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Using the Regulation We Get to Our Advantage

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  1. Shannon

    Even the Guaranteed Analysis on labels is meaningless. I have run into several instances of a pet food’s “maximum” value of something based on a Typical Nutrient Analysis being higher than the maximum level on the GA (which should not be). They claim they have a percentage of wiggle room. So that means the guaranteed max isn’t really the max!

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      Hi Shannon – actually the Guaranteed Analysis is something that regulatory authorities do check, and many states do random testing to confirm the GA minimum is as it claims. Here is a link to Missouri Department of Agriculture testing results of feed/pet food: There always could be ones that are not tested – but I know that most states are strict on that ‘guarantee’ (especially protein and fat minimum).

      1. MK

        using the link and checking out Lotus, which is what I feed, the most concerning error, Id say was the Lotus Low fat cat food results having excess fat and lower on protein.

  2. Dr. Jean Hofve

    Well said! This is a confusing issue for consumers, thanks for helping provide clarity!

  3. Regina

    Shannon had a question similar to mine, that I think you partially answered.

    Basically, the labels are regulated to have all of the pertinent info, but, do they actually compare the label to what’s inside the bag or can????? If only random states do these tests, then what about the loads of foods that slip through that very tiny net?

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      That is what the testing is for – to compare the ‘guarantee’ stated on the label to the results. It would be wonderful if regulatory could test more products, but they don’t have a budget to do that. Testing is expensive, even if done in a state lab. Guaranteed analysis and bacteria is about all they test for.

  4. Regina

    And, about that “made in USA” claim, why isn’t it regulated????? Seems simple enough (or am I just a simpleton!)

    Also, keep in mind, I see labels that say “crafted in our USA kitchens” — which I think is useless!! The recipe might have been formulated in a kitchen in the USA, but it could still be actually MADE somewhere else.

    But really, why do they have regulations if they are not going to be enforced????? Can you imagine if your local police decided to stop enforcing traffic laws?!??!?!

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      No – you are not a simpleton. It is simple – so are the images. But…they don’t verify those things. I don’t know why.

  5. MK

    Correct me if I’m wrong, wouldnt a dog food that states human grade [meat] have to have the USDA seal on it?

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      The USDA does not regulate pet food – FDA and State Department of Agriculture does. Human grade pet foods could include the USDA seal, but the bodies that regulate pet food prefer them to use the term ‘human grade’. The USDA seal wouldn’t cover supplements used in the pet food, the ‘human grade’ claim would.

      1. Sherrie Ashenbremer

        But if it sez HUMAN GRADE (like Honest Kitchen is Human Grade) then it really is Human Grade right? Which means we could eat it, of course I wouldn’t but a human could

        1. Susan Thixton Author

          If it says Human Grade on the label – then yes, you can (fairly) safely assume the claim has been verified and a human could eat the food. It is held to the same safety standards as human food.

  6. Kyoko

    This article is terrific, Susan. It explains why the label sometimes has different information from the website. The Missouri Department of Agriculture webpage is great—I was looking for information like that. To make a right choice for our pets, we have to be able to trust that the information given by the food manufacturers is accurate. In addition to Missouri, do you know which states test pet food on a regular basis and make the test results available to the public? Thank you!

  7. GG

    Funny you don’t mention the most notorious case, where Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. agreed to pay $32 million to settle a class action lawsuit with customers of the pet food company over advertising claims about natural ingredients in its products. In reality its pet food contained poultry by-products, corn and artificial preservatives despite contrary claims. Any reason this landmark case isn’t mentioned?

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      Because that lawsuit has nothing to do with this post. I wrote about the lawsuit and the battle along the way – but that lawsuit has nothing to do with the information in this post.

  8. Lori S.

    Really nice article, thanks!!

  9. Peter

    There can also be a significant period of time between when a manufacturer changes ingredients or their proportions, and changes to the label itself. In that respect, the label can indeed be substantially “meaningless,” particularly to a consumer shopping to ensure for specific non-inclusion of certain ingredients.

  10. Terri Christenson Janson

    Very Interesting article! Thank you!

  11. Reader

    Prescription Canned Food (Hills) must be an exception. The label is written in several languages. While it doesn’t say “dog” food, there is a dog’s picture on the label. There are no feeding instructions (weight/ratio) so perhaps it’s intended for Vet’s specific direction. Sensitive Stomach (Z.D) is chicken based, it doesn’t say USDA anything (but when I called they said the chicken is fit for human consumption).

    1. T Allen

      There is no chicken in ZD. There is chicken liver but it is not “chicken based” as the first ingredient is corn. Here’s the list of ingredients per DogFood Advisor. My sensitive stomach dog made a complete permanent recovery when I removed wheat, corn, soy, dairy from his diet. I recommend Honest Kitchen base mix Preference and add your own meats. Way cheaper and healthier then a fake food diet which will eventually lead to diabetes.

      1. Reader

        You’re looking at a bag of kibble. My comment referred to canned. The ingredients are water, chicken_liver which is hydrolyzed for easy digestion. Chicken is fit for Human consumption is used. Also corn starch (or gluten) which sounds bad. And cheaply handled corn IS bad (GMO, pesticides, mold, etc.). But is used in place of other problematic ingredients (wheat, soy, etc.). All PF needs some kind of binder, period. Except raw and dehydrated pure protein “toppers.”

        When THK first replaced alfalfa with peas, one of my dogs had real trouble! Eliminating the product didn’t stop the symptoms fast enough, which could’ve led to dehydration and worse. Once IBS is present, diet variety is harder. It can also recur, especially if the system doesn’t heal sufficiently. Z/D (prescription) permitted a period of relief (as many comments will attest). Prescription is not the same as OTC Science Diet!. Prescription food is not intended to be permanent! Though it’s use can be inappropriately monitored (as prior articles have discussed). The opportunity for healing is like people eating a bland, calming diet. And I was afraid (for that for the period of time required in his case) plain chicken and rice wouldn’t give him enough nutrients. As my original post said, he’s been on a full rotation diet for a long time now.

        Dogs (like people) can be specifically sensitive to all that you mention (particularly dairy). Limiting carbs is helpful to avoid triggering diabetes in dogs so inclined. But a carb (binder) will exist in all PF (except as mentioned). THK uses potatoes & peas. Which might be better, but only because of how corn is commercially grown, handled and stored (GMO, pesticide & mold). The ratio of a binder to protein is what’s important. Bad PF uses cheap (toxic) corn as a leading ingredient, and so the appropriate usefulness of a carb is negated.

        Chicken (inferior grade) can also make a sensitivity worse. But Z/D is formulated to help avoid doing so. The over use of ANY ingredient, formula, recipe or meal, can overload a dog’s digestive process. They were designed to handle (and are supported by) variety. Carbs of any kind can lead to obesity (when unbalanced, over fed or inactivity occurs) and possibly to diabetes. THK (certified human grade) is better than “fake” food. Because clean ingredients go along with the addition of wholesome pure protein. That ratio can be controlled. In a retail sense, it is not way cheaper by a long shot. Except for the peace of mind it provides, and the idea of fewer Vet trips. Spot Farms is a promising alternative (lower price point, tied in with Purdue chicken, human grade ingredients, finer texture for digestibility and easier rehydration).

        (No, I don’t sell any product or benefit from promotion).

  12. T Allen

    Great explanation Susan! Will be a good reference article to refer people to!

  13. Anonymous

    It sounds like there are a lot of consumers here who are angry about “Made in the USA” claims that are false. And the truth is that most vitamin packs are made with Chinese ingredients (Merrick was recently sued on this). And consumers should be mad about being misled that their meat is “USDA graded” when its not. There are a lot of attorneys out there who will gladly take the case. Sometimes the way to train big pet is by making them feel it financially (like what happened to Blue Buffalo).
    So consumers, if you know something to be false, or suspect it, use the legal system to make big pet listen!

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