DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Robin Cooper's pets are her everything.
"I can't have kids and I know people get so weirded out but they are like my kids," said Cooper, who had no problem spending a bit more money for Freshpet dog food. The high dollar brand of food requires refrigeration.
"The food itself, the dogs love it. I mean they go insane over it," said Cooper. All of Cooper's dogs ate the food but they bought it specifically for her mom's dog named Trouble. "Because she was very, very picky," said Cooper.
Cooper said she was pouring out the food in December when she noticed something strange. "I thought, 'Oh gosh that's mold.' It wasn't just a little bit of mold -- it was throughout the bag. It scared me, it made me mad and I immediately went, the dogs had been sick," said Cooper. All of her dogs -- Hudson, Littleman and Trouble -- that ate the Freshpet food got sick.
Hudson and Littleman recovered, according to Cooper, but Trouble didn't. In fact, she died. "I reach for her to pet her... and she's not there," said Cooper.
The Cooper's said neither they nor their vet is blaming the mold for killing the 13-year-old dog. But... "That could have caused her to die sooner," said Carolyn Cooper.
Robin Cooper posted a video of the moldy pet food on YouTube and her Facebook page. "I want people to be on the lookout for this," said Cooper.
Cooper received a call the next day from Freshpet CEO, Richard Thompson, who offered to pay for the families vet bills and even fly them to the east coast.
"We'll do the tour of the facility. I could bring my mom, a boyfriend or girlfriend. Then he said, they'd even throw in a Broadway show. I could care less about Broadway, I would like for people's dogs not to be sick," said Cooper.
More than a dozen pictures and posts on the company's Facebook page show other reports of mold in Freshpet food. The complaints are from February 2015 to this year.
CBS11 did an unscientific Consumer Justice test and bought four different Freshpet products at four stores in North Texas: Walmart, PetSmart, Albertson's and Petco.
Only the Freshpet bag of food bought at a Walmart store in Fort Worth had mold on the food and an expired sell-by date. Walmart's corporate spokesman said they didn't find any other Freshpet products with mold on them in the store.
Freshpet Co-Founder Scott Morris sent a statement to CBS11 that that reads in part:
We believe in the benefits of natural, fresh food, that it is best for our dogs and is why consumers and pets have wonderful experiences feeding our food. We believe so strongly that we have invested many, many millions into our Freshpet Kitchens, the first fresh pet food facility in the US. This investment has enabled us to create the best pet food facility in the world and one that is on par with the best human food facilities in the US. Our external certifications (SQF III and GFSI) help to validate our efforts. As with any fresh, natural and preservative free food, ours could spoil, and in some instances spoil before the code date if not handled correctly. As renowned author and nutritionist Michael Pollan famously said – "if it doesn't rot or spoil, don't eat it." We believe the same. Fresh, preservative free food is good for people and good for pets. But this also means the food can and will spoil at some point, which we believe is a good thing: have you ever seen dry dog food rot?
We are proud to say that out of the over 10 million packages and 5 million bags we sell each year, we have not found a case where there is a causal link between our food and a pet illness, especially regarding mold.
Because we want everyone to have a great experience with our products, we have made several changes to make sure we prevent the development of mold in our bag products to increase quality and eliminate the unsightliness of mold. All of the actions below have been implemented, including stronger and puncture-resistant bags, improved and more protective outer cases to prevent cutting while being stocked in store or damage if dropped, training of store personnel on handling and stocking, and hiring of our own people to assist in stocking at retail. We have also enlarged the messaging on bags that communicate our Freshpet Guarantee – "if the product does not look or smell fresh, please contact us for a replacement." In January, we began including a larger "Keep Refrigerated, use within 7 days" notice. Of course, we are always willing to replace a bag that does not look or smell fresh and in fact, prompt consumers to do so.
(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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