Congressional Questions to Safety of Beneful Pet Food
Two Senators that have a long history of pet food consumer advocacy have stepped up for us again. Senator Richard Durbin and Senator Dianne Feinstein have sent questions to FDA – concerned about the safety of Beneful Dog Food and the overall safety of pet food.
Senator Durbin and Senator Feinstein addressed their pet food concerns to Margaret Hamburg, the Commission of the FDA. They stated…
“Reports raise serious concerns about Beneful dry kibble potentially containing such toxins as propylene glycol, commonly used in automobile antifreeze, and mycotoxins, a group of toxins produced by grain fungus. These toxins could lead to serious consequences such as weight loss, internal bleeding, liver and kidney failure, and even death. Media reports have referenced more than 3,000 complaints online about dogs becoming ill or dying after eating Beneful. To our knowledge, the FDA has not issued any investigations, warnings, consumer guidance, or product recalls to address these alarming issues.”
Also, the Senators called FDA out on laws that Congress required to be established six years ago. (After the 2007 pet food recall, Congress established food safety laws that required FDA to develop a pet food reporting network, improved pet food ingredient definitions, improved pet food processing requirements. This was required to be completed by September 2009. To date – six years later – only one of these requirements have been completed by FDA – the pet food adverse event reporting system only accessible to FDA and State Department of Agriculture.)
“The components of the law that FDA has implemented are important to the public and veterinarians, namely the searchable online recall list posted on the agency’s website. While improving communication is important for pet owners and veterinarians, FDA has not issued clear guidance to industry on reporting requirements, ingredient and processing standards, and labeling improvements. To put it frankly, the food safety system Congress fought to develop has not been put in place by the FDA.”
To read the full letter from Senators Durbin and Feinstein to FDA, Click Here.
Association for Truth in Pet Food response sent to Senators Durbin and Feinstein…
Dear Senator Durbin and Senator Feinstein,
As a representative of pet food consumers, Association for Truth in Pet Food (ATPF) and its pet food consumer members thank you both for your concern of the Beneful Dog Food linked deaths and illness reports. As well, we thank both of you for your concern that FDA is not taking appropriate action to protect the pets of U.S. citizens.
Though it is called ‘pet food’ – most pet foods on store shelves are not food. Pet food is considered ‘feed’ by federal and state regulatory authorities and held to a completely different standard. Feed – as in what is fed to livestock animals, often provided to the animal by dumping the feed on the ground, and stored in barns (not in homes). Feed, including pet feed (labeled as food), is allowed to contain diseased animal tissue, euthanized animals, chemical or pesticide contaminated rejected for use in human food ingredients. Just about any waste – rejected as food (human food) is welcome in animal feed with no disclosure to the consumer. Please read the FDA Veterinary Compliance Policy Manual Guides for animal feed. Link: http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/ucm117042.htm Scroll to bottom section titled Animal Feed. You will probably be horrified.
Feed ingredients including meats are not required by law to be stored or transported under refrigeration or in clean containers.
Human food labels are required to state actual nutrient content. Pet food labels are held to a different standard, an estimated (crude) nutrient content.
Calories are calculated differently in pet food than in human food – known as a ‘modified Atwater’ system.
Though pet food is touted as ‘complete and balanced’ the majority of required nutrients have no established maximums. This regulatory lapse can result in dramatic and potentially dangerous nutrient levels for the pet.
In pet food, ‘chicken’ on the label can mean chicken skin and bones – no meat. In pet food ‘chicken’ on the label can mean birds that were diseased – rejected for use in human food.
Pet food is allowed to display misleading images of actual food on their labels such as prime cuts of meat and fresh vegetables when nothing near this quality of ingredient are inside the bag or can (stated as “freedom of speech” by FDA at the most recent regulatory meeting).
In other words, FDA and each State Department of Agriculture openly allows pet foods to mislead the consumer and forces the consumer to learn a completely different language of ‘food’ and regulations (including state and federal) should they wish to fully understand exactly what they are purchasing in a pet food.
Just a few pet food industry concerns since Congress instructed FDA to improve the safety of pet food…
- From 2008 to 2010, hundreds of reports to FDA of sick and dying pets linked to Nutro Pet Food were obtained through Freedom of Information Act by journalist Lisa Wade McCormick (formerly of ConsumerAffairs.com). The FDA never provided consumers follow up to their investigation.
- Since 2007 to current day, on average – one dog has died every three days linked to Chinese imported jerky treats. The FDA has yet to provide consumers an answer for these deaths.
- In 2012 following a massive pet food recall of Diamond Pet Food manufactured pet foods, the FDA released an inspection report of the South Carolina pet food plant. They found serious manufacturing concerns including equipment being held together with “duct tape and cardboard”. The FDA never provided consumers with follow up inspection reports.
- In January 2015, FDA issued a Warning Letter to a Purina Pet Food canning facility stating “that your facility has significant deviations from the LACF (low-acid can food) regulations.”
- And for the past two years, (estimated) thousands of Beneful dog food linked reports of sick and dying pets have flooded pet related websites, media reports, and the FDA.
Pet food consumers donated almost $16,000 for our own pet food testing project published early 2015. We tested twelve of the most popular varieties of pet food sold in the U.S. market. Not one pet food tested clean of concerns. Several tested above regulatory limits of supplements, eight foods tested contained multiple mycotoxins, and numerous foods contained bacteria linked to putrid meat.
Of similar concern, livestock animals that become human food (and pet food) are also fed waste ingredient feed. FDA also openly allows animal feed manufacturers to recycled chemical, pesticide contaminated foods into animal feed. And recycled animal waste (feces) is allowed by FDA to become a processed feed ingredient.
Association for Truth in Pet Food and its many consumer members ask you both to delve deeper into the horrible condition of pet food/animal feed. As evidenced with just a few of the reported incidents mentioned above, pets continue to die and suffer serious health concerns linked to food and treats. We need your strong advocacy for our human and furry families. We will be asking other members of Congress – from each of our own states to support your strong lead in holding the FDA accountable for the safety of food – human and pet food.
As just a beginning, we ask that pet food be…
- safe for our pets to consume;
- properly labeled as pet feed if ingredients do not meet requirements of food law;
- provide actual nutrient content similar to human food labels;
- ingredients stated in common food language (chicken skin and bones should not be stated as ‘real chicken’); and
- misleading images of food removed from pet food products.
One last note. The Centers for Disease Control monitors human health risks linked to foods and actively works with physicians to diagnose a food related illness. This valuable front line of defense is absent in pet food. Just as the CDC actively works with human health professionals, we ask the FDA to establish a working relationship with veterinarians to prevent pet food borne illness and death. Currently the FDA’s pet food adverse event system is only available to regulatory authorities. We firmly believe a system accessible to and working with veterinarians will save many more lives.
Eight years ago this very day – March 16, 2007 – the first announcement of the deadliest pet food recall in history was made. Pet owners still grieve their lost family. Today, it is horrifying for us to consider that pet food sits almost exactly as it was in 2007 (if not worse). Consumers ask you to please – do not allow FDA to continue on this path.
Association for Truth in Pet Food
As follow up to the lead that Senators Durbin and Feinstein took on pet food safety, please write your representatives in Congress and ask them to join Senators Durbin and Feinstein investigation of pet food safety with FDA. You can find your Congressional Representatives by Clicking Here.
An example letter…
Eight years ago – March 16, 2007 – began the deadliest pet food recall in history. Congress took swift action requiring FDA to establish an improved pet food reporting system, improved ingredient definitions, and improved manufacturing policies. Unfortunately, FDA has mostly ignored what Congress required for pet food safety.
Recently, Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein wrote FDA asking for answers as to why there has been massive reports of sick pets linked to Beneful Dog Food and why “the food safety system Congress fought to develop has not been put in place”.
I am writing – as a concerned pet food/treat consumer – asking you to join with Senators Durbin and Feinstein questioning FDA as to why pets continue to needlessly die linked to a pet food or treat.
Pet food safety should be a high priority of FDA. Instead, FDA considers pet food as ‘animal feed’ which is guided by completely different regulations than food. Feed is what is fed to livestock animals in feed lots – ‘feed’ should not be handled by families or brought into our homes. Animal feed – including pet food – is allowed by FDA to contain diseased animal tissues, chemical or pesticide contaminated ingredients, and just about any waste rejected as food.
Pet food is allowed to display misleading images of food on labels when inside the bag or can contains nothing similar. Pet food ingredient definitions mislead the consumer – pet food chicken can be merely chicken skin and bones (no meat). For myself or any consumer that wishes to understand a pet food label – understand what we are actually feeding our pets – we must learn a completely different ‘feed’ language and familiarize ourselves with a multitude of different federal and state laws.
Please join with Senators Durbin and Feinstein into a full investigation of FDA’s lack of action for pet food safety. The FDA cannot and should not be allowed to continue on the same path. History does repeat itself. Pet food consumers have seen this first hand time and time again for the past 8 years.
We can hope that Senators Durbin and Feinstein receive lots of Congressional support and do not allow pet food/treats to devastate so many lives.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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