As you can imagine, there are incredible differences between human grade/quality and pet grade/quality pet food ingredients. Although it could benefit pet owners knowing which pet foods contain higher quality ingredients, existing regulations don’t require pet foods to inform consumers. Furthermore, because there is no official definition to the term ‘human grade/quality’ pet foods, some manufacturers imply their foods are similar to ‘people food’, when the reality is far from that.
Almost every pet owner wants to care for and nurture their four legged family member properly; providing their dog or cat with a good food is an integral part of that care. A natural human tendency is to choose a dog food or cat food that looks like ‘people food’; pet owners want to provide their dog or cat the same quality of food they would prepare for any other member of the family. Some pet foods use ‘people food’ type ingredients, others do not. Worse news is discovering which pet foods use human grade/quality ingredients and which use lesser quality pet grade/quality ingredients is not as simply as it seems. Pet food regulations do not provide pet owners with any laws or rules to guide them to higher quality ingredients or alerting them to lesser quality ingredients. It is almost as if pet food regulations are designed to purposely keep pet owners in the dark.
To understand the mess of regulations pet owners are up against, the pet food regulatory system goes something like this: The FDA has final rule on pet food ingredients, labeling, manufacturing, and nutritional content. All animal feeds fall under the protection of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, of which the FDA is supposed to enforce. The FDA relies on AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials), an independent advisory organization made up of State and Federal Agriculture Department representatives and pet food industry members, to develop nutrient standards and ingredient definitions for all animal feeds. The FDA flatly accepts all pet food recommendations from AAFCO, even though many pet food experts feel AAFCO regulations are dated and cater to the best interest of the industry instead of the best interest of the pet. To complicate things one step further, not every U.S. state accepts AAFCO regulations completely; many States alter AAFCO regulations to fit their own needs or wants to pet food laws within their State boundaries. So basically what we have here is a mess; complete lack of consistency.
Case in point is a pet food claiming ‘human grade/quality’. While some pet food manufacturers use the same quality of ingredients in their foods/treats that you find in your local grocer, others do not. The differences between the two grades of ingredients can be minor, or they can be huge; some pet grade/quality pet foods contain ingredients most would never consider feeding their pet, and as well, provide little quality nutrition. To add insult to injury, the pet food label gives little indication which grade/quality the manufacturer used.
David Syverson, chair of AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee recently told VIN News “Whether a food is edible for humans has little to do with the nature of the product. It has everything to do with how the product is handled.” His example of such ‘handling’: “We have two steaks that came out of a USDA meat processing plant. One is edible and can be sold for human consumption because it has been handled continuously under process controls established by law/rule to assure that the product is not exposed to anything that would make the product unfit for human consumption. The second came from the same slaughter plant, same animal and same production line, but slipped off the belt and hit the floor. This one is inedible.” Mr. Syverson is implying that the ONLY difference between human grade meat and pet grade meat is something similar to the ‘Three Second Rule’ (when a food lands on the floor for less than three seconds you can still eat it safely). However, the truthful difference between pet grade/quality meat and human grade/quality meat can be far more than the three second rule. http://news.vin.com/VINNews.aspx?articleId=12031
One category of pet grade/quality meat ingredients in pet foods is known as 4D meats; from Dead, Diseased, Dying, and Disabled animals. Sick or dying animals are prohibited for use in human foods. Although the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act specifically states that no food (human or animal) can contain any diseased animal or any animal that has died other than by slaughter, the FDA ignores Federal law and allows these 4D animals to become pet grade/quality pet food ingredients. The FDA, AAFCO, and every State Agriculture Department believes (again, despite Federal laws prohibiting it) that as long as diseased, dead, dying or disabled animals have been processed to kill pathogens (rendered), they are safe for pets to consume. Another consideration of 4D pet grade ingredients is nutritional quality. When you ‘process’ a pet food long enough to kill known pathogens of diseased and dying animals, the nutrition that should be provided the pet from these meat ingredients is greatly diminished if not completely destroyed. Despite a lack of nutritional quality, the pet food decision makers believe 4D animals are safe for pets to consume, yet they do NOT provide petsumers with any notice a pet food might or might not contain these inferior ingredients. Pet food decision makers feel it’s best to hide this information under a maze of regulations; pet food labels that contain diseased or dying animals look exactly the same as pet food labels that contain human grade/quality meats.
Another difference between a human quality pet food versus a pet quality ingredient pet food is the actual manufacturing process of the food. All human foods must follow Good Manufacturing Process (GMP). “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) use mandatory juice, seafood, meat and poultry HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) programs as an effective approach to food safety and protecting public health.” Pet food on the other hand, has no mandatory hazard analysis or good manufacturing process procedures. AAFCO developed a very general and basic pet food GMP, however it is only recommended; it is not mandatory.
As example of what can happen even with proper GMP human food manufacturing, is salmonella in peanut butter. The disgusting truth is, Salmonella grows in intestines; feces. The contaminated peanut butter was infected with Salmonella after it was cooked (cooking would destroy the bacteria). One salmonella peanut butter contamination investigation discovered the cause to be from a tiny hole in the roof over the peanut butter vat; it is assumed that bird feces in rain water dripped into the finished peanut butter. These Good Manufacturing Process mistakes with human foods, with salmonella contamination alone, causes 40,000 human illnesses and 600 human deaths each year in the United States. Now…imagine what mistakes are made, illnesses and deaths that are caused from pet food manufacturing nationwide; where there is no regulated Good Manufacturing Processes, no quality of ingredient requirements, and very little governmental agency oversight. It’s frightening to consider. http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=salmonella-poisoning-peanut-butter
Pet food marketing delivers the impression that all pet foods are human grade/quality. Pictures of ‘people’ food on the pet food label, along with key words like Choice or Premium leave pet owners believing they are feeding their pet the kibble or canned version of a family meal. The truth is far from that with many pet foods.
Until the FDA, AAFCO, and each State Agricultural Department develop regulations to mandate pet food Good Manufacturing Processes similar to those of human foods, officially defines human grade/quality ingredients, and provides those that use the highest quality of ingredients the opportunity to state such on their labels, pets and pet owners suffer. The unbelievable truth is, the Federal regulations are already in place requiring that pet food ingredients be of the same quality as human foods; it’s just the FDA does not enforce them.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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