Thunderbrook Statement 09TH October 2023
In January 2023 we published a statement addressing allegations, made on social media by a customer of Thunderbrook Equestrian, about our Organic Meadow Nuts product.
A copy of our earlier statement can be found in the post below this one and on our website. As set out in the earlier statement, we now provide an update on the situation.
At the time the allegations were first made, we sought to engage with the customer to address their concerns and try to find a resolution. It quickly became clear that this was not going to work as the customer would not let us speak to her vet. In February 2023, the customer, and at our suggestion, raised a formal complaint with Trading Standards. Although the initial complaint raised with us (and circulated on social media in January) was regarding the Organic Meadow Nuts only, she also raised concerns with Trading Standards about our ‘Healthy Herbal Muesli’ too. This was the first time we became aware that the customer had concerns with regard to the Healthy Herbal Muesli, until then the concerns simply related to the Organic Meadow Nuts.
Norfolk Trading Standards (“Trading Standards”) initiated a full and thorough investigation into the allegations raised, namely that the Organic Meadow Nuts and Healthy Herbal Muesli were
unsafe for equine consumption. For the avoidance of doubt, and despite what is being asserted on social media, we understand that Trading Standards carried out the investigation diligently and in accordance with all and any obligations that it has. Trading Standards visited our warehouse and took samples from unopened sacks of both products. We understand that those samples were then sent for independent testing. In addition, Trading Standards conducted a comprehensive overview of our operating practises.
We understand that Trading Standards also spoke to the customer’s vet, and that the vet was unable to substantiate any of the claims being made on social media.
Trading Standards concluded their review towards the end of August 2023. They reported to us that:
“…In relation to both the Organic Meadow Nuts, and the Healthy Herbal Muesli products that were formally sampled from your premises, the analyses that were carried out as part of our investigation show no evidence that the feeds were unsafe.”
Despite the customer being informed by Trading Standards of the outcome of their review and supplied with a copy of the testing and report prepared by it, the customer continues to repeat the allegations made in January, as well as making many new claims about our feeds, despite them being entirely unsubstantiated and more significantly, disproved by the Trading Standards testing and report.
We take the health and wellbeing of the horses that consume our products very seriously. As a reflection of our ethos, we, unilaterally, decided to carry out our own additional tests on the Organic Meadow Nuts and Healthy Herbal Muesli (in addition to what was being carried out by Trading Standards). We tested multiple batches of both products for salmonella, E. coli, moulds, yeasts, clostridia for botulism, nearly 40 different mycotoxins, and full nutritional profiles including sugar, starch and minerals.
These tests and results we obtained were made available to Norfolk Trading Standards when they were carrying out their investigation. All the tests confirm the safety of the products.
In social media commentary on this matter, there have been claims about specific examples of where it is alleged that the products fail to meet independent standards.
In order to seek to prevent the repetition of incorrect information, we address a number of the claims which have had prolific engagement on social media:
1. Allegation: Organic Meadow Nuts are too high in sugar.
This is incorrect. The original batch of Organic Meadow Nuts that the customer complained about were very low in sugar testing at just 1.8%. Our customers will be aware that any product with under 10% sugar is considered low content. This may have explained why they were unpalatable for a number of horses.
2. Allegation: Too high in copper
This is incorrect. None of the batches of either the Organic Meadow Nuts or Herbal Muesli have ever tested too high in copper to cause any concern or liver toxicity.
3. Allegation: Botulism, other pathogenic microbes causing toxicity
This is incorrect. A full screen for pathogenic microbes found no issues.
4. Allegation: Mycotoxins causing toxicity
This is incorrect. We screened for nearly 40 different mycotoxins and the risk analysis returned no concerns.
5. Allegation: Toxicity caused by weeds including ragwort
This is incorrect. Genomic testing and full traceability back to the farms showed no concerns.
6. Allegation: Toxicity caused by Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids
This incorrect. Independent sampling by Trading Standards, and full break down of ingredients sampling for our Herbal Muesli did not find PAs at levels considered to be toxic.
7. Allegation: Our Herbal Muesli contains 50% Alfalfa.
This is incorrect. Herbal Muesli has never been formulated with added Alfalfa. Genomic testing and traceability back to source on our ingredients confirm this allegation is incorrect.
We have chosen to address these specific claims because, despite them being entirely unsubstantiated and more significantly, disproved by the Trading Standards testing and report provided to our customer, they are continuing to circulate on social media. We are concerned that some of our customers may be, incorrectly, attributing changes in their horses wellbeing to our products, when, in fact, there may be other reasons for changes which need to be addressed.
A number of our customers are owners of horses with ill health, including EMS, PPID, PSSM, ulcers, digestive issues and laminitis. Hence at any one time there will be horses with these issues, or developing further problems, that are being fed one or more of our products. This is not because the products are the cause of the issues. It is important for customers to understand this distinction.
As previously stated, at Thunderbrook Equestrian, we pride ourselves on the stringent quality controls that we have in place to ensure a consistently high standard of equine feed. We manufacture all our feeds according to strict quality controls and rigorous feed safety codes. Our horse feeds are manufactured in UFAS approved mills which are audited annually.
Given the demographic of the horses being fed our products, as already stated, the health and safety of our customers’ horses is and will always remain our top priority. We want to reassure our customers, again, that we remain committed to maintaining the highest standards when it comes to our products.
In summary, extensive independent testing has been undertaken and there is no evidence to support any of the allegations being made that it is our feeds that have caused this customer’s (or any other’s) horse to become unwell.
The extensive repetition across social media, of the unsubstantiated allegations set out above (and others) is causing unnecessary concern for our customers and has the potential to substantially impact on our business. Therefore, we have been left with no option but to take legal advice in order to protect our position and address the circulation of unfounded allegations about our products.
If any customers do have any further concerns, we would suggest that they contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org, ask their vet to contact us, or to contact their local trading standards department.
End of Statement.