So many things happened this year in our battle for safe (and legal) pet food. Here’s a year end review…
We had 10 pet food recalls in 2016, and 1 pet supplement recall. Five of the pet food recalls were for raw pet food – all for bacteria (Big Dog, Carnivore, Small Batch, RadCat and Blue Ridge), four were for wet pet food – 3 of those were for vitamin and or mineral deficiencies or excesses (Beneful/ProPlan, Fromm, Addiction), 1 for plastic pieces in the food (Cesar), and one kibble recall for mold (Blue Buffalo).
As in every year, there are two public AAFCO meetings – in January and in August. The January 2016 public meeting led to a pet food label modernization working group (a working group is a smaller group that meets outside of public meetings – which I am part of this group) which met multiple times throughout the year on webinars (and they will continue in 2017). AAFCO chastised me for sharing information about these meetings with consumers…per the leader of this working group – consumers must be kept in the dark about the progress of pet food label modernization.
And at the January AAFCO meeting, consumers were provided the opportunity to give AAFCO input on what consumers want and understand on pet food labels (January 2016), which was well received.
The most mind boggling meeting we had with regulatory authorities this year (my opinion) occurred in March of 2016 with FDA. Myself and a pet food consumer (that happens to be a brilliant PhD food scientist) met with FDA discussing the certain risk of dead (non-slaughtered) and diseased animals that FDA allows to be illegally processed into pet food ingredients (these ingredients are a violation of federal law). I asked the FDA directly – after we shared the certain risks associated with these illegal ingredients – ‘Is the agency still going to allow illegal ingredients to be processed into pet food?’ And FDA openly stated: “Yes”. (I happened to record that meeting – you can hear the excerpts by clicking here).
And in 2016 I had a similar meeting with Florida Department of Agriculture. The state of Florida (my home state) has similar state laws as federal laws which explicitly define a pet food containing dead (non-slaughtered) and/or diseased animal sourced ingredients to be adulterated (illegal). Just like with FDA, Florida Department of Agriculture refused to enforce state (and federal) law with pet food. (And I happened to record this meeting too – you can hear it by clicking here).
FDA claims they are a “science-based” agency, claims every decision they make is solidly based on science. In 2016 we called their hand on that ‘science-based’ claim by asking the agency for the science proving pet food ingredients sourced from dead/non-slaughtered animals or diseased animals (rejected for use in human food) is safe for pets to consume. A Freedom of Information Act request was filed with FDA asking for the science and the agency responded with “We did not find the requested records.” In other words…FDA has no science.
One of the biggest finds this year was the discovery of a Supreme Court ruling specific to our cause for safe and legal pet food. Government agencies – such as the FDA – are allowed their own interpretations of law. But – the Supreme Court ruled that government agencies can only interpret law if that interpretation is not opposite of the original law (manifestly contrary). The Supreme Court ruling is termed ‘Chevron deference’. For our situation of FDA allowing dead/non-slaughtered or diseased animals into pet food – this FDA decision is 100% opposite of law (law is very clear – this material is considered adulterated in any food, human or animal food). With the backing of the Supreme Court ruling, a Citizen Petition was filed with FDA in 2016 asking the agency to stop their ‘manifestly contrary’ interpretation of law (and we have a very good chance of winning this).
2016 marked an 8 year anniversary of AAFCO working on providing pet food carbohydrate content to consumers on pet food labels. Those pesky carbohydrates certainly do confuse AAFCO (8 years of confusion).
And in 2016 the FDA announced a new compliance policy that puts responsibility of the safety and effectiveness of Rx pet foods on practicing veterinarians. Rx pet food – even if they contain illegal ingredients – remains the ONLY food allowed to make the claim of treating or curing a disease.
Beneful made the news a lot in 2016 (2015 too). In 2016 the FDA released some very concerning information about an investigation the agency had done on the pet food. Through inspection of three Beneful pet food plants, FDA testing found the pet food contained melamine and cyanuric acid above legal limits (these two ingredients were the cause of the 2007 pet food recall), FDA testing found the chemical preservative ethoxyquin above legal limits, and through the 3 inspections Purina refused to fully cooperate with FDA. No regulatory action was taken by FDA, the agency only had a ‘talk’ with Purina about the violations found.
A consumer class action lawsuit against Beneful was dismissed in 2016, leaving thousands of pet food consumers with no accountability to their pet death and or illness.
But Beneful didn’t get off scot-free in 2016…a Purina insider told me sales of Beneful were down almost 50%.
2016 brought us several new pet food lawsuits. One addresses the misleading claims of prescription pet food. Several others, all brought by Wysong Pet Food suing Purina, Mars, Big Heart, Hill’s, Ainsworth and Walmart addresses the misleading images on pet food labels (which violate law with not one regulatory authority ever bothering to enforce).
In 2016 consumers learned of a Mars Petcare lawsuit where employees (former) of the pet food manufacturer claimed some very serious violations of employee safety (and pet food safety) occurred. Late in 2016 it was learned that Mars Petcare was mysteriously dismissed from the lawsuit – it is unknown why (very confusing). And shortly after Mars Petcare was dismissed from the lawsuit, an outsider from the suit shared with me that the case has been settled – even though I was told that not all of the Plaintiffs agreed to settle. Again…a very confusing end to this lawsuit. Sadly it appears the darkest secrets of pet food will remain secret.
Mars Petcare marketing received a good slap in the face from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this year. The FTC told Mars their advertisements of Eukanuba “constitute unfair or deceptive acts or practices, and the making of false advertisements”. In a fairly harsh statement, the FTC forbids Mars Petcare – on any of their pet foods – to ever make a misleading claim again.
Oprah Magazine and The Dr. Oz Show made pet food news this year. In an ‘oh No!’ moment, O Magazine published an article telling consumers “to avoid anything with human grade on the label”. And The Dr. Oz Show made a gallant attempt at telling consumers the truth about pet food, when guest veterinarian Dr. Evan Antin simply blew it by telling consumers waste ingredient pet food was “suitable” food for pets. Dr. Evan Antin made lots of news this year as the “Hunky Vet”…but it was clear as soon as he opened his mouth on the Dr. Oz Show his pet food intelligence falls well into the ‘I don’t know squat about pet food’ category.
Previously only exporting ingredients, we learned in 2016 that China will begin exporting finished pet food soon. Scary, scary thought to consider.
And in 2016 we learned that pet treats using ground insects (crickets) will soon be on the market, with plans for pet foods to use cricket meal too. The problem that the pet treat and pet food manufacturers are ignoring, is that ground insects are not currently an approved ingredient for cats and dogs. We’ll have to wait and see if regulatory authorities enforce the law when these products go on the market sometime in 2017.
2016 marked the 7 year anniversary of FDA neglecting to complete pet food safety updates required by Congress (required to be completed by September 2009). These safety updates were written by Congress after the 2007 pet food recall, written to prevent another deadly pet food disaster. But 7 years past the deadline…FDA continues to ignore Congress and pet food safety.
With all of the bad news, we did get some good news in 2016. We learned about KetoPets Sanctuary curing cancer in dogs using food. Yes…food is curing cancer!
In 2016 we tried to shine a light on some of the challenges that pet food consumers face. We learned that the ingredients in pet food and human food have totally different meanings – such as ‘chicken’. Chicken in human food means one thing, chicken in pet food means something totally different. And the worst part of this particular issue, is for consumers to learn what pet food chicken means…it costs them $100 a year (AAFCO owns the legal definitions of pet food ingredients).
Several pet food manufacturing employees reached out to TruthaboutPetFood.com this year. We learned from one about bug infested grains that were being used in pet food – fully known by the manufacturer. And another employee shared with us information of intentional mislabeling of pet foods; the manufacturer is stating ‘New and Improved Formula’ on the label, listing new ingredients on the bag, but none of those new ingredients were actually in the pet food.
And in 2016 we realized the true reason why FDA ignores law allowing diseased and dead animal carcasses to be processed into pet food…human safety. Disposal of these these animal carcasses in landfills is a danger to humans. The FDA’s approved disposal method is pet food.
We did have a little fun this year – in the midst of the pet food madness – at the expense of FDA, State Department of Agriculture and AAFCO integrity. So…to end the 2016 pet food in review, let’s end it with the little bits of fun we had…
Here’s hoping that in 2017, more employees of pet food share the industry dark secrets with us. Here’s hoping that we finally stop FDA and State Department of Agriculture from allowing pet food to violate law (seriously…isn’t it your job to enforce law?…your tax dollar supported job?). Here’s hoping that the close ties between FDA/State Department of Agriculture’s and industry are outed to the public (working on this one now…they can’t cover all of their tracks).
Here’s hoping that the pet food illegal madness stops in 2017. Here’s hoping that regulatory authorities do their job and keep our pets safe! It’s time for real change in pet food. A new year, a new pet food industry…here’s hoping.
Wishing Pet Food Consumers a Happy New Year – may all of our pets be safe.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients? Chinese imports? Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 4,000 cat foods, dog foods, and pet treats. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee. Click Here to preview Petsumer Report. www.PetsumerReport.com
The 2017 List
Susan’s List of trusted pet foods. Click Here
The Other List
The List of pet foods I would not give my own pets. Click Here
Have you read Buyer Beware? Click Here
Cooking pet food made easy, Dinner PAWsible
Find Healthy Pet Foods in Your Area Click Here