The Director-General of WHO – World Health Organization Dr. Margaret Chan is right. Dr. Chan, in a recent speech to a global health conference, summed up the problems of the human food industry; and what she stated sums up the problems with the pet food industry as well.
Published on Marion Nestle’s blog Food Politics, below is an excerpt from Dr. Chan’s speech…
Today, getting people to lead healthy lifestyles and adopt healthy behaviours faces opposition from forces that are not so friendly. Not at all.
Efforts to prevent noncommunicable [chronic] diseases go against the business interests of powerful economic operators.
In my view, this is one of the biggest challenges facing health promotion…it is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol.
All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics.
Research has documented these tactics well. They include front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt.
Tactics also include gifts, grants, and contributions to worthy causes that cast these industries as respectable corporate citizens in the eyes of politicians and the public.
They include arguments that place the responsibility for harm to health on individuals, and portray government actions as interference in personal liberties and free choice.
This is formidable opposition. Market power readily translates into political power…
Not one single country has managed to turn around its obesity epidemic in all age groups. This is not a failure of individual will-power. This is a failure of political will to take on big business…
I am deeply concerned by two recent trends.
The first relates to trade agreements. Governments introducing measures to protect the health of their citizens are being taken to court, and challenged in litigation. This is dangerous.
The second is efforts by industry to shape the public health policies and strategies that affect their products. When industry is involved in policy-making, rest assured that the most effective control measures will be downplayed or left out entirely. This, too, is well documented, and dangerous.
In the view of WHO, the formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests.
With pet food, industry is more than involved in policy-making. Big Pet Food manufacturers and Big Pet Food ingredient suppliers have national/international lobby groups that are welcomed to participate in every step of pet food’s regulatory process. These representatives of industry are so involved…
- FDA and AAFCO know them on a first name basis;
- FDA and AAFCO co-host meetings with these industry groups;
- AAFCO has given these groups special privileges during regulatory meetings;
- and the groups have even developed pet food manufacturer inspection programs claimed to reduce/shorten FDA inspections.
PetFoodIndustry.com blogger Debbie Phillips-Donaldson recently commented on a PetMD.com survey that found, among several issues, that consumers have little knowledge of the safety procedures in place in pet food manufacturing. She says “Frankly, a large part of the blame for consumers’ lack of accurate information and understanding about just how safe today’s petfoods are falls on our industry.”
Within that once sentence – the blame part, she’s right. If you think about it, this industry has convinced many scientific minded folks (such as many veterinarians – private practice, teaching veterinarians, and regulatory veterinarians) that drugged and diseased animal tissues, cooked to a non-recognizable slurry is actual nutrition for our pets (animal fat, meat and bone meal, by-product meal, animal digest). That quite a feat; comparable to back in the 1950’s when Big Tobacco hired doctors to claim cigarettes were good for digestion (and other false claims). Even when pink slime was out-ed last year, there wasn’t a long line of human doctors stepping forward claiming pink slime was quality nutrition. But in pet food, because of the pet food industry’s decades of ‘work’, trained professionals actually believe and recite it as mantra ‘diseased animal swill is quality nutrition’.
On the flip side, decades of pet food industry politics have resulted in hundreds of thousands of pet food consumers that are outraged – and rightfully so. We are outraged that regulatory authorities continue to ignore us, we are fed up with the lies (marketing and otherwise), and we are taking our pet food shopping dollars to those that provide us complete transparency and earn our trust.
WHO is right. “The formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests.” For our purposes…’The formulation of pet food policy and regulation must be protected from distortion by commercial and vested interests.’
The question is…Who’s going to do something about it?
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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