Food & Nutrition
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Dog Food Watch: Recalls
What’s gotten into food safety?


We’re barely halfway into the year and already, there have been a flurry of pet food recalls. The sheer number of brands has been surprising, as have the names of the brands involved; we’ve seen recalls from some of the industry’s most respected companies. How and what we feed our dogs (and ourselves, for that matter) is such a fundamental issue that we’ve decided to do a series of articles on pet food safety, starting with a report on a few of the most recent recalls. We examine the reasons behind them, lessons learned and what we might expect in the future.

Until very recently, all recalls have been voluntary (a confusing term that can lead consumers to believe that a recall is optional), triggered for a variety of reasons: mislabeling, misbranding, the inclusion of potential allergens or adulterants, or contamination with a pathogen such as one of the varieties of salmonella. And some products are recalled simply because they were produced at the same factory during the same timeframe as the affected food.

So far, no pet food recall has been as widespread as the one in 2007, which involved the Menu melamine scandal. If Hurricane Katrina taught policymakers the importance of the human/ pet bond, the ’07 Menu Foods recall did the same for the focus on the safety of the food that we feed our pets. As William Hubbard, a former FDA official, notes, “I do think that this pet food thing has shown people … that something needs to be fixed. If this is not a wake-up call, then people are so asleep, they are catatonic.”

It took a while for Congress to fully awaken, but in 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was given more power with the passage and then signing into law by President Obama of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The act marks the most sweeping food-safety reform since the Great Depression.

This new act will soon be putting broader issues into the spotlight. For the first time, the FDA will be empowered to more aggressively regulate and enforce preventive measures. Recalls will no longer just be voluntary, but rather, can be mandatory. In our opinion, given this new regulatory power and the plethora of places from which pet food manufacturers source their ingredients, the number of recalls will surely rise. Closer attention and accountability are good for consumers and the animals we feed, and definitely something we need to be informed about.

Six years ago, in 2007, veterinarians began seeing a surprising number of companion animals—primarily dogs—with kidney problems; in September of that year, the American Veterinary Medical Association alerted the FDA that they had had reports of a Fanconi syndrome–like disease that appeared to be associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats made in China. As a result, the FDA issued its first cautionary warning—not a recall—for those treats. In early January 2013, after the FDA had spent years investigating whether or not jerky treats from China were harming (and killing) pets, these treats were finally voluntarily recalled.

We have the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to thank for finding what might be the contributing factor: the department identified antibiotic residues not approved for poultry in the U.S. in the treats. This spurred Del Monte, the makers of Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky Treats, and Nestle Purina, manufacturers of Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch dog treats, as well as others, to finally initiate a nationwide removal of these products from store shelves.



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Submitted by Frances | June 8 2013 |

I would expect anyone handling raw meat - whether direct from the local butcher or a frozen complete dog food - to take the basic hygiene precautions we were all taught as children. Avoid cross contamination, wash hands and implements well, etc, etc, with additional, more stringent precautions if anyone in the household is at high risk of infection. Kibble is very definitely another matter altogether, but surely anyone feeding a raw diet should have the sense to know how to handle raw meat?!

Submitted by Anonymous | June 11 2013 |

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a wealth of information pertaining to Claudia's article. Explore the links located on their website. I'll mention a few items:

1. Pet food can make pets and people sick

Pet ownership has many positive benefits. Pets comfort us and give us companionship. But as much as we love animals, there are simple precautions we need to take to keep our family members, including our four-legged members, safe and healthy. Here are some tips to help protect you and your family.

Shopping for your pet? Here are some purchasing tips:

Look at the package:
Buy bagged food with no visible signs of damage to the packaging, such as tears or discolorations.
Avoid buying canned food with dents.
Avoid raw diets for your pets:
CDC recommends against feeding raw food to dogs and cats because of the risk of illness to the pet as well as to people living in the household.

2. Do not feed your pet a raw diet
Here is why:

Raw diets consist of foods such as meat, poultry, milk, and eggs that have not been cooked or treated to remove harmful germs.
These food items can carry harmful bacteria including Salmonella and Campylobacter.


Submitted by Jill Hawley | July 10 2013 |

Just wanted to comment about the comment against raw food.

Raw food is great for keeping your dogs and cat on their natural diet. No grains, extremely low amount of veggies which need to either be lightly cooked or run through the food processor, since dogs don't have the long digestive tract needed to break them down and small amounts of fruit.
Lots of people say that the risk of contamination is too high. Well that's why you take measures to keep them low, such as sanitizing your work area and food bowls, washing your hand. BTW salmonella is found in processed pet food too! Although I haven't heard of any dogs getting sick just the owners.

Next the source of the food is of great importance, hormone free,organic, free range,pastured animals are the best options especially when it comes to liver since it filters out all the bad. You want to make sure that those animals are on their natural diet too, so no grains for them either. Cows eat grass for a reason, so why feed them grain?

Then we have the great debate on bones, don't use bones that are cooked, ever, they will splinter and can cause blockages or perforations. Then you want to make sure you're using none weight bearing bones only as, they will be easy for your dog to digest.

I want to know EXACTLY what is in my pets food and where it came from. Buy local when you can but be sure the food is GMO and hormone free.

And just wanted to add in how unlikely it is for your dog to be the one who gets sick, my dogs used to feed on the carcasses of deer we had hunted then butchered when we lived in the country.

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