Pet Food Recall
Warnings of a pet food recall have sounded eleven times in the US since 1995. Unfortunately, despite that alarming fact, a pet food recall doesn’t necessarily receive a good deal of media attention. Or, if it does make national news, it’s often short-lived. However, in March of 2007, the largest and deadliest pet food recall in US history made fodder for a media blitz.
We may never know exactly how many pets died or became ill from this last pet food recall. Unlike incidents of human injury or death due to product contamination being recorded by the Center for Disease Control, there is no regulatory storehouse of such information relating to pets and animals. To date, estimates of how many pets may have died range from 500 to more than 3,000, while the FDA received approximately 17,000 reports of serious illness. However, some experts predict that the long-term final tally may extend well into the thousands.
A Closer Look at the Pet Food Industry
Consumers should be aware that the $15 million pet food industry in the US does not stand apart from the human food and agriculture segments. In fact, materials considered unsuitable for human consumption generated by those industries often end up in dog or cat food as a convenient method of disposal. In addition, the pet food industry in the US is largely owned and operated by major conglomerates connected with the human food industry and are not pet care specialists at all, much less are they associated with natural products of any kind. Consumers are often quite surprised to learn that the premium pet food they’ve trusted for years is actually made by another company than what may be suggested by the product’s name or label. Yet, this practice, known as co-packaging, is commonly done in this industry behind closed doors.
Some little known facts:
- Proctor and Gamble (P&G) acquisitioned the Iams and Eukanuba product lines for its P&G Pet Care division in 1999. Further, the company entered into a 10-year co-packaging contract with Menu Foods to manufacture all of its canned pet food, but with the Iams name remaining on the product. These facts didn’t become widely known until the brand was affected by the massive pet food recall of 2007.
- Hill’s Science Diet, considered a premium brand of pet food since 1939, was purchased by Colgate-Palmolive in 1976.
- Nestlé currently owns Purina pet food brands.
- Other major players in the pet food industry include Del Monte and Mars, Inc.
- Co-packers, such as Menu Foods, Diamond and Doane Pet Care, also produce house brands of pet food for private retailers (i.e., Wal-Mart). All three of these companies have been involved in a pet food recall at one time or another.
How Can I Safeguard My Pet from Being Affected by a Pet Food Recall?
There is no guarantee that any pet food won’t be recalled at anytime for any reason. In fact, any product, or one of its ingredients, can become contaminated during storage or handling at any plant or facility.
However, you could greatly reduce the chance of your dog or cat becoming a pet food recall statistic by feeding a wholesome, natural pet food. The logic behind this theory is very simple and can be easily illustrated:
- Most commercial varieties of pet food contain high concentrations of inferior grain, which is at a much higher risk of bacterial or fungal contamination. Even if the bacteria or fungus is destroyed during processing (heat), harmful endotoxins and other byproducts can remain intact.
- Natural and organic pet food contains little grain and what it does contain is of much higher quality. For that matter, the melamine contamination that affected canned pet food being made at Menu Foods that lead to the massive pet food recall March of 2007, did not spread to numerous natural pet food companies, even though the same company was contracted to produce their canned pet food as well. It’s very likely that the quality of ingredients made the difference
- Melamine, a chemical commonly used in making plastics and fertilizer, was added to wheat gluten imported from China in an attempt to make it appear to have higher protein content. Although this tainting of the grain was unauthorized, if the grain had been of higher quality and from a reputable, organic origin, the pet food may not have degraded into a lethal poison.