Horse owners warned as dead hedgehogs found in feed imported from New Zealand

Horse owners warned as dead hedgehogs found in feed imported from New Zealand

Dead hedgehogs have been found in a range of popular horse feed products imported from New Zealand, prompting authorities and the manufacturer to issue an urgent recall.

Key points:

  • Imports of all Fiber Fresh products have been suspended due to contamination
  • There are concerns the animal tissue could carry harmful pathogens
  • Customers should seal any opened bags and contact their retailer 

All imports of Fiber Fresh products have been suspended by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), which has directed the importer, Hygain, to remove the products from sale and the supply chain.

Customers are being told to stop using the product, to seal opened bags and contact their retailer.

It has raised concerns about the potential for contamination but also future supply of the product.

Customer spiked 

WA resident Nicola Forsberg said she found a dead hedgehog, instead of the usual fresh-cut lucerne, when she reached into a bag of Fiber Fresh Fiber Protect while feeding her horse Felix in August.

“I got a nice spiked hand that morning,” Ms Forsberg said.

“I thought it was actually a Scotch thistle to start with.”

Hedgehogs were first brought to New Zealand in the 1870s, and have since spread as a pest across the country. 

Nicola Forsberg found hedgehog remains in a FibreFresh bag while feeding her horse Felix.(Supplied )

Along with other small animals such as mice and snakes, they can be caught up in bales when the feed is harvested.

Ms Fosberg said she never had a problem with Fiber Fresh products before, but it was common to find contaminants in other fresh products.

“Quite often you find mice and stuff in chaff bags, or half a mouse,” she said.

“We’ve found a snake in a bale before as well, but it just it happens.

“I just want people to know, because some people wouldn’t break it up – they’d just chuck it in the feed, and it’s quite a lump, so it’d be a surprise for the animal.”

She reported the product to her retailer, who asked her to return it.

“The stock feed [retailer] did have a go at me to start off with, trying to say that I didn’t leave the remains in the bag, which I did,” she said.

“I told them to dive their hand in and get a surprise like I did and they’d find it.”

Hedgehogs were introduced to New Zealand in the 1870s.(Supplied: Experience Pūrangi)

Ms Forsberg, who lives in Bunbury said she had been contacted by the government about the recall, and was worried about the availability of the product.

“If we don’t have it here in Australia, that would be quite sad really because it’s a good product,” she said.

“But what would be even more devastating … is now it may not be getting imported into Australia.”

Contamination investigation

In a statement, a DAFF spokesperson said bags of product had been found to be contaminated with “terrestrial animal material from a small mammal”.

“DAFF is investigating the cause of the contamination and is working with the importer to secure the goods,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the animal tissue contaminant could carry harmful pathogens, such as the fungal pathogen Candida, the bacterial pathogens Leptospira, Mycobacterium bovis (which causes bovine tuberculosis), Staphylococcus, and Salmonella; and the parasite Giardia.

Imports of the Fiber Fresh product have not been linked to any disease issues of biosecurity concern in Australia, and a recall has not been issued in New Zealand.

The entire FibreFresh horse feed range has been recalled in Australia. (Supplied)

“Biosecurity New Zealand has been advised that the product recall has been initiated by DAFF as an interim measure to manage any potential biosecurity risk,” DAFF plant exports manager Shane Olsen said in a statement.

Fiber Fresh and Hygain were contacted for comment but did not provide a response by deadline.

In a post on their Facebook page, Fiber Fresh Australia said DAFF had initiated a temporary hold on the products due to “three confirmed instances” of foreign material found in bags.

“Your peace of mind is our utmost priority, and we are actively addressing this matter,” the post said.

“We have already engaged in a preliminary discussion with DAFF, and we are collaborating closely to resolve this issue effectively.

“Further updates will be on the horizon, and we anticipate sharing more information with you as soon as we can.

“For our valued retailers, DAFF will be in touch with instructions to ensure a smooth process.

“For our equine customers, despite this being three confirmed instances, as a precaution, we ask you please comply with DAFF directions.

“Your trust is of paramount importance to us, and we remain fully committed to a swift and transparent resolution of this matter. We deeply appreciate your continued support and understanding.”

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