they never turned up their noses or had any illness. I would have know it if they did-they are indoor-only cats- a fawn abyssinian and a platinum mink tonk- and they are very loved and nurtured by us. It's why their diet is exclusively Feline's Pride and it will continue to be exclusively Feline's Pride. It is also why I encourage everyone I know to get their feline family members onto what I believe is the best diet we can give them.
    I stand behind Shelby and Feline's Pride. I'm sad this situation happened and fervently hope that it did not hurt the integrity of Shelby and his business. I will do whatever I can to help restore his good name and that of Feline's Pride.
    Jill Pfeiffer

  5. just to get this info out as well.Mr gomas claims of a professional kitchen where the food is made is anything but the truth.There have been countless times i have witnessed maggotts in the bins the food is stored in.Thus i am not surprised a re call was in effect.Thus he normally has underage staff of mostley young girls working for him;making the production of food skechy at best.I WARN ANYONE PLEASE BE CAREFUL OF THE FOOD YOU FEED YOUR CAT FROM THESE POP UP CAT LOVIN DISTRUBUTERS.

  6. pochop72. I am shocked and dismayed that anyone would feel the need to attack this company and its product after the passing of its founder and owner. You clearly are an "insider" and know of the unfortunate loss of Shelby Gomas. Godspeed Shelby. I hope your legacy, Feline's Pride, continues.


  8. if pochop being an insider is telling the truth about this man and his practices is bad thing then this world has gone crazy..the man was in terrible debt with his vendors...being sued by mutiple ex employee's...if OSHA OR THE FDA had ever paid him a visit ...the business would have been shut down..this is not an attack this is more of to get the whole story out about him than to just paint this pretty picture of this man..which the picture was far from pretty!!!