Food & Nutrition
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Donald R. Strombeck Talks Dog Nutrition and Pet Food Recalls

DS: Well, it’s not the first one! It’s a long list. The reason people know about it is because of all the publicity it has received.

How can consumers know the source of the food they buy?

DS: If you look at some of the foods at the big-box stores, you know they are producing them at bottom price. There is no way you can ever know where the ingredients come from; all you know is you are paying less for it.

B: In the latest recall, Eukanuba, Iams, Hills and Nutro are among the brands affected, brands many consumers think of as high-quality food—they too used wheat gluten.

They don’t have to put glutens into pet foods; the only reason they put it in is as a binding agent or something that makes the product more palatable or nicer looking (to the human), so it will hold its shape if it’s a biscuit or a kibble. There is no nutrition in glutens, nothing really to speak of.

Are there any changes that the federal government can make to improve the process and to ensure the quality of the ingredients? What about the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)—aren’t they the ones responsible for overseeing this?

DS: AAFCO is a mutual admiration society representing the pet food industry. They are from the industry. They say that they can police themselves and don’t need any government interference. And that’s the way it operates. There haven’t been any changes there, and so the only thing that will cause them to change the way they do things is if they lose a lot of money, like from a scare like this.

B: Or perhaps if the public becomes more aware of their power; its members all seem to come from state agriculture departments.

The members are in the back pocket of the pet food industry.

B: What is your position on the “cooked” versus “raw” diet?

The reason I always cooked the meat and vegetables for my own animals is if you feed raw meat, it is not completely digested. And if you use carbohydrates, you have to cook them. This is one example of what can happen with commercial pet foods. They contain a lot of cereals; there have been examples where a dry food containing barley, oats and rye wasn’t cooked completely, like it should have been. Because the carbohydrate source wasn’t cooked, animals who ate it had diarrhea. You see this in vet practice—people come in with sick animals and they have been using the same brand of kibble, but then one batch isn’t well-cooked. It doesn’t make national headlines, but when you see this, you know that there is a problem with that particular batch of food.

Even some of the kibble in this recall was contaminated.

DS: Did you read the information in my book about kibble being contaminated with bacteria? Veterinarians know this. I got money to research this, and gave it to Jim Cullor, a good researcher; I asked him to do a study to determine the numbers and kinds of bacteria that could be cultured from kibble. And he did it, but I don’t know if it was ever published. [Editor’s note: We are checking on this.] The guy who was in charge of public programs at Davis was adamantly opposed to having this published, because he wanted to protect the industry. Also, I remember when the pet food industry would say on the bag of puppy food, “moisten this food” and put it down for them. But bacteria multiply rapidly on moistened dry food. You know that puppies, a lot of times, eat a little bite and wander off, then come back to it, so the food could be there all day long. It is a good way for them to get diarrhea.

What do you think prevents people from cooking for their pets? Is it because they are made to believe that they must feed a balanced diet and they don’t understand how to do that by themselves?


Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.


Photograph by Richard Seagraves

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