Food & Nutrition
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Dog Food Watch: Recalls

Resource allocation is a real issue. Other states have registered positive hits on items like jerky and kibble, so even though there might not be direct interstate coordination of efforts, Lueders says, since “Michigan found salmonella in one brand of pet food, it probably doesn’t serve much practical purpose for us to look at the same brand ourselves. There is an old adage that says an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, so we wouldn’t continue to test the same pet food for salmonella in hopes of finding more salmonella, or hoping to find that it is clean …”

What impact does this have on consumers and the pet food industry— in particular, the raw-diet industry? For an answer to that question, I turned to Melinda Miller, president of North American Raw Petfood Association (NARPA), a trade organization. She acknowledges that positive findings— which she says are likely to increase once the FSMA legislation is fully implemented—have an impact on NARPA members; she also notes that the leading raw-diet manufacturers subject their processes to more vigilance and testing than occurs in any other pet-food sector.

Prior to processing a food in their facilities, suppliers must certify that the food is pathogen-free. Throughout the manufacturing process, pathogens are tested for and eradicated. A few NARPA members use what is known as highpressure processing or high-pressure pasteurization (HPP), which disrupts a pathogen’s cell walls. Miller says that this very expensive system is considered by the general food industry to be stateof- the-art in controlling pathogens.

Companies like Bravo! also batchtest and follow a test-and-hold system, meaning that finished products are not shipped from their plants until negative pathogen reports are in hand. A Bravo! spokesperson described the company’s process: “Most established companies in raw diet own their own facilities. We [at Bravo] come out of the meat business and our facility is a USDA facility for human food, so we have standards we have to keep up. We have a USDA inspector who checks the plant daily to make sure that [things are] being done by the books [and] we have a HACCP [Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points] plan in place. What consumers should be looking for are companies who use ‘test and release’ and batch testing, and have HACCP plans.” He also noted that the company’s website will soon have a function that will allow consumers to enter an item number and “best used by” date and receive test results for E. coli, Listeria and salmonella.

This type of high-level testing increases the cost of the final product; as Miller observes, “you can’t add a whole level of pathogen controls and not have a resulting increase in cost to consumers.”

No business undertakes a recall lightly — it’s the last thing any food manufacturer wants to do. Not only are recalls costly, they have the potential to harm a brand’s image.

But while smaller brands can be devastated by such events, companies who have worked hard and long to develop a loyal customer base can, most likely, recover from them, as can internationally distributed brands such as Natura.

I don’t believe that most of these pet food companies and manufacturers acted recklessly. But after a recall, it shouldn’t be business as usual. Measures need to be taken to identify where the contamination came into the system, and pathogen controls need to be improved. Changes need to be made—for some businesses, that may mean switching manufacturers, raw-material suppliers, warehouses or distributors, or even instructing pet stores on proper handling and storage techniques for their products.

It’s also critically important that they pay attention to how customers are notified (and receive compensation or refunds). For example, I commend Honest Kitchen for quickly alerting its customers via email, social media and website notices. Retaining the trust of customers requires companies to be transparent, forthcoming and ready to make production and sourcing modifications, as they and a few other companies have done.

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
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.

More From The Bark