Iams Pet Food has submitted a petition to the FDA asking for approval to use a bacteria killing additive in pet food. Is this safe? Here’s more information for you to decide on its safety.
The Iams Company has filed a petition with the FDA asking for approval of using a “Salmonella-specific bacteriophage preparation as a food additive”. Very (very) basic information is available from the FDA website on this potential food additive. Iams suggests to FDA this additive will be used as an antimicrobial processing aid to reduce Salmonella in pet food.
What is a bacteriophage?
“A bacteriophage is a virus that infects bacteria . Bacteriophages, first discovered around 1915, have played a unique role in viral biology. They are perhaps the best understood viruses, yet at the same time, their structure can be extraordinarily complex.”
From this explanation, we can assume that Iams wishes to add bacteriophage virus into pet food to destroy Salmonella bacteria. This sounds simple enough, but is it actually that simple?
Pet grade meats commonly used in pet food are often more prone to bacteria infection linked directly to their inferior quality. ‘Suitable for use in animal food’ meats (pet grade) can be sourced from diseased animals (rejected for use in human food) or even animals that have been euthanized (and decomposing) or animals that have died in the field (again, decomposing tissue). Further, meats used in pet foods are not required by law to be transported or warehoused under refrigeration. When you begin with ‘distressed meat’ and then add improper storage, bacteria runs rampant.
But…the FDA has told consumers they believe these pet grade meats are safe – because of the pet food manufacturing process. One process the FDA states destroys bacteria is rendering. From the FDA Compliance Policy 675.400 allowing rendered waste material into animal feed/pet food (bold added): “There are two types of processes in use by the rendering industry to process this material. They are dry rendering, used by the largest portion of the industry, and wet rendering. Both rendering processes were designed to ensure that the resultant animal feed ingredients pose no threat of disease transmission to animals which are fed the material or to the health of humans consuming their edible products (meat, milk, and eggs).”
The FDA also considers the cooking process of pet food – canning or extrusion (kibble) – to be a ‘kill step’ for bacteria.
Concern number one. If the FDA believes rendering and the manufacturing process of pet foods kills bacteria, why would a bacteriophage preparation need to be added to pet food?
Concern number two is all about the science. Your science lesson of the day to follow (there is no easy way to do this…it has to be a science lesson…I promise, it’s not too bad).
Going back to the definition provided to what a bacteriophage is – “A bacteriophage is a virus that infects bacteria.” And backing up a bit further…“A virus is a microscopic organism that can replicate only inside the cells of a host organism.”
If you watch the following video, you’ll be provided with a good understanding of what a bacteriophage does. It’s 9 minutes – but I promise it’s entertaining and you’ll have a good understanding of the bacteriophage process when the 9 minutes is over.
Now…the bad news. Transduction. Quoting the first few sentences from the following YouTube video:
“Bacteria transduction is a process by which one bacteria is going to give another bacteria a piece of genetic information. And this piece of genetic information is going to allow the recipient bacteria to do something that it otherwise couldn’t have done.”
This video is 6 minutes, but explains a potential concern of bacteriophage transduction.
The proposed bacteriophage preparation additive proposed to FDA by Iams Pet Food is a band-aid. A band-aid over a wound that is just too big to bandage. If pet foods were sourcing quality meats, transporting the raw material properly, and cleaning the equipment properly – bacteria risk would be much, much less. Science has also shown that livestock animals fed species appropriate food (example: cattle grazing on grass instead of feed-lot cattle fed pellet-formed animal waste materials), bacteria risk is much less. Why put a band-aid over a serious problem?
Numerous sources consulted all warned me of the concerns to transduction with this proposed food additive. Bacteriophage products are currently approved by FDA for use in livestock feed – but there is (to my knowledge) no science to base the safety of the additive for use in foods for animals whose life expectancy is much longer than livestock (such as pets). We all can understand why a pet food company would want to use a bacteriophage (they don’t want a Salmonella recall), but until the safety is proven for pets consuming foods containing the additive over a lifetime…this petition should be stopped in its tracks.
I vote no – and all the experts I consulted with voted no as well. Now we have to be concerned if the FDA will agree.
Anyone can post comments to the proposed food additive petition. You can do that here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FDA-2014-F-1669 Association for Truth in Pet Food (our consumer association) will be posting a comment soon.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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