As was expected, the Representatives from Purina Pet Food didn’t have a lot of answers for me to questions posed about Waggin Train jerky treats.
First – I must thank Purina Pet Food for giving me time to ask questions. This was certainly not a fun thing for Purina – and credit must be given to them for putting themselves in the ‘hot seat’. While all of the big manufacturers were in attendance at this event, none of the rest reached out to me asking if I wanted an interview. So – I give Purina a great deal of credit for this. While not much was accomplished, I felt it was perhaps a first step towards Big Pet Food finally ‘hearing’ the concerns of pet food consumers (real consumers – not focus group consumers).
We entered the massive Purina booth right on time – and were promptly met by Kim Beardslee, Marketing Public Relations and Paul Cooke, Vice President/Director of Trade & Industry Development. We all moved to a reception area (large sectional sofa) in one corner of the booth. My first question was “What does Purina know about the drugs New York Department of Agriculture found in the Waggin Train treats?”
They didn’t know anything about these drugs.
I shared ‘Well, allow me to tell you a bit about these drugs. They are sulfa drugs. And just the same way some people are allergic to sulfa drugs, so are some dogs. And the reaction a hypersensitive dog has to a sulfa drug is Fanconi Syndrome – the exact symptoms pets have experience from these treats. So how can Purina assure consumers that all the chickens in China are no longer being fed sulfa based antibiotics?’
We were told that the new Waggin Train website explains all of this. But he shared that Purina sources their chicken in China from one farm which they control. And he shared that Purina controls what the birds are fed. We asked what the chickens are fed – they didn’t know. But he assured us that Purina is making certain that the birds are fed a safe feed and the chicken jerky is safe. Purina now controls everything in China (for the jerky treats) including manufacturing.
Then he referenced that when a problem was found with the previous Waggin Train jerky treats (NY Department of Agriculture finding illegal drugs and illegal levels of drugs in the treats) – which was a “situation not meeting our standards” Purina “volunteered” to remove the treats from store shelves.
My response: ‘No – it wasn’t voluntary – you had no choice but to pull the treats from store shelves. It was either pull the treats or be forced to recall – but you didn’t really volunteer.’
But he held firm – he stance/belief was that Purina “volunteered”.
We asked how many sick pets from Waggin Train had been reported to Purina? They didn’t know.
We asked what the procedure is for Purina to determine a product is a risk to pets? They didn’t know. I was quite surprised at this and shared with both of them this is something I felt they should be familiar with – what is company protocol when complaints are received from consumers.
At this point I shared with Purina…‘I believe that most of the big pet food companies have forgotten what it is like to be a pet food consumer. I would like to see Purina and all of the other big companies sit at a big table – and across from you would be the pet owners that have lost a pet from one of your products. I’d like for you to hear what they’ve been through face to face. Hear how much money it cost them trying to save their pets life – how it damaged their marriage or how it damaged friendships.’ At this – he chuckled.
I leaned towards him and touched him on the arm and said ‘This is not funny – it is nothing to laugh at.’ He assured me he was not laughing at my statement – and perhaps he wasn’t, only he knows for certain. But it changed everything for me from that point on. I was furious and actually wanted to walk out. But I didn’t.
The next question was why did Waggin Train have to go back to China? I shared that shortly after the announcement was made that Waggin Train was going to bring back jerky treats from China to store shelves – the group Animal Parents Against Pet Treats Made in China asked me to speak with a few members on a conference call. I shared with Mr. Cooke that these people were just devastated the treats were coming back. I told him they shared with me it felt like a kick to the gut. He stated that Purina’s feedback from consumers was positive towards the return of the treats.
But to the question of why China – he stated it was because there is not enough US chicken. I shared I didn’t believe that – but also said ‘if Purina has their own poultry farm in China, why can’t you have that in the US?’ He replied ‘we can’t – we can’t grow everything here in the US – do you want us to have a cattle farm, grow our own corn, and on and on? We just can’t do that’. We all repeated (almost word for word together) ‘if you can do that in China, why can’t you do that here?’ The response was the same ‘we can’t’.
We were told that Purina would be more than glad to answer any question from every pet food consumer. And it was offered to me to send Ms. Beardslee any additional questions I might have that didn’t get addressed today.
They gave us approximately 20 to 25 minutes – and again, I thank Purina for doing this. Mr. Cooke and Ms. Beardslee were very loyal to Purina – as was expected – but they did give us their time. It certainly wasn’t an easy conversation for them/Purina to have – but they had the courage to do it when no other of the large manufacturers did.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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