Some of these additives do not contribute nutrients but are there to make the products taste better (flavor additives, “digest”), stick together (montmorillonite, bentonite), keep the fat from running (beet pulp, tomato pomace) and appear more acceptable to owners (caramel color). The infamous recalled “wheat gluten” (which was really melamine-laced wheat flour) was supposed to be there to thicken gravy but also to contribute protein. Additives all have a purpose in commercial dog food formulas. They are all approved by the FDA or are considered “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS). Whether they constitute “junk” depends on point of view. Our preference is to reserve the term “junk” for pet treats that provide calories but are not required to meet nutritional standards.
B: As has been evidenced by the public response to the latest food recall, pet lovers are increasingly aware that they must know more about the food they feed their companion animals. Are you interested in hearing from our readers with questions they might have as you investigate the pet food industry?
N&N: Yes! We would love to hear from readers about what they want to know. We will make certain we get those questions answered in our book, if not sooner.
B: Many of us would also like to better understand the link between the industry and the role that veterinarians play in directing our pets’ dietary regimes. What kind of information can our readers provide you to help in that phase of your work?
N&N: We know enough about medical education to know that doctors know hardly anything about nutrition. The same is true of veterinarians. Most veterinary colleges teach nutrition only minimally, meaning that veterinarians get their nutrition information from pet food companies. We would love to hear from veterinarians about the nutrition problems they encounter in their practices and the ways in which pet food companies transmit information about how to treat these problems. We would love to hear from pet owners about what veterinarians tell them about dog feeding, which commercial products they recommend, whether they sell foods in their offices and what kind of nutrition education they provide. We are delighted to have this forum and would like to make it as useful as possible for Bark readers.
Marion Nestle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and Malden Nesheim, at email@example.com. Their most recent book, Pet Food Politics, is now available from the University of California Press.