A couple of months ago, many Australian pets died and suffered devastating results from Orijen Pet Food. I published an article on the pet food catastrophe, suggesting that irradiation of the food was the cause of the pet deaths. Recently, a comment was posted on the article from one of the Australian pet owners; a very wise comment that reminded me there is more to quality pet foods than quality ingredients.
I hate to admit it now, but I felt a little sorry for Orijen Pet Foods at the time. The ingredient lists on their products read very nicely; no by-products, no chemical preservatives, no menadione bisulfite. I looked at the ‘short side’ of the story of Orijen Pet Foods being affected by mandatory irradiation in Australia. I was saddened for the pets and their owners who suffered from the irradiated Orijen Cat Food, however my short sightedness put the entire blame on irradiation. My bad; I didn’t see the forest for the trees.
Something we don’t always remember to think about (myself included) when choosing a pet food is a true quality pet food manufacturer is more than quality ingredients. Being a true quality pet food manufacturer entails everything from the highest quality of ingredients, to the finest quality control, to pain staking efforts of customer service. An Australian Pet Owner brought me back to the real truth. Here is her comment posted on my article Was Irradiated Pet Food the cause of Cat Deaths in Australia?…
Comment: “Hello Susan,
I am one of the Australian cat owners affected by irradiated Orijen petfood. My cat showed signs of limping in mid December and is now fully paralysed since the last week of January. She is starting to show signs of recovery but it is a long slow process and there are no guarantees she can make a full recovery.
I wish to correct a few assumptions I am seeing on North American sites and blogs.
Firstly, it is not the case that all pet foods are irradiated upon entry into Australia. Only those which are not sufficiently heat treated to satisfy Quarantine requirements,
Secondly, Australia does not insist upon irradiation as Peter Muhlenfeld of Champion Petfoods is claiming. Australian Quarantine says you have three options if you want to bring your petfood here and it hasn’t been heated sufficiently during production: (1) heat treatment (2) irradiation at a minimum of 50kGy (3) turn it round and ship it back.
I am seeing over and over that North Americans discussing this issue on their websites are just repeating what Peter Muhlenfeld has incorrectly stated in media releases. With respect, Susan, they are as guilty as he was about not checking the facts that are in the public domain on the Australian Quarantine website. He should have performed due diligence and checked these facts before even searching out a distributor down here, and North Americans passing comment on our laws should do likewise.
Champion Petfoods’ Australian importer elected the second option available, to have the food irradiated and he signed off on that in order to obtain his import licence from Australian Quarantine. He also signed off on the Authority to Treat. This he did three times, for three shipments. It seems inconceivable that Champion Petfoods, about to make an entry into a new overseas market, were not closely following and supporting their new importer/distributor every step of the way and were not fully aware of all this. It seems inconceivable that they themselves did not fully investigate and understand the requirements of the market they were about to break into.
They broke into it all right. The broke in, stole our cats and smashed up our lives.
And they have the gall to think they get to decide how much compensation to pay us and under what terms.”
She is so right.
Champion Pet Foods chose to ship their products into Australia. They should have tested the effects the irradiation had on their products long before they were made available to Australian pets. It was the sole responsibility of Orijen/Champion Pet Foods to discover if irradiation would alter their products.
Just as Menu Foods took the major heat for dozens of pet food manufacturers that subcontracted their products to be manufactured at the Menu plant, the responsibility, in my opinion, firmly lied on the backs of each manufacturer for the 2007 pet food recall. Each pet food manufacturer that contracted Menu Foods to manufacture their recipes, were responsible for where ingredients in their foods came from and the quality of those ingredients. Each of those pet food companies did not follow through; none took the time to determine quality or country of origin of the ingredients used in their own foods. In the end, Menu Foods was the only company to take the heat.
Similarly, Australia is taking all the heat now.
The comment from the Australian Pet Owner also mentions Peter Muhlenfeld of Champion Pet Foods. I personally spoke with Peter Muhlenfeld in December 2008. I recall him being adamant that Orijen was doing everything they could to make amends to Australian Pet Owners. I asked him on this phone call, and in a follow up email (that was ignored) to publically address the concerns of US pet owners; I asked him to speak with me on a live Internet Radio interview and accept questions from callers. I wanted him to be more public about telling Orijen’s side of the story. I wasn’t told no, however, I was never told yes either. Needless to say, he never agreed to an interview. We have to assume that Peter Muhlenfeld and Orijen Pet Foods determined it was better to hide their head in the sand instead of being public about a mistake they made. Mr. Muhlenfeld did tell me he didn’t like the bad press all over the Internet that Orijen was receiving over this.
Pet Owners everywhere are sick and tired of pet food manufacturers hiding their heads in the sand. If you want us as Customers, faithful Customers, tell us the truth. Everytime. If you make a mistake, we are not going to be happy about it, but at the very least admit to what you’ve done. It’s one thing to make a mistake and take responsibility of it, it’s a completely different thing to make a mistake and pretend it didn’t happen.
My thanks to this particular Australian Pet Owner; you reminded me that good ingredients are only part of what makes a quality pet food. It is how I have chosen my own pet’s food for years, however I became distracted in my reporting. Thank you for keeping me on track; I’ll do my best to not let it happen again.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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