New light is being shed on the pet food business, so here is some food for thought on feed for your pet.
Recently, a couple batches of dog and cat food were found to contain pentobarbital, sickening many dogs and cats with one verified dead dog. The product was labeled as containing beef but actually contained apparently euthanized horse. Of course, pet owners are righteously alarmed.
Pet owners speak out most effectively with their wallets, but, in truth, the $26 billion per year pet food market is mostly unregulated. One of the problems is that pet food is considered animal feed and so its labeling is not directly controlled by the FDA. The standards for animal feed, pet food included, are established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). You can check that web site youself and see that their board of directors seems like a pretty appropriate bunch of folks, mostly from state agencies and academia. Where things get interesting is when you realize that AAFCO merely sets standards for animal feed. As it states: “AAFCO does not regulate, test, approve or certify pet foods in any way.” That leaves it up to pet food manufacturers to formulate products up to those minimum standards.
So who does regulate pet food, if anybody? Again quoting AAFCO: “It is the state feed control official’s responsibility in regulating pet food to ensure that the laws and rules established for the protection of companion animals and their custodians are complied with so that only unadulterated, correctly and uniformly labeled pet food products are distributed in the marketplace and a structure for orderly commerce.” In Arizona, our statutes for animal feed are in Title 3, Chapter 15 (3-2610 covers labeling and 3-2611 covers adulteration).
The problem is that many pet food manufacturers are simply not being held accountable and are essentially self-regulating. In my research I came across a website that takes issue with improper labeling and adulteration of some prominent pet foods, asking folks to contact their AZ representatives. Specifically the sample letter provided mentions: “Pedigree Dog Food, Hill’s Science Diet Crafted Pet Food, and FreshPet Pet Food show grilled meat or roasted meat on the label, however there is no grilled or roasted meat in the pet food.” The site also provides some great information on what to avoid and how to find good pet food.
There are many other issues too. Remember the AAFCO sets standards, minimum standards, and some nutrition may be inadequate for your dog or cat. I would also worry about adulteration, such as the pentobarbital case and concerns of previous reports of contamination such as the Chinese gluten debacle of 2007 (the wheat gluten contained melamine, an industrial chemical used in the making of plastics.) You may recall (get it?) that melamine has resulted in baby formula recalls also.
So far in 2017, there have been FDA recalls of pet foods containing pentobarbital, metal fragments, salmonella, listeria, high levels of thyroid hormone, excess copper, and my favorite, Cesar Filet Mignon dog food with plastic filler. Puppies usually get enough plastic in their diet by chewing up your personal belongings! Obviously, we have a lot of work to do. Considering the current administration’s love for lack of regulation the need to speak out is greater than ever. So check out the sample letter that was linked above and let your voice be heard.
In the meantime, it’s buyer beware. Always, buyer beware!