Category Archives: Pet food recall

Menu Food recall and other pet food issues

Time 20070823: Tainted Pet Food Vs. Lead-Paint Toys

Got this from Dawn’s blog. Very interesting to note that, at least online, people were more interested in the pet food news than the toys.

The author provided some great stats and his rationale for the phenomenon is sound. But I wager the greater interest in the pet food issue is also due to the following

  • Pet food is ingested while toys are for playing. Which poses the greater danger?
  • People got shell-shocked at the scale of the pet food recall. Also it was a precursor of the spate of Chinese product issues. By the time the toys issue came round, everybody’s been round the mountain with Mary a few times, and gotten used to the after-effects of the ride.
  • People trusted the pet food industry. Take a look at the typical copy of pet food advertising, even the junk food/supermart brands. People buy into that drivel, and can’t believe the mother-of-betrayals the pet food industry’s been pulling on them for ever.
  • Some, not many, but some, people were actually concerned enough by the pet food recall to apply thought and concern. They then start digging and finding out more info about pet food and the learning galled and galvanised them to dig somemore.

Anyway, here’s the article:

Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007

Tainted Pet Food Vs. Lead-Paint Toys

A sign explains why a store shelf is empty of pet food after it was pulled from the shelves at Petco

A sign explains why a store shelf is empty of pet food after it was pulled from the shelves at Petco.

Joe Raedle / Getty

There were two significant product recalls this year: tainted pet food and lead-based paint on children’s toys. Two issues that concern the health of your pet and your child. Which is more important to you? Which topic would you seek more information on? It would seem that everyone would choose their child, yet our online behavior reveals a different story.

Internet search data reveals that given the two recalls, our pet’s health is far more worthy of information-seeking than health issues surrounding our children. This month Mattel recalled almost 2 million toys worldwide for lead-based paint and other contamination issues. In response to the news, searches for the term “toy recall” spiked, nearly doubling the two-year average for all product recall searches.

While that would seem to be a significant increase in searches, the toy recall reaction was nothing compared to the pet food recall that occurred in March of this year, when the Food and Drug Administration found that contaminants in hundreds of brands were causing cats and dogs to fall ill. Searches for pet food-related recall issues were over seven times that same two-year average, over double the number of toy recall searches. Certainly protecting our children from the dangers of lead-based paint is more important — or, at the very least, equally as important as tainted pet food — so why the difference in searches? Perhaps media coverage of the two recalls will shed some light on the difference in attention.

Google News indicates that there were over 9,750 online news stories concerning the toy recall while the pet food recall has generated over 77,500 news stories. In fact news websites figure heavily in our search patterns. Take the search term “pet food recall.” In March of this year, when news of the tainted pet food broke, the top sites visited after searching on the term weren’t the manufacturers’ sites with recall information; instead they were MSNBC (12.4%), Google News (11.6%) and CBSNews (9.1%). Contrast that with the Mattel toy recall, where media websites were not the most popular search destination. Searches for “toy recall” resulted in visits to Mattel.com (26.4%), The Consumer Product Safety Commission site, CPSC.gov (17.2%) then to CNN (7.0%).

Or perhaps it’s our empathy for animals that explains the difference in reaction. According to Hitwise, the #1 news search term sending traffic to the New York Times for last week wasn’t the plight of the trapped miners in Utah, it wasn’t the Hurricane Dean threatening the Yucatan Peninsula, or the hundreds dead in the Peru earthquake; it was searches for “Michael Vick.” Sure, the charges the Atlanta Falcons quarterback faces for running a dog-fighting ring and the allegations of animal cruelty are reprehensible, but amongst a field of human tragedy and a potentially catastrophic storm, search term data indicates that the perils of domesticated animals trump all.

Bill Tancer is general manager of global research at Hitwise.

Find this article at:
http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1655757,00.html

Advertisements

Study Links Cat Disease to Flame Retardants in Furniture and to Pet Food

Thanks to Budak for his comment on Euthanizing chemical found in pet foods. More to be aware of, for the pet parent.

Source: American Chemical Society (ACS)   Released: Mon 13-Aug-2007, 16:10 ET
Embargo expired: Wed 15-Aug-2007, 12:00 ET

Study Links Cat Disease to Flame Retardants in Furniture and to Pet Food

Libraries
Science News
  Keywords
CHEMISTRY/PHYSICS/MATERIALS SCIENCES; BIOLOGY; FOOD/FOOD SCIENCE; MEDICINE & HEALTH; PHARMACEUTICAL SCIENCES; POLYMER CHEMISTRY; TOXICOLOGY

Contact Information

Available for logged-in reporters only

Description

A mysterious epidemic of thyroid disease among pet cats in the United States may be linked to exposure to dust shed from flame retardants in household carpeting, furniture, fabrics and pet food, scientists are reporting in a study scheduled for publication the Aug. 15 online issue of Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal from the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

 
 
 

Newswise — A mysterious epidemic of thyroid disease among pet cats in the United States may be linked to exposure to dust shed from flame retardants in household carpeting, furniture, fabrics and pet food, scientists are reporting in a study scheduled for publication the Aug. 15 online issue of Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal from the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

Janice A. Dye, DVM, Ph.D., at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and colleagues from there as well as Indiana University and the University of Georgia, report evidence linking the disease to exposure to environmental contaminants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which the researchers found to be elevated in blood samples of hyperthyroid cats. Their findings were based on analysis of blood samples from 23 pet cats, 11 of which had the disease, termed feline hyperthyroidism (FH). PBDE levels in the hyperthyroid cats were three times as high as those in younger, non-hyperthyroid cats.

Concerns about the possible health effects of PDBEs arose in the late 1990s, and studies have reported that PDBEs cause liver and nerve toxicity in animals. FH is one of the most common and deadly diseases in older cats, and indoor pets are thought to be most at-risk. For starters, cats ingest large amounts of PBDE-laden house dust that the researchers believe comes from consumer household products.

Dye, a toxicologist, began by hypothesizing that prolonged contact with certain polyurethane foams and components of carpet padding, furniture and mattresses would pose the greatest hazard for developing FH. In addition, the researchers suspected that diet might be another risk factor for developing FH. To see if a link existed, they analyzed PBDE content in several cat food brands.

Their analysis found that PBDE content of canned fish/seafood flavors, such as salmon and whitefish, was higher than dry or non-seafood canned items. Based on the analysis, they estimate that diets based on canned food could have PBDE levels 12 times as high as dry-food diets. The researchers indicate that pet cats might be receiving as much as 100 times greater dietary PBDE exposure than American adults.

With their meticulous grooming behavior, cats may ingest large amounts of dust that collect on their fur. “Our results showed that cats are being consistently exposed to PBDEs,” Dye said. “Because they are endocrine-disrupting agents, cats may well be at increased risk for developing thyroid effects.”

The danger of contracting feline hyperthyroidism might be greater in America, where people have the highest reported PBDE levels worldwide, the study said. Also, by the late 1990s, North America accounted for almost half of the global demand for PBDEs from commercial materials like furniture or upholstery, the report added.

The epidemic of hyperthyroidism in cats began almost 30 years ago, at the same time when PBDEs were introduced into household materials as a fire-prevention measure. Although the disease was first discovered in the U.S., it has since been diagnosed in Canada, Australia, Japan and many parts of Europe. Hyperthyroid disorders have also increased in humans—former President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush have the disorder, and even Millie, their Springer Spaniel, had contracted it.

Symptoms of the syndrome in cats include weight loss, an increase in appetite, hair loss and irritability. Cats and humans are the only mammals with high incidences of hyperthyroidism, Dye said. The study concludes that hyperthyroid cats could serve as modern-day versions of the canaries in the cage that alerted coal miners to poisonous gas.

“While the link between hyperthyroidism in cats and their elevated PBDE levels requires additional confirmation, it is clear that house cats may be able to serve as sentinels for indoor exposure to PBDEs for humans who share their houses,” said Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., a co-author of the study. No link between human hyperthyrodism and PBDE exposure has been established, Birnbaum noted, adding that some ongoing studies do suggest such a connection. Although several states have banned use of certain PBDEs in commercial products, there are no regulations limiting PBDE content in foods, according to Birnbaum.

The American Chemical Society–the world’s largest scientific society–is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

*Embargo Terms
Contents of this release are strictly embargoed by the ACS, which has sole authority to alter the release time. Wire service stories must carry the embargo time, and wire stories on the press release topic may not be distributed more than 24 hours before that time. Solely to solicit expert comment, news media may show relevant parts of this document, and the paper to which it refers, to independent specialists. However, they must ensure in advance the embargo conditions will be honored. The research in this press release is from a copyrighted publication, and stories must credit the journal by name. Anyone using advance information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934. For questions or assistance, please use the news media contact, above.


Euthanizing chemical found in pet foods

Less than 24 hours after talking about how “Singaporean Pets Pant for U.S. Pet Food” and the link to the pet food recall, I came across this blog post that clearly demonstrates there are serious issues with pet foods.

For some time now, the industry has been saying “no such thing”, but there is an actual news article about it dated 24 May 07 in addition to two other links. Make of it what you will, but do scan the list of affected brands (I’ve emphasized par of the text, and also the listed brands I know are available here in Singapore, but of course it doesn’t mean the unemphasized ones aren’t). In addition to the list provided here, check the pet food list to see if your choice of pet food is on that list too.

Euthanizing chemical found in pet foods
This is something that has been known about since the early 90’s yet not in the news along with the pet food recall fiasco. Pentobarbital, the chemical used to euthanize animals, has been proven to be present in many of the popular (yet lower quality) pet foods. There is currently a lawsuit naming the companies that knowingly sell food containing this chemical, and there is a debate as to where it is coming from. Some have reported that it is coming from euthanized cats and dogs that these companies obtain from shelters. The FDA tested these foods and did find the chemical but no feline or canine dna. Their official statement is that the chemical is coming from euthanized cows and horses and they plan on taking no action, even though the chemical can lead to kidney problems and resistance to the drug (which is why this was originally discovered in the first place, it was taking more of the drug to put animals to sleep).

This is just one more reason why we need to make sure the food we are feeding our pets is of good quality. When looking for the right pet food the first thing to look at is the ingredient list. The first three ingredients should be real meat, not meal or byproduct. Next you should make sure that the food is not on the recall list or the list of foods (below) that contain pentobarbital. As a general rule, you will not find good quality pet food in supermarkets and they will be a little more expensive that the lower quality foods. But our pets are worth it and you owe it to them to ensure they have a proper diet. It is your responsibility to protect them. So please, keep yourselves educated.

News story: http://cbs4.com/consumer/local_story_143224354.html
FDA/CVM report: http://www.fda.gov/cvm/FOI/DFreport.htm
Information about the lawsuit: http://www.mflegal.com/petfood/Blaszkowski-Press-Release.pdf

List of contaminated foods:
Pedigree®, Sheba®, Goodlife Recipe®, Royal Canine, Iams®, Eukanuba®, Science Diet®, Prescription Diet®, 9 Lives®, Amore®, Gravy Train®, Kibbles-n-Bits® and Nature’s Recipe®, Snausages®, Milk Bone®, Pup-Peroni®, Meaty Bone®, Canine’s Carry Outs®, Jerky Treats®, Wagwells®, Alpo®, Beneful®, Beggin’ Strips®, Dog, Cat, Puppy and Kitten Chow®, Fancy Feast®, Friskies®, Mighty Dog®, Deli-Cat®, Pro Plan®, Purina One®, Natural Choice® Dog and Cat Products, Max® Dog Products, Max® Cat Gourmet Classics, Natural Choice® Complete Care® for cats, Ultra™ Products for dogs, Americas Choice Preferred Pets, Authority, Award, Best Choice, Big Bet, Big Red, Cadillac, Companion, Compliments, Demoulus Market Basket, Eukanuba, Fine Feline Cat, Food Lion, Food Town, Giant Companion, Hannaford, Hill Country Fare, Hy-Vee, Iams, J.E. Mondou, Laura Lynn, Li’l Red, Loving Meals, Medi-Cal, Meijer’s Main Choice, Mighty Dog Pouch, Mixables, Natural Life, Nutriplan, Nutro Max, Nutro Max Gourmet Classics, Nutro Natural Choice, Ol’ Roy, Paws, Pet Essentials, Pet Pride, President’s Choice, Price Chopper, Priority US, Publix, Roche Brothers, Savea-Lot Special Blend, Schnucks, Science Diet Feline Savory Cuts Cans, Sophistacat, Special Kitty, Springfield Prize, Sprout, Stop and Shop Companion, Tops Companion, Wegmans, Weis Total Pet, Western family US, White Rose, Winn Dixie, Your Pet, LIFELong™, Ol’ Roy and Special Kitty brands of pet food.

On pet-food: What’s Old Is New Again

With the revelation that Singaporean Pets Pant for U.S. Pet Food, the fact that going back to basics is (re)gaining momentary is a phenomenon not to be ignored.

From Dogma and Catitude: What’s old is new again (3 Apr 07)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What’s Old Is New Again

Back before pet foods became commercialized, people primarily fed dogs cheap horse meat and table scraps. Royal dogs didn’t actually fare all that well. Prince Albert’s greyhound, Eos, was fed only pate de foie gras and fresh unsalted butter. Clearly that wasn’t a suitable diet for dogs, as Eos died suddenly, no doubt from the canine equivalent of gout. Prince Albert preferred to blame it on a scullery maid who gave Eos salted butter one day.

Commercial pet foods came along in the mid-19th century, accompanying the rise in status of the dog as a family pet. A little over 100 years later, pet food companies had all but done away with home feeding of pets. They performed or financed all of the research into pet nutrition and funded the teaching of nutrition at veterinary schools, emphasizing the importance of a steady commercial diet with little variety. There’s no doubt that some of the commercial foods available today are way better for pets than a steady diet of foie gras or table scraps (especially given today’s high-fat human diets).

But in the wake of last month’s massive pet food recall, with hundreds and ultimately perhaps even thousands of cats and dogs sick or dead from contaminated pet food, people are returning to homemade diets. Despite the dire warnings of pet food manufacturers, it is possible to make a nutritious food for cats and dogs at home. They do have special needs–they won’t thrive on Mickey D’s or the leftovers from your local taco joint–but mixing up your own dog or cat food according to a veterinary nutritionist-approved recipe gives you the satisfaction of knowing exactly where your pet’s food came from and what’s in it.

Here’s one of the most important things you need to know if you’re planning to make food for your cat:

Cats are obligate carnivores. That means they must have meat in their diet. Even if your kitty likes to nibble grass, she can’t survive on a vegetarian diet.

Here are some good resources for homemade cat and dog food:

7thheavencats.com

The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care, C.J. Puotinen

The Nature of Animal Healing, Martin Goldstein, DVM

Natural Cat Care, Celeste Yarnall

Natural Dog Care, Celeste Yarnall

Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, 3rd edition, Richard Pitcairn, DVM

Keep Your Cat Healthy the Natural Way by Pat Lazarus

Real Food for Dogs, Arden Moore

Whole Pet Diet, Andi Brown

Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets: The Healthful Alternative, Donald Strombeck, DVM, Ph.D.

8 Weeks To A Healthy Dog, Shawn Messonnier, DVM

These aren’t in any particular order. They’re either written by people I know and trust or they’re recommended by people I know and trust.

You can also have your pet food recipe evaluated by the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, for a fee. Your veterinarian must refer you; you can’t just send them a sample and a check.

If you’d still prefer to feed your pet a commercial diet, take a look at my MSNBC article on what to know about choosing a pet food. I say in the article that pet food labels are easily manipulated, but I’ll say it again here. It’s good if some kind of named meat (chicken, turkey, lamb) is the first ingredient and it’s good for a food to list other meat or dairy proteins later on the label (chicken meal, chicken livers, eggs, cheese, fish meal, etc.), but if the food also contains several mentions of grains–for instance, wheat, wheat middlings, wheat meal or rice, rice bran, and some other form of rice–then more than likely the food contains more grain than meat and isn’t a high-quality choice.

Finally, the most important information on the pet food label is the manufacturer’s contact information. Write or call and ask whatever you want to know about the food (see my article for suggestions). If you don’t like the answers you get, try another company and another until you get answers that satisfy you. Your pet’s health and longevity are at stake.

Singaporean Pets Pant for U.S. Pet Food

In light of the still-ongoing aftermath of the pet food fiasco, this little article on the Foreign Agricultural Service site of the US Department of Agriculture sheds some light on the probable collective impact of bad pet food on the animal population in Singapore. (The article is dated 2004, but it’s good for extrapolation.)

The article opens (emphasis mine)

Pet food producers who sell to Singapore animal lovers will have no problem sniffing out profits in this fast growing market. Almost all the pet food is imported, and Singaporean pets are chowing down. For the past five years, retail sales of pet food have doubled, increasing 10 to 20 percent a year.

U.S. exporters supplied over 2,300 tons of dinners in 1996, approaching a C.I.F. (cost, insurance, freight) value of $3 million (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s trade data).

While this market may be small by some standards, Singapore serves as a retail product showcase for Southeast Asia. Due to its affluent, ethnically diverse population, it’s viewed as a product test center, offering entry into the regional market.

Singapore trade data indicates that 5,300 metric tons of pet food, worth $16-20 million, was imported in 1996. Primary beneficiaries of this largesse–the pampered pooches of Singapore. Though this pet population is not increasing, doting owners provide amply for them.

While it seems heartening that “doting owners provide amply”, the key contradiction is manifested later in the article:

Supermarkets sell most of the pet food in Singapore. The breakdown: Supermarkets (60 percent), pet food shops (30 percent), kennels and pet hotels (8 percent) and veterinarians (2 percent).

Now we all should know about supermarket brands, don’t we! But wait, pet store brands aren’t necessarily heaven’s purely nutritional manna either. Take this brand called SmartHeart which claims to provide the best nutrition for your cat. This is the ingredients list for its chicken formula; ingredients order as per packaging info:

Ground corn, chicken by-product meal, fish meal, squid by-product meal, shrimp meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, chicken meal.

It retails at $12.90 for a 3.5kg pack. Compare it the equivalent Whiskas formula, which would retails at about $6.50 for a 1.5kg pack and pass your own judgment.

The frightening thing? Smart Heart is distributed AND sold by one of the larger petshop chains in Singapore. It doesn’t bode well for the indulged pets, does it, that their doting owners don’t know or care what’s in the food they’re being fed.

The article also brings into focus a bit of a fallacy – that fish is a natural part of a cat’s diet and is all they need.

Singapore’s kitty population has traditionally purred for fishy flavors. Most recent trends, however, include chopped liver. And then there are the ever-popular prawns.

It goes on to say:

One humane note here: Tender-hearted Singaporeans feed so many neighborhood strays, that a new market for less expensive dry cat food has sprung up in recent years.

See, there is a market segment called “neighbourhood strays”! TNRM caregivers, like us, are a market force to be considered, however niche we are. But please note, less expensive doesn’t mean junk – no supermarket brands no matter!

The top selling brands listed in this next bit is not surprising. What is worth poo-pooing is the label “high-quality”. In view of the impact of the pet food recall on these brands, it is time “doting owners” in Singapore sit up and take note of WHAT IS IN THAT FOOD YOU FEED!

While there are no tariffs on imported pet foods, import markups range from 25 to 50 percent, and retail markups add about 30 percent. Those yummy pet treats suffer even higher markups, sometimes as much as 100 percent.

Through their high-quality products and continuing promotions and advertising, U.S. brands such as Eukanuba, IAMS, Science Diet, ProPlan and Eagle continue to enjoy strong market shares.

The strongest competition these companies face is from Australia, which sells the No.1 dog food in Singapore–Pedigree (it’s canned)–while Friskies leads the cat food contingent.

Australia has used effective promotions and advertising, particularly through television, to develop its market share. Moreover, Australia’s abundant raw supplies and proximity make for competitive advantages over the United States.

Japan provides stiff competition in the pet snack and treat products. These doggie and kitty treats are known for their eye-catching and elaborate packaging. Contributing to their popularity–the large number of Japanese expatriates living in Singapore and the enticements of higher margins offered to shop owners by Japanese manufacturers.

Given the presence of American food brands in Singapore, it is important to be informed about what’s been affected. For a very good index and rule of thumb, refer to the pet food list, which tracks American brands that are NOT affected by the recall.

For those who know or have read tec for a while now, you know we use Natural Balance. It is affected by the recall. This is an unescapable fact – check the pet food list. However, NB is still on the right side of the problem for us, as they’ve been clear about their problems (communications/decisions in the supply chain) and the products we use are not affected. We are watching developments though, and just to be sure that we have a backup plan should we need to switch in a hurry, I’m looking out for viable alternatives in Singapore now. If you’ve using a non-recall-affected food that is filler-free (preferably also cruelty-free), and you like the results, let us know!

Why Is the Pet Food Industry Killing Our Pets?

Commentary about the pet food fiasco. From the author of Food Pets Die For (ref tec page “Hey, what’s that in my food dish??“)

AlterNet

Why Is the Pet Food Industry Killing Our Pets?

By Ann Martin, Earth Island Journal
Posted on June 15, 2007, Printed on June 18, 2007
http://www.alternet.org/story/54236/

The commercial pet foods industry rakes in billions of dollars annually. In exchange for our dollars, we trust the companies to provide our pets with quality nutrition. The recent pet food recall demonstrated that our trust has been misplaced. But while many were shocked by the tragic deaths of beloved pets, many more would be shocked to know that the pet food industry has a long history of mistreating our pets. I first began researching the industry in 1990, when my two dogs became ill after eating a well-known commercial food.

The first thing that came to light was the fact that the pet food industry is virtually self-regulated. The only requirement that the industry must meet is to adhere to the Labeling Act, which states that food must contain the name and address of the producing company, whether the product is intended for dogs or cats, the weight of the food, and the guaranteed analysis. The source of the protein included in the analysis can be anything: condemned material from slaughterhouses, road-kill, zoo animals and even euthanized companion animals. Of course, the industry denies all this, especially the use of dead dogs and cats in pet foods. However, a senior official from a large rendering conglomerate in the United States wrote to me, “I know of no rendering company in the U.S. that will segregate companion animals from the rest of the raw material they process.”

Dog eat dog?

I personally have been able to trace euthanized pets from veterinary clinics in the city where I live to rendering plants where they are processed; the end results are shipped to pet food companies. Pentobarbital, the drug used to euthanize these animals, ends up being fed to our pets. Results of a study conducted by the University of Minnesota show that pentobarbital “survived rendering without undergoing degradation.” In the late 1990s, officials from the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA/CVM) decided to investigate a theory that dogs were exposed to pentobarbital through dog food. Researchers developed a test to detect pentobarbital in dry commercial dog foods.

Tests were conducted in 1998 and again in 2000. The first series of tests detected only the presence of pentobarbital but did not indicate the levels that were present in the foods. The second series of tests used 25 samples: 15 were found to contain pentobarbital. Ol’ Roy, Heinz, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Trailblazer, Dad’s, Purina Pro Plan, Reward and a number of lesser-known brands were among the pet foods showing various levels of pentobarbital. In tests designed to dispute that dogs and cats are the source of pentobarbital in pet food, the FDA/CVM conducted DNA testing to ascertain what animals might be in the food. In a statement released on its Web site, it said that no dog or cat DNA was found and that “the pentobarbital residues are entering pet food from euthanized, rendered cattle and even horses.”

Their report two years later in the American Journal of Veterinary research contradicted these findings. “None of the 31 dog food samples examined in our study tested positive for equine-derived proteins.” Additionally, they stated: “Cattle are only occasionally euthanized with pentobarbital, and thus are not considered a likely source of pentobarbital in dog food.” Their conclusion? “Although the results of our study narrow the search for the source of pentobarbital, it does not define the source (i.e., species) responsible for the contamination.

Hold the poison, please

According to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), pet food is considered adulterated if the “food is packaged or held under unsanitary conditions, food or ingredients are filthy or decomposed, and foods contain any poisonous or deleterious substance.” As pentobarbital is considered a poisonous drug, it would therefore be logical that the FFDCA would work to remove that substance from pet foods.

I asked Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA/CVM, what steps the organization would undertake to remove pentobarbital from all commercial foods. His reply: “This drug is not approved for use in pet food, so it should not be present in these foods. That being said, CVM is not planning to undertake any special enforcement efforts to detect pentobarbital in pet foods.”

The contention of the FDA/CVM is that this drug was found in such small amounts in the pet foods that it should not cause a problem. Dr. Tamara Hebbler of the Healing Hope Animal Clinic in San Diego, Calif., disagrees. By feeding your pets foods that contain even traces of pentobarbital, Hebbler states, “you can definitely be slowly causing chronic degenerative disease to happen, much, much faster.”

Along with a euthanizing drug that could be in your pet food, you’ll find additives, preservatives, vitamins, and mineral mixes that are usually added in higher amounts than deemed necessary because the processing can degrade these supplements. At present dog food manufacturer Royal Canin is facing a $50 million class-action suit on behalf of pet owners who claim that some of Royal Canin’s foods contain excess levels of vitamin D, often damaging or fatal to pets.

Over the years, there have been numerous pet deaths caused by foods contaminated with mycotoxins, caused by a fungus found in moldy grains. One of the mycotoxins — vomitoxin — can cause diarrhea and vomiting in pets but is seldom fatal. This toxin was the cause of the Nature’s Recipe recall in 1995. In December of 2005, aflatoxin, a deadly form of mycotoxin, was found in food produced by Diamond Pet Foods. The company recalled 34 million pounds of contaminated dog and cat food that eventually killed over 100 dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, Diamond failed to follow company guidelines for aflatoxin testing and shipped contaminated products.

In a warning letter from the FDA, Diamond was advised that testing of retained samples “revealed aflatoxin levels between 90 and 1,851 parts per billion (ppb).” Acceptable levels are less than 20 ppb. People lost their beloved pets because a company chose to take the easy route and not bother with proper testing.

Total recall

March 2007 saw the largest recall in the history of the industry. Menu Foods, a Canadian-based company, recalled more than 60 million cans and pouches of wet food that had been distributed all over North America. Iams, Eukanuba and Nutro were implicated in the scandal. Eventually Nestle Purina, Royal Canin, Diamond Pet Foods and Hills Pet Nutrition were added to the list, and in early April, some dry foods and pet treats were also included in the recall.

Sunshine Mills and Del Monte recalled dog biscuits and other pet treats. In total, over 153 brands of pet foods and treats were taken off the shelves. Natural Balance, which many considered safe and top of the line, also recalled a line of its foods. The cause? Wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate contaminated with melamine, a material used to manufacture kitchen utensils, and, in China, fertilizer.

Melamine was added to the wheat and rice to boost the protein levels. Two U.S. companies had imported the contaminated wheat and rice from China, and it was distributed to a number of pet food operations across North America. The number of reported deaths and illnesses in pets varied, depending on the source, from 16 to more than 3,000.

Later in the investigation, a team at the University of Guelph also found cyanuric acid and melamine in the tissues, kidneys and urine of infected pets. (Cyaniric is a stabilizer used in swimming pools.) “We took some ordinary cat urine and added three drops of melamine and three drops of cyanuric acid, and we got the identical crystals that we see in the kidneys of the affected cats,” said team leader Brent Hoff, a clinical toxicologist and pathologist.

It was also learned that American Nutrition of Ogden, Utah, a company that processed a number of foods for various companies, had added the contaminated rice protein to these products unbeknownst to the companies involved.

I have talked to many people who are skeptical that the pet food industry would use such inferior ingredients. But slowly they are beginning to question what they are feeding their pets. We have seen the rates of cancer, liver and kidney disease; autoimmune diseases; allergies; and skin problems rise in the years since this industry grew.

As our veterinary bills mount, we have been brainwashed by the industry to think that if we feed our pets human food, we will be causing them great harm. While it is not recommended to include your pets in your junk food habits, there is no harm in sharing a well-balanced diet with your pet. You wouldn’t want to eat food from the same bag every day, so don’t force your pets to do just that.

Ann Martin is the author of Food Pets Die For (NewSage Press, 2003) and Protect Your Pet (NewSagePress, 2001). The updated version of Food Pets Die For will be available in November 2007.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/54236/

Toronto Star 20070421: Menu Foods’ future clouded by recall

Read this article from the petfoodtracker‘s sister blog (full blog post below), helping pets and pet lovers – what you need to know.

The melamine tragedy/fiasco not withstanding, it is highly disturbing to see just how wide-spread the lack of concern about the real quality in pet food is:

The North American market for pet food, at $15.5 billion a year, seemed to have nowhere to go but up as more households adopted pets and more pet owners shifted to premium brands.

Imagine the number of cats and dogs fed the type of food, gunk food, Menu Foods typically makes.

Few pet food owners had ever heard of Menu Foods before the recall. That’s not surprising, given that all of its business involves making pet food for sale under other retailers’ and companies’ brands.

It is small comfort to know who really makes the food, but it is also highligy disturbing to know:

Production for one of its biggest customers, Procter & Gamble’s Iams/Eukanuba brand, remains halted.

And that between 2002 to 2004:

It bought a wet canned food manufacturing facility from P&G/Iams in South Dakota and entered an exclusive five-year contract to meet the pet food giant’s needs.

It is highly disturbing but not surprising that a company like Menu Foods dominate the pet food manufacturing industry, nor that Proctor and Gamble’s Iams and Eukanba are its bigger customer.

While the recall has set the company back, analysts said, Menu Foods’ sheer size may be its saving grace.

The company dominates the $3.2 billion a year wet food segment. Its rivals are mainly local or regional players who can’t compete effectively for space on national retail shelves.

There is no grace in a company that, according to itself:

Menu Foods “continues to enjoy the confidence and support of its creditors and lenders,” said spokesperson Sam Bornstein.

That its rivals, makers of equally bad food are also embroiled in this fiasco:

As well, it’s no longer alone in this mess. Two rival pet food makers, Del Monte Foods and Nestlé-Purina, have disclosed problems in their own facilities with the same ingredient in the weeks since Menu Foods first came forward.

Why? Because:

Officially, only 16 pets died as a result of consuming wet pet food containing “adulterated” wheat gluten imported from China. But veterinary groups in Canada and the U.S. report the number is far higher.

While it is understandable that most pet food brands are too small to afford their own manufacturing facilities, for pet parents, the main question to ask ourselves is still: do you even know what you’re feeding your furry babies?


Menu Foods’ future clouded by recall

Reported in today’s Toronto Star (my comment in italics, and emphasis is mine)

The value of Menu Foods Income Trust Fund units recovered slightly this week as short sellers reduced their positions in the belief the worst of the pet food recall might be coming to a close.

(I don’t believe this is the case, time will of course tell)

But problems at the underlying operating company, Menu Foods Inc., are far from over.

A month after issuing one of North America’s largest pet food recalls, the Mississauga-based company faces a slew of lawsuits from angry consumers and an uncertain future.

The recall affects 60 million units of “cuts and gravy style” dog and cat food, sold in cans and foil pouches. They’re sold under a variety of brand names through virtually every major supermarket chain, pet specialty retailer and mass merchant in North America, from Wal-Mart to Loblaws to Petsmart.

Production for one of its biggest customers, Procter & Gamble’s Iams/Eukanuba brand, remains halted.

Well that’s good news.

All of which will have “a significant impact” on the company’s financial results this year, chief executive officer Paul Henderson acknowledged in a press conference last month. The hit could reach $40 million, the company estimated.

Investors will get a better glimpse of the initial cost once the company publishes its quarterly results for the period ending March 31. The period includes the first two weeks of the recall.

The company has yet to announce when it might release those results. By law, it has until May 15 to do so.

But the impact on Menu Foods and the wider pet food industry could last much longer as it struggles to regain consumers’ trust amid reports the death toll reaches into the thousands.

“We expect to see a severe financial impact on Menu’s business,” Mary McKee, an analyst with CIBC World Markets, wrote in a research report shortly after the company issued the recall March 16.

She cited both the immediate cost of the recall, future cost of defending itself against legal action, and the longer-term damage to its reputation.

Officially, only 16 pets died as a result of consuming wet pet food containing “adulterated” wheat gluten imported from China. But veterinary groups in Canada and the U.S. report the number is far higher.

The ingredient, used to thicken wet pet food sold in cans and pouches, was found to contain melamine, a substance used to make plastic, fertilizer and fire retardant. U.S. investigators are probing the possibility it was deliberately added to boost the protein content of the wheat gluten to accepted levels.

On March 16, the day Menu Foods announced the recall, its unit value plunged 25 per cent.

It was a tough blow for a company that had just completed a major turnaround. Already hammered by federal tax changes that hurt all income trusts last fall, Menu Foods had recently recovered from a difficult period that saw sales and profits hurt by a rising Canadian dollar and higher aluminum costs.

Few pet food owners had ever heard of Menu Foods before the recall. That’s not surprising, given that all of its business involves making pet food for sale under other retailers’ and companies’ brands.

Founded in Streetsville 35 years ago by Donald Green, who bought the plant from Quaker Oats Co., Menu Foods was largely a regional player until former Loblaw executive Robert Bras got involved in 1977.

Bras, who had worked alongside Dave Nichol at Loblaw, saw Menu Foods’ future in the burgeoning market for private label. Once scorned by consumers as cheap second-rate products, store brands were just emerging as an attractive alternative to big national names. Cheaper than the big brands, but more profitable for the stores, it was a win for both retailers and consumers. Nichol was a big part of that story as the marketing whiz behind Loblaw’s President’s Choice label.

By the time Menu Foods went public in 2002, it boasted $234 million in sales, based on an annual compound growth rate of 21.2 per cent a year. Its customers included most of the top supermarket chains, mass merchants and pet specialty retailers, from Wal-Mart to Petsmart.

But some original owners, now in their 70s, were seeking to cash out. The company went public amid the income trust craze, raising $129 million. Soon after, Bras unexpectedly died.

Serge Darkazanli, a director of Menu Foods General Partners and former CEO of Westfair Foods Ltd., came out of retirement to head the company.

Over the next two years, Menu Foods invested heavily in new plants and equipment, according to its annual information form filed with regulators last month. The company expanded further into foil pouches, a new style of packaging favoured by higher-end brands. It bought a wet canned food manufacturing facility from P&G/Iams in South Dakota and entered an exclusive five-year contract to meet the pet food giant’s needs.

It raised another $85 million (U.S.) in senior secured notes and $36.5 million in trust units to pay down debt and fund further expansions, including the purchase of two warehouses in Kansas and New Jersey.

But by mid-2005, the company was in trouble, breaching covenants with lenders as it missed targets amid a rising Canadian dollar and higher aluminum costs. Darkazanli retired and was replaced by Henderson.

During 2006, the company initiated several price increases and sales and profits improved. In February 2007, it had renegotiated the terms of its loans and secured senior debt.

The future looked rosy.

The North American market for pet food, at $15.5 billion a year, seemed to have nowhere to go but up as more households adopted pets and more pet owners shifted to premium brands.

While the recall has set the company back, analysts said, Menu Foods’ sheer size may be its saving grace.

The company dominates the $3.2 billion a year wet food segment. Its rivals are mainly local or regional players who can’t compete effectively for space on national retail shelves.

As well, it’s no longer alone in this mess. Two rival pet food makers, Del Monte Foods and Nestlé-Purina, have disclosed problems in their own facilities with the same ingredient in the weeks since Menu Foods first came forward.

Menu Foods “continues to enjoy the confidence and support of its creditors and lenders,” said spokesperson Sam Bornstein.

Well, it was going good until that last comment.