Grapes are a well known toxin to dogs, why is Science Diet using “dried grape pomace” in some varieties of dog food? AAFCO has not defined the ingredient, why is Science Diet using an ingredient that is not defined (not legal)?
Fiona Macken owns Dawgs & Divas – an independent pet food store in Fort Madison, IA. Fiona keeps updated on pet nutrition issues and regulations governing pet food (she even owns the AAFCO Official Publication – the pet food regulations book). When a customer brought her a label from a dog food asking her to give opinion on the product – Fiona noticed a concerning ingredient. The dog food – Hill’s Science Diet Adult Small and Toy Breed dry – – the ingredient – “dried grape pomace”.
Fiona referred to her AAFCO Official Publication (OP). Knowing her pet food regulations, she knew that each and every ingredient included in any pet food must be legally defined. Tomato and apple pomace are defined, but grape pomace is not. Next Fiona turned to the FDA website for ingredients Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in animal food. The ingredient was not listed as GRAS.
Fiona asked Hill’s Science Diet about the ingredient, the company told her the ingredient was safe and provided her a link to a safety study of “mixed grape and blueberry extract” (though not a safety study specifically for grape pomace). Click here to view that study.
Fiona then reached out to TruthaboutPetFood.com (but she really didn’t need any help). I turned to the AAFCO chair of the Ingredient Definitions Committee Mr. Richard TenEyck. Mr. TenEyck (very promptly) responded confirming that ‘dried grape pomace’ was not defined by AAFCO (thus it should not be used in any pet food). Mr. TenEyck also provided that the states where the product is manufactured should be contacted to alert of the potential problem.
I contacted FDA about the ingredient. Dr. Dan McChesney – Director Office of Surveillance and Compliance, Center for Veterinary Medicine – responded (very promptly) stating “Companies, both human and animal food, can and do self-determine GRAS.” (GRAS stands for Generally Recognized as Safe.) Meaning that Hill’s Science Diet could have the determined the ingredient is safe (but the ingredient would still need to be defined by AAFCO). Dr. McChesney also stated that if the ingredient was not AAFCO defined (it is not), this would be something that individual states could take enforcement action on.
Kentucky (a state Hill’s Science Diet has a plant in) Department of Agriculture representative Darrell Johnson stated “We have reviewed the label and will be contacting Hill’s requesting they remove grape pomace (as it is not an approved ingredient) from the formula and provide a revised label. If they fail to remove grape pomace as an ingredient, the product would be subject to a “withdrawal from distribution” order per KRS 250.591.”
As it stands…
The ingredient Dried Grape Pomace is not a legal ingredient in any pet food – as it is not defined by AAFCO.
It is unknown if the ingredient is safe or not safe for dogs to consume. We can assume Hill’s Science Diet has the safety data, but…that information was not provided to the store owner who requested it.
Kentucky Department of Agriculture is asking Hill’s Science Diet to remove the ingredient, but the agency is not asking the company to issue a recall or withdraw the pet foods on store shelves (that contain the ingredient).
The ingredient was found in three Hill’s Science Diet dog foods (was not found in cat foods)…
(This is not necessarily an all inclusive list. If anyone finds the ingredient in other products or other brands – please post the name and link in comments to alert consumers.)
If you fed your dog one of the above 3 foods and your pet became ill, please report the issue to FDA. https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ReportaProblem/ucm182403.htm
It is the duty of each State Department of Agriculture to check every pet food label EACH YEAR when products are registered with the state. Per their own words (at AAFCO meetings), one of the things they do check on pet food labels is the ingredient list. So…why did not one State Department of Agriculture see this ingredient and stop this? Instead of regulatory catching the illegal ingredient – an independent pet store owner caught it.
It is understood that oversight of thousands of labels a year is a daunting task. Perhaps a better system needs to be implemented where independent pet food stores and consumers are enlisted as helpers in the regulatory system. Instead of regulatory treating us as the ‘red headed stepchild’ – wouldn’t it be more effective to work with us in a new system where we could help each other? (One can dream.)
Please support independent pet foods stores. You won’t find this kind of concern and follow up from the Big Box Stores or online retailers. Thank you Fiona, you did awesome protecting all pet food consumers.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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