Did you know that:
There is a pet food recall on an average of once every three months. The past month alone has seen at least two pet food product recalls and a “product withdrawal” (an under-the-table way of recalling product without the scary “recall” word being put in front of the public). Potentially toxic mold, omission of critical nutrients, over-or under-dosing of vitamins and minerals—all these are threats to the lives and health of our pets, and all have been present in pet foods in the very recent past.
Over the past few years, two horrible pet food disasters stand out especially. The widespread presence of kidney-damaging melamine in pet foods made by Menu Foods, a subcontractor company that does food production for many well-known brands, caused an estimated 14,000+ dead and damaged pets in the US and Canada in 2006 and 2007. Melamine, a plastic used in dishes and fertilizer, was deliberately added by Chinese suppliers of wheat gluten, one ingredient in the pet foods, to falsify protein tests. In 2008, a very high-end brand of dry cat food was subjected to high levels of irradiation when imported to Australia, causing changes in the food that resulted in very severe neurological damage and ended in death for many cats whose families are still paying the costs. Many problems caused by pet food go undiagnosed or unreported.
The “standards” for nutrition in commercial pet foods are very weak. AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, specifies in its handbook the following protocol for assuring an adult dog food is nutritionally adequate:
Eight dogs older than 1 yr. must start the test. At start all dogs must be normal weight & health. A blood test is to be taken from each dog at the start and finish of the test. For 6 months, the dogs used must only eat the food being tested. The dogs finishing the test must not lose more than 15% of their body weight. During the test, none of the dogs used are to die or be removed because of nutritional causes. Six of the 8 dogs starting must finish the test.
Not very stringent standards, are they? All the food has to do to “meet standards” is not starve or kill your dog in six months. That’s all. Yet many pets eat the same food every day for fifteen to twenty years. And the members of AAFCO themselves are all members of the pet food industry. Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse!
The FDA cannot issue mandatory recalls for pet food that is known to be unsafe. (In fact, the FDA has no authority to mandate a recall on anything but baby formula.) Recalls are at the discretion of the manufacturer. So a company that knows a given batch of pet food contains, say, fragments of metal from a machine that broke during a production run, is under no absolute obligation to do anything about it. And when customers call with complaints, the pet food company’s answer is almost always, “We have had no other complaints about that problem,” when in fact there may have been plenty of other complaints.
What you can do:
- If your pet is ill, contact your vet and let the vet know if you have reason to believe the food is causing a problem.
- If you have a pet food problem, contact both the company and the FDA. http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ReportaProblem/ucm182403.htm
Issued by: FDA, Center for Veterinary Medicine
- Learn about pet food ingredients; what’s good, what’s bad, and where they come from. Carefully read the labels on your pet’s food.
- Save all receipts for pet food, and save the original packaging until the food is consumed by your pet.
- Become involved in advocating for safe, nutritious pet food.
For more information:
itchmoforums.com An active pet forum with information about food ingredients, recalls, specific product reviews and experiences. ItchmoForums does not receive corporate sponsorship or funding, and does not accept advertising.
http://www.pfpsa.org Pet Food Products Safety Alliance, a consumer group that tests pet food and posts test results.
Timeline for the Menu Foods recalls of 2007.
Description and discussion of effects of irradiated food on Australian cats.
http://www.consumeraffairs.com Consumer Affairs lists consumer complaints about a large variety of products, including pet foods. Search for your pet’s food on this site, and you may be surprised. Also publishes articles on pet food problems and recalls.