When you think about pet food safety, your head begins to spin with worry. Are the ingredients safe and nutritious? Are ingredients sourced from a reputable supplier? Are vitamins/minerals in the proper proportion? All of the ‘things’ that can go wrong that could sicken or kill our pets becomes overwhelming. A recent article from a manufacturing industry website explains our most frequent concerns are just one piece of the pie when it comes to pet food safety.
From ReliablePlant.com “Have you ever struggled with the need to make technology upgrades while minimizing risk, avoiding plant shutdowns and maximizing return on investment? If so you’re not alone. Hill’s Pet Nutrition recognized a need to upgrade its existing I/O system in 2006 at its Kentucky plant to eliminate periodic failures involving the analog inputs.”
I’m sure this article was written by manufacturing guru’s for manufacturing guru’s. Those in the manufacturing business think in a completely different manner than a pet owner. When I read it, words like “periodic failures” jumped off the page at me and caused my heart to skip a few beats. ‘Periodic failures’ during a pet food manufacturing process could/can alter the final product; perhaps causing pets to get sick.
“All of our process control for the extruder line is communicated through the analog input, so when that communication fails, it essentially shuts down the process,” says Shane Simmons, systems engineer at Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “Once the extruder line shuts down, it can take up to an hour-and-a-half to reconfigure the system and bring the process back online.”
My heart is racing again. The ‘extruder line’ is the part of manufacturing that (simply put) combines all the ingredients, cooks it, and cuts it into little kibble size pieces. The process is extremely technical and any variation during manufacturing can greatly alter the chemistry of the pet food. One ingredient reacts in an anticipated manner at a particular temperature and extrusion pressure. That one reaction then triggers numerous other anticipated reactions. But…alter just one part of the process (such as an hour and a half delay on the extruder line) and the entire chemical process can be changed.
Big manufacturing is run by computers (what isn’t run by computers?). There probably is not a soul on the planet that hasn’t cursed at their computer because of a error message or inopportune shut-down. If you’ve ever gotten a new computer, the horror of moving old files and email addresses to the new computer has caused countless lost hours of sleep. Now, imagine the computer systems that run a multi-million dollar pet food manufacturing plant and the headaches (and perhaps tons of bad pet food) they can cause if they are outdated and needing to be replaced.
“Hill also was concerned about disparate controllers on its raw materials, extrusion and packaging lines as well as dual controllers on its batching line used to maintain a tight tolerance on its ingredient mixing process. Unreliable service, declining operator knowledge, and increasing maintenance and support costs were pointing to a strong case for a control system migration.”
This particular Hill’s Science Diet plant has been updated. But I can’t help but wonder about other Hill’s plants and all the other pet food manufacturing plants. Certainly there are many pet food plants that have dated processing equipment as well. Does each manufacturer have the integrity to destroy an entire batch of food (perhaps costing millions) each and every time there is a ‘periodic failure’?
We don’t know. We don’t know if the bag of food we just opened was made during one of those ‘periodic failures’ or not. We don’t know if the food sat in mid-process for an hour and a half during an extruder or baking shutdown. Scary isn’t it?
It boils down to integrity and trust. We pet owners have to trust the manufacturer’s integrity to put the quality of the pet food in front of company profits. Considering pet food events over the last several years, trust is hard earned (deservingly so).
Closely examine every bag or can of pet food you open. Does the kibble or the can contents look the same as the last bag or can you opened? Does the food smell the same? If there is anything different – Anything – don’t feed it. Return it for a refund. I can’t begin to tell you how many pet owners have shared with me they had a ‘gut’ feeling the food wasn’t right; it didn’t smell just right or it didn’t look the same. And then their pet got sick or died.
Listen to your pet as well. Again, I’ve lost count of the stories I’ve heard of pets that smelled a food and walked away from the bowl. Owners that didn’t ‘listen’ to this communication from their pet ended up with a broken heart and or a huge vet bill later.
Every bag or can – closely examine it before you feed it to your pet. Closely watch (listen) to your pets behavior. We can’t be too careful.
To pet food that reads this website…show us your integrity. Don’t tell us – Show Us. Find a way; find hundreds of different ways to show us your integrity. Don’t use smoke and mirrors – we are way past that. Transparency of every aspect our pet’s food will slowly gain our trust. If you want our business, show us your integrity.
To read the full article on the Science Diet plant upgrade, visit http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/25389/pet-food-manufacturer-eliminating-failures
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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