What happened in pet food in 2015? A lot! A lot of recalls, a lot of lawsuits, a lot of stupidity from regulatory authorities. The Pet Food year in review.
There were 3 kibble pet food recalls this year (Dave’s, Halo and Dogswell) and 2 canned pet food recalls (Science Diet and Nutrish). There were 13 raw pet food recalls in 2015 (Stella and Chewy’s – 2, Bravo – 2, K9 Kraving, OC Raw – 2, Northwest Farm, Nature’s Variety, Primal, JJ Fuds – 2, and Oma’s Pride), and surprisingly 17 treat recalls (Blue Buffalo – 1 dog treat, 1 cat treat, Salix – 2, Dingo, I and Love and You – 3, Natural Dog Company, Vital Essentials, Boulder Dog Food, Petsmart Ruff Roots, Nylabone, Pet International, Big Bark Jerky, Barkworthies, and Roo Bites).
Pet Food Testing
The biggest news of the year (in my opinion) was our own pet food test results being published in January 2015. Three days later, PRWeb pulled the press release issued on our results from the Internet (and no refund of the $200 fee was issued). And, people came out of the woodwork to bash our results. Their complaint (and ONLY complaint)…we didn’t publish the results as a scientific study (the way they wanted to read the results). We published the results (paid for by consumers) in a way that consumers could read it and understand it. ‘They’ didn’t like that. One basher even called me a “huckster” (bad me for telling consumers the truth about pet food). All who bashed our results did NOT do their own homework – not one of them bothered to contact our scientists to verify methods. And for the record – not one of the pet food companies whose products we tested – reached out to us for more details. Not one.
In April we learned of some pet food testing in Europe that found 14 of 17 pet foods to include meats not listed on product labels.
In 2015 we learned about Dr. Phillip Van Vranken’s investigation into the common pet food supplement copper sulfate – linking this supplement to copper storage disease in pets.
The Cornucopia Institute published a report listing dangers of the common canned pet food ingredient Carrageenan.
Two AAFCO meetings happen each year (January and August). The 2015 January meeting included a blatant display of corporate greed – industry trying to push FDA for rapid new ingredient approvals (without proper risk analysis). The August meeting was the largest collection of pet food consumer advocates ever at an AAFCO meeting (Dr. Jean Hofve, Mollie Morrissette, Dr. Karen Becker, Dr. Judy Morgan, Dr. Cathy Alinovi, Nina Wolf, Rodney Habib, BC Henchen and myself) and industry’s outright mocking of a veterinarian concerned about animals consuming hideous waste ingredients. When holistic veterinarian Dr. Cathy Alinovi spoke out about expired grocery waste being ‘recycled’ into animal feed (“3 week old nasty moldy bread – is that edible? I don’t think plasticized yogurt is nutrition and I don’t think cows do either.”) the crowd of industry representatives laughed and boo-ed her. The meetings this year were the best in support for consumers – and the worst I’ve seen of corporate greed.
And in 2015 a proposed definition of ‘feed grade’ was finally developed. This term has been used in regulations for decades with no official definition. Many meetings took place with some moments of GREAT frustration (arguing with industry), but…we finally did it. The proposed definition (below) will be voted on at the January 2016 AAFCO meeting.
“Feed Grade: Material that has been determined to be safe, functional and suitable for its intended use in animal food, is handled and labeled appropriately, and conforms to The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act unless otherwise expressly permitted by the appropriate state or federal agency.”
Pet Food Brands Sold
In February 2015 we learned that the jelly/jam giant Smucker’s purchased all of the Big Heart Brands pet foods (formerly DelMonte).
In July we learned that Purina purchased Merrick Pet Food and Castor Pollux Pet Food.
2015 was a busy year for pet food lawsuits – Purina keeping lawyers the busiest…
In the fight between Purina and Blue Buffalo which began in 2014, in 2015 Blue Buffalo admitted that a “substantial” amount of their pet foods were mislabeled (contained chicken by-product meal instead of chicken meal).
In February we learned about a class action lawsuit filed against Beneful dog food charging Nestle Purina with “breach of warranty, negligence and negligent misrepresentation”. In June we learned that this lawsuit complaint was amended stating “Industrial Grade” propylene glycol was used in the pet food (very illegal).
Another lawsuit facing Purina is over the company’s Beggin’ Bacon Strips dog treats. The lawsuit states consumers purchased the treats assuming they were made mostly of real back, “when in fact the meat is only a minuscule portion of the pet treats.” Purina’s advertising of these treats includes a dog running rampant all over the house with the words “bacon” stated almost every other second (of a 15 second commercial). Purina spokesperson stated “the notion that anyone would actually think we’re selling bacon is nonsense”.
And Purina is being sued “alleging that the pet food manufacturer knowingly supports a system of slave labor and human trafficking to produce its Fancy Feast cat food…” Mars Petcare Iams pet food and Big Heart Brand Meow Mix have also been added to this lawsuit.
Blue Buffalo settles consumer class action lawsuit (consumers purchasing mislabeled pet food) for $32 million.
We suggested to veterinary associations to begin working with FDA to track pet food related illnesses.
We tried to educate members of Congress to the many concerns of pet food.
We wrote FDA asking why one pet food (Primal – a raw pet food) was investigated from FDA receiving one single consumer complaint, when the agency has not investigated another pet food (Beneful) after many consumer complaints including numerous pet deaths.
Our advocacy efforts forced AAFCO to investigate pet food poultry ingredient definitions. From their investigation ingredient definitions will be changed to acknowledge pet food’s use of ground alive spent laying hens (a horrific practice that the industry didn’t want to become public knowledge).
We asked regulatory authorities (to no avail) to stop pet foods from placing misleading images on their labels of roasted or grilled meat (when none are roasted or grilled).
We wrote our representatives in Congress pointing out the HUGE difference between a pet food recall and a human food recall. Two food recalls, same year – one month apart. Recall #1 resulted in 700 illnesses, company responsible was fined $11.2 million by government. Recall #2 resulted in 8,500 deaths, company responsible was fined $35,000. Guess which one was pet food?
We received more than 78,000 signatures on a petition asking FDA and AAFCO to require pet food manufacturers to disclose quality of ingredients. All signatures were delivered in person to FDA and AAFCO.
In 2015, FDA ended their verification of human grade ingredient pet foods (with no notice). This move did result in AAFCO defining human grade ingredient pet foods.
In 2015 FDA initiated a testing project of only raw pet foods.
And in 2015, FDA attacked raw pet food in a blog post stating “Handling raw pet food increases the risk you will come into contact with harmful germs.” FDA neglected to warn consumers of the very same risk of handling pet treats and kibble pet foods. In reviewing Salmonella pet food recalls over five years – we found 78 kibble pet foods were recalled compared to only 27 raw pet foods.
In 2015 FDA issued a guidance document to raw pet food manufacturers (guidance is not law, it is just ‘guidance’ or suggested by FDA) asking that all raw pet foods be made with “USDA inspected and passed for human consumption” meat. On the other hand, FDA allows kibble and canned pet foods to be sourced from diseased animal tissue and even rejected for use in human food meats. Regulatory double standards.
Veterinarian Dr. Will Falconer provided us a great post on the risks of GMO’s in pet food. Dr. Falconer shares that to date, the following health conditions are associated with GMO crop consumption in animals…
- Liver and kidney damage;
- Reproductive failure;
- Stomach inflammation;
- Gut flora disruption;
- Hormone dysregulation, including insulin.
Research scientist Dr. Anthony Samsel found the herbicide glyphosate in many pet foods. Dr. Samsel found that the pet food industry adds sodium nitrite to some pet foods as a preservative which in the presence of glyphosate is “deadly”. The pet foods tested (all found to contain levels of glyphosate): Purina Cat Chow Complete, Purina Dog Chow Complete, Purina Beyond Natural-Simply Nine, Rachel Ray Zero Grain, Rachel Ray Nutrish Super Premium, Iams Proactive Health, 9 Lives Indoor Complete, Friskies Indoor Delights.
In February 2015 the Chinese Government issued a statement complaining about US pet store chains removing Chinese sourced jerky treats stating “there is no direct evidence of a correlation between the pet snacks manufactured in China and the disease and death of pets in USA”.
In 2015 Purina Waggin’ Train jerky treats settled a class action lawsuit – admitting no wrong doing – for a mere $6.5 million dollars.
The end of 2015 marks the end of 8 full years of FDA investigation into Chinese imported jerky treats. The FDA has NEVER given consumers an answer for thousands of pet deaths – and when TruthaboutPetFood.com caught FDA telling consumers misleading (incorrect) test results, the FDA denied our Freedom of Information Act request for more information (19 months past the deadline to respond).
Pet Food Concerns
One of the concerns learned this year was through investigation into feeding recommendations on pet food labels. Some pet foods daily feeding recommendations were well above the National Research Council’s daily calorie intake for cats and dogs – and some were well below. It was learned in this investigation that AAFCO does not suggest a recommended calorie intake for pets in regulations – big, big problem.
THE most concerning thing I learned about pet food this year was endotoxins. Endotoxins are a ‘toxin’ produced when bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli are killed – and most concerning…the FDA is doing nothing about it. Our request for FDA to investigate the risk of endotoxin related illness in pets has gone ignored.
We reported on a cost savings technique used by many pet food manufacturers – the use of chelated and non-chelated minerals in pet food (duplicate minerals).
We investigated grain free pet foods which result in peas, peas, and more peas (replacing grains) – causing another set of issues for pets.
We looked into ‘fake meat’ in pet food – twice. And when we asked AAFCO for pet food labels to disclose ‘fake meat’ on pet food labels, the agency stated forcing pet food to disclose fake meat would be “burdensome” and “not helpful to a consumer.”
In 2015 we learned of an FDA Warning Letter to Purina Pet Food canning plant. The FDA inspection found that this Purina plant deviated from the required processing of the pet food.
We learned Freshpet Pet Food had some mold issues with their pet food (no recall however).
We lost several independent pet food stores this year – two of which I knew personally. Kim Kalendar and Nina Wolf were both forced to close their doors – not being able to financially survive. These two store owners knew soooo much about pet food and were such a gift to their communities – they and the others will be missed!
And in 2015 I was accused of working for Purina (not kidding).
What a year it was! I look forward to a new year – starting off representing consumers at another AAFCO meeting in mid-January. For the first time, at this upcoming meeting, consumer advocates will have opportunity to speak to industry and regulators providing your wants and needs on pet food labels. We won’t let you down!
Next year – 2016 – we will continue to fight for the rights of pet food consumers, in any way that is needed! I thank all of you for your continued support and wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients? Chinese imports? Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 3000 cat foods, dog foods, and pet treats. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee. www.PetsumerReport.com
The 2016 List
Susan’s List of trusted pet foods. Click Here
Have you read Buyer Beware? Click Here
Cooking for pets made easy, Dinner PAWsible
Find Healthy Pet Foods in Your Area Click Here