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Possible Pet Food Names

Chewie from Oregon

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  1. Casey

    Thank you so much for this research, Susan! Yes, I recognized the ingredients for Nature’s Variety Instinct Pork right away because that’s what I feed to my chicken-allergic feral.

    The whole thing is downright depressing. The PFI’s need to be called out on it and the FDA needs to start taking this sort of thing seriously or nothing will change. What’s the point of labeling if you can just throw any old ingredient in there? Might as well just say “stuff” and leave it at that.

  2. Mandy B

    Do you know if any other Wellness can varieties were tested and passed?

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      I really don’t – sorry. The University did not release the names and what possible matches I found were listed above.

  3. Connie Coltrane

    I really don’t know what is wrong with our government. Why do they continue to allow the pet food manufacturers to deceive consumers? I want to know that what I think I am buying is actually what I am getting.

  4. Jean Hofve DVM

    Great work, Susan! I got similar results when I googled a few of the ingredient lists. The other big user of Pork Plasma besides Nutro is is Hill’s, but I couldn’t narrow it down more than that.

    I asked a group of veterinary nutritionists about this study, and they speculated that because the PCR test is so exquisitely sensitive–but says nothing about *quantity*–many of the examples of mis-labeling (presence of extra proteins not listed) are likely due to cross-contamination of production lines, or during storage or transportation of ingredients. For example, say a run of a food containing “only” chicken is followed by a run of a food containing “only” pork… unless they break down and scour every nut, bolt, and piece of machinery (which is almost never done), there will unavoidably be traces of chicken in the pork food that would be detectable by PCR. Or a big pile of chicken meal is sitting in an open warehouse next to a big pile of pork meal, and even ordinary air currents can intermix them.

    Of course, meat and bone meal and animal fat are allowed to contain a mixture of *any* mammal species (such as roadkill!); these are ingredients to be avoided for many reasons, including the fact that foods containing them were the most likely ingredients to test positive for the euthanasia drug pentobarbital in FDA’s research.

    They further said that producers of truly hypoallergenic pet foods (like veterinary diets) have to work “very hard” to prevent this type of cross-contamination. This assertion is supported by a previous study found unlabeled proteins in OTC products, but not in prescription-type products. (Raditic DM, Remillard RL; Tater KC. ELISA testing for common food antigens in four dry dog foods used in dietary elimination trials. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 2010: 95:90–97.)

    Of course, in the case of named ingredients not being found, or/or something else being substituted, that IS a problem of ethics. It should be investigated, and labeling laws enforced.

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      Thanks Dr. Jean! Perhaps we can corner a few authorities in January at the next AAFCO meeting and inquire about investigation and enforcement (such as The Pet Food Committee)!

    2. Regina

      Very informative comment Dr. Hofve! This cross contamination should concerns me. I never would have thought that there would be a big pile of chicken meal sitting out and getting “contaminated from a big pile of pork meal sitting in the same warehouse! Are there really just big piles of stuff sitting out in the open, which makes contamination an issue???

      I have some food allergies, and cross contamination is always a concern of mine. I once had all of the food rearranged at a beach party, because there was a little bit of a breeze, and I needed MY food to be upwind of the coconut shrimp. Just me being downwind of it was problematic, so even though people couldn’t believe I requested the food be rearranged, I insisted because I didn’t want to get sick. Cross contamination is a real issue, I’m able to speak up for myself when it affects my food, well, my pets are my children, and they can’t speak up for themselves, so we’re at the mercy of whoever is making the food.

      As for them taking more care with the hypoallergenic foods to prevent cross contamination . . . well, that’s all well and good, but there are pets out there who might be allergic to chicken, so they’ll buy the lamb or fish variety of the food that isn’t sold specifically as an option for dogs/cats with food sensitivities or allergies. Bottom line, cross contamination should be avoided, so they just need to do more to prevent it.

      1. Laura

        I could’ve sworn I read a post on here about Susan asking different pet food manufacturers what they do to keep their facilities clean, or something to that effect. If you search around you might be able to find it. If I recall correctly I don’t think many manufacturers responded, which seems typical of them.

        One of my cats appears to have the chicken allergy you mentioned, as well as some other types of poultry and venison, but he can eat fish just fine. I’m not sure about beef, pork/boar, lamb, rabbit, buffalo, or others, and I really don’t want to try else I waste my money and he vomits it up or gets really bad diarrhea. Thankfully none of the companies whose foods I feed to both of my cats are on that list.

      2. Jean Hofve DVM

        “Large open piles” is the exact phrase that was used. They also pointed out that there is a lot of dust potentially swirling around during multiple steps of drying and storage.

        Also, it is important to remember that Susan is only providing a list of ten of the POSSIBLE suspects. It is NOT a list of the foods that were actually tested, which we don’t know, and the researchers refuse to disclose. Remember, there were 52 items tested – most of them had ingredients that are common to many, many foods. I came to similar conclusions for the foods that could be narrowed down at all, but we could be wrong!

        Don’t make the mistake of thinking that other foods are any better! This is clearly an industry-wide problem that undoubtedly affects the vast majority of foods. Many smaller brands use co-packers, and the problems with them are probably even worse.

  5. karen

    And this is why is so hard to feed animals with sensitive stomachs! Ugh!

  6. Mollie Morrissette

    Interestingly, the study author who I corresponded with (as it turns out so did Susan), was not aware of the FDA study involving species identification of pet food in response to an earlier finding of pentobarbital in dog food.

    The author asked to see the studies, but told me she did not test for feline or canine DNA. It was my suspicion that the unidentified source of meat might have been canine or feline protein.

    I explained to the author the process of rendering in that independent renderers across the U.S. accept euthanized pets (as well as road kill, etc.), which is why we discourage consumers from purchasing any pet food product with an unnamed source of meat including meat and bone meal, meat meal, animal fat and animal digest.

    It is my sincere hope that pet food manufacturers will note that sensitive species identification testing is being done on their products, testing funded by private individuals as well as university scientists wishing to study food fraud. Therefore, if a manufacturer is using a protein source from a renderer they should be extremely careful.

    It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to assure their ingredients are not contaminated or that they contain any species other than the ones indicated on their ingredient label, lest they become a mislabeled product subject to recall.

    I was disheartened when I inquired whether the author had reported the mislabeled food to the FDA or state regulators, only to be told that someone on a website ( had reported it (meaning Susan Thixton of course)! Stunned, I had to share with Susan the information that she and she alone, was the one to alert the FDA of the study.

    I suppose scientists are not particularly interested, or even aware of, the regulatory significance of the results of such studies, and how important it is to notify the FDA and/or state regulatory officials.

    Sadly, the FDA response to Susan’s alert was also disheartening. They simply referred Susan to the infamous Safety Reporting Portal, which would not be terribly useful as Susan is not privy to the brands that were found to be mislabeled.

    My hope is that FDA officials will follow up with the study’s author, as we have done, and take action.

    It was the authors assumption that further testing would need to be done to verify the results by the FDA to confirm her findings before taking any regulatory action.

    Whether the study will be acted on or whether it will signal to manufacturers to reassure consumers that it was, as Dr. Hofve suggested, simply a case of cross-contamination or to conduct more testing of their ingredients.

    I am reminded of Blue Buffalo’s recent press release, where in it the president lamented they were sold a mislabeled product: poultry by-product instead of poultry meal by a supplier (Wilbur-Ellis, the same company that provided Blue with melamine contaminated rice protein from China back in 2007), leaving them open to prosecution by competing pet food manufacturers.

    As long as food fraud is an issue, and private individuals have the means to order testing of their pet food, the study should serve as a warning to manufacturers. Pet food manufacturers need to assure the ingredients they receive are indeed, what they are supposed to be. They should also follow similar CGMPs used in human-food to limit the possibility of cross-contamination, otherwise they risk facing lawsuits similar to Blue Buffalo’s regarding ingredient claims, and damage to their brand.

  7. Laura

    Good gracious, those Beggin’ Strips are absolutely disgusting. Never in a million years would I buy or feed them to any animal in my care.

  8. Rin Tin Tin

    So very glad you posted this Susan, if Chapman can’t be bothered to be concerned about the welfare of accuracy in labeling and pets, this is the best we can do. Dr. Jean Hofve’s reponse also is icing on the cake.
    Thank you Susan, carry on, carry on …..

  9. Kate W

    I used to work at a large, independent pet food retailer. They researched ALL of their product and passed that on to the Floor Staff, so I basically was able to memorize ingredient panels in my 2 1/2 years.
    If you’re still looking for possible sources: Wysong uses Pork Plasma, although I don’t believe it’s labeled correctly on their cans. I had to call them to confirm it was sourced from pork.

    Personally, I trust my guy on frozen (not readily avail.) K9 Natural Lambfeast. Can’t feel any better about food safety when it’s coming from New Zealand. If he wasn’t sensitive to starch I’d have him on Halo Grain-free, Nature’s Variety Instinct, Pinnacle Grain-free, or the very affordable Costco Nature’s Domain, which is a variation of Taste of the Wild and Diamond’s Grain-free fish kibble. However, Halo makes me feel safest – no recalls.
    I could go on for days about this stuff.

    1. Dale

      Have you, Susan Thixton, or any of your readers, vets or nutritionists or whomever, heard anything negative about the Stella and Chewy’s freeze dried foods for Dogs or the Angel Eyes product sold everywhere and used by owners with light colored dogs to prevent staining around the eyes. I received a notice from containing the following warning

      U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
      FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration Protecting and Promoting Your Health
      FDA Issues Warning Letters for Unapproved Tear Stain Removers Used in Dogs and Cats

      August 29, 2014
      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is issuing warning letters today to companies manufacturing unapproved animal drugs to remove tear stains in dogs and cats. These products, including Angels’ Eyes, Angels’ Glow, Pets’ Spark, and exported products Glow Groom and Health Glow, have not been reviewed by FDA for safety and effectiveness. These tear stain removers also contain the medically important antibiotic tylosin tartrate, which is not approved for use in dogs or cats, nor for the treatment of conditions associated with tear stains. Tear stain remover products are used to treat tear staining conditions around the eyes of animals, which, in particular, is associated with a condition called epiphora, mostly in cats and dogs.

      FDA has serious concerns about unapproved animal drugs. Unapproved animal drugs are not reviewed by FDA and may not meet FDA’s strict standards for safety and effectiveness.

      These tear stain drug products may be subject to additional enforcement action should the products continue to be marketed, such as seizure of violative products and/or injunction against the manufacturers and distributors of the violative products.

      Additional Information
      Unapproved Animal Drugs
      Blanc du Blanc, Inc. Warning Letter

      I still see this product on every shelve I happen to see in Pet stores, Groomers Salons etc.

      Should it be pulled off the shelf?
      I welcome replies.

      1. Jean Hofve DVM

        Angel Eyes contains an antibiotic called Tylosin. It’s not approved for dogs and cats, but it is commonly used off-label in veterinary medicine.

        There are numerous problems with giving unnecessary antibiotics to an animal, including creation of resistant bacteria, and wanton killing of “good bugs” in the GI tract. Both human and veterinary medicine are finding out more every day about the crucial role that the microbiome (the species balance and environment provided by gut bacteria) plays in the immune system and many other areas of health. The chronic administration of low-dose antibiotics is one of the worse-case scenarios I can imagine for a pet. But Angel Eyes and similar products won’t be pulled from shelves until FDA gets off its behind and issues a stop-sale order based on their clear violation of federal law.

        1. Kate W

          I’m looking forward to inquiring about Angel Eyes at the company I used to work for (and still shop at). I was trained to push grain-free (low in starch) foods when somebody asked about the Angel Eyes (which was on the shelves). Anybody can tell you a daily dose of antibiotics isn’t an ideal situation (or at least, that’s what me and my fellow Staff members told our customers).
          As for StellStella & Chewy: I never liked selling food I thought to be massively overpriced for what it was. If it’s raw, why so many additves? WHY? That brand gave my dog the runs. Primal is amazing, and American. Even Whole Foods sells it. K9 Natural is still my number one recommendation for raw/freeze-dried.

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