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Who Regulates Pet Food in the US?

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  1. Susan Mazzotti

    why can’t we know who the major supplier of beef to Evangers is? also, is Real Meat and Ziwi Peak beef ok???
    susan Mazzotti

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      Evanger’s supplier would be considered proprietary information.

    2. Reader

      I walked into my Pet Food Supply store today. One that prides itself on offering super premium choices and boutique brands. I am grateful for the education they’ve given me, in terms of being huge raw food proponents. Done both my dogs a world of good. I believe they really do care about doing the right thing.

      Except today I checked to see if Evangers (dry) was still on the shelf. It was. Then I checked the cans. And “Hunk o’ Beef” (among the very few Evangers choices) was sitting there. Now I get the point, that they obviously checked the Lot Numbers. But I asked anyway, were they aware of what caused the recall?

      In fact they felt that Evangers would probably become one of the safest foods out there going forward, exactly because another significant mistake would be their final undoing. They admitted to me, thinking it was the supplier, and reiterating how the chain of custody is complicated, just as some other TAPF reader described in another post.

      But I thought, how sad anyway. That a company wouldn’t be held to a fundamental accountability. Because if they aren’t, beginning at the retail and customer level, then it makes no “statement” within the Industry. And instead, becomes just another unfortunate mistake, that will eventually be forgotten … or excused … or qualified … the interest of maintaining business as usual.

      Does it honestly have to be our very own pet that something bad happens to, before a serious incident really matters. Just food for thought …. .

  2. Jane

    Where does organic certification fit into the mix? Is that the “voluntary pet food certification program” you mention under the USDA?

    This might be a whole other post, but what does organic certification cover? We’ve been using Evanger’s and Party Animal organic cat foods, thinking that would provide an additional layer of oversight. But, given the conditions and other problems the FDA found at Evanger’s, I wonder if it really does.

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      Organic ingredients would fall under USDA’s jurisdiction – but only as ingredients (same as with meat). Once they are destined for pet food they no longer fall under USDA jurisdiction. To my knowledge, the certification of organic falls back onto the farm – the farm is certified. But as with Evanger’s, should a problem arise with a organic ingredient in a pet food – the FDA would turn to USDA for information on the farm.

      1. Laurie Raymond

        I’ve had lengthy conversations with one of the owners of Party Animal and the organic certification of ingredients is only the beginning. There are audits and inspections at each step to ensure segregation of organic ingredients from non-organic ingredients and the tear-down and clearing of canning equipment between organic processing and other uses. The folks at Party Animal use Evangers facility because it is the only pet food canning facility certified for organic manufacture. The owners waited some time for Evangers to obtain this certification so that they could make organic pet food. Evangers had to take many extra steps to obtain it. There are ways to authenticate these steps, including inspections, and the folks at Party Animal are quite willing to reveal all information to consumers.

        Where there is a big black hole in the supply chain as far as transparency goes, is the processing and/or rendering plants from which companies buy their meat and meat meals. I’m having a paralegal I know research rules and laws governing how these operate. I’ve said before about the Evangers Hunk of Beef contamination, unless there is some gross commingling of carcasses on a joint slaughter and rendering facility, there is no accidental way for sodium pentobarbital to have gotten into that product other than by deliberate insertion. Here’s why: with or without feedlots attached, packing plants receive all their livestock alive. They are driven through the slaughter line, bled, skinned, and cut up. The inedible parts and bones go to a rendering company. Rendering companies receive all their inputs already dead, and from many sources, depending on the products being made. These companies produce meat meals, specific protein meals, bone meals and by product meals for pet and animal feed manufacturers. Feedlots, slaughter operations and packing operations do not have or use sodium pentobarbital. Why would they? The animals are destined for food and to use that drug would disqualify they. besides, they have plenty of lethal options for injured animals that do not involve drugs. No animal could walk through the slaughter line after having been injected IV with sodium pen.

        In contrast, rendering companies receive random sourced carcasses, many of which were euthanized with sodium pen. at vet clinics and shelters. If you search for information on how rendering companies operate, the National Renderers Association overview lists 2 types of operation: “packer-renderers” and “independents.” That suggests that at least some packers (slaughter/processors) are jointly operated with rendering facilities. If so, there must be laws and rules to prevent cross-contamination of meat by raw materials or outputs of the rendering process.

        The meat meals that come out of a rendering process look like brown powder. The meat chunks in the contaminated Evangers cans are obviously and beyond a doubt meat chunks. Whether from a cow, a horse, or any other animal, that animal walked into the facility, was killed, and ended up sold to Evangers as meat. This doesn’t say anything about its quality, only that it could NOT have been euthanized with sodium pen. Hunk of Beef is a large chunk of meat, plus water, that is cooked in the can. Unless deliberate product tampering took place, it is beyond explaining how sodium pentobarbital came to be there.

        But the packing and rendering companies are extremely cagey about being identified with any manufacturer of pet food. Why? This needs and deserves some attention!

        1. Reader

          Thank you for the information because you’ve been spending a lot of time on research. Much appreciated. Actually the explanation is what Evangers should’ve provided in full transparency. Their “public relations” skills are very lacking in favor of being quite combative instead.

          My response to the tampering theory is this. Either the competition is (or was) very jealous of Evangers perceived quality, they decided to take them down a notch. Or Evangers has made their own share of enemies the old fashioned way. Heaven only knows what they’ve done to earn that kind of reputation.

          But if they know the supply chain as well as you do, wouldn’t a company feeling truly victimized have reported the names of all the suppliers they use? After all, doing so would be a best kind of safety check point in the best interest of the public..

        2. Hi Laurie,

          I’ll take the last comment first re: intentional adulteration. Evanger’s most likely received the contaminated meat (horse, beef – whatever) from a supplier who sold them euthanized animals. How that probably happened is that a dead animal hauler picked up the carcasses from a veterinary university (or some other location) and instead of delivering it to a renderer for processing sold it to a meat processing facility (not under USDA inspection). Legally, a dead animal hauler is supposed to deliver it to a renderer not a meat processing facility.

          Another scenario is that cows were euthanized with sodium pentobarbital (although for the reasons you mention unlikely), and were marked as USDA Condemned then taken to a meat processing facility that was not under USDA inspection instead of a renderer and processed and sold as ‘Inedible Meat.’ The meat Evanger’s received was labelled ‘Inedible.’

          As far as the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) is concerned, Oregon Tilth is the certifying agency for Evanger’s. The only time Evanger’s was inspected by Oregon Tilth was once during the application process to qualify for inclusion into the USDA/NOP. Currently, Oregon Tilth is reconsidering Evanger’s certification.

          In addition to individual ingredients, finished pet food products can be certified organic under the USDA/NOP rule under the animal feed rule. Currently, there are no USDA/NOP rules specific to pet food at this time.

          Evanger’s and the certified organic products that are made at their facility are not under constant inspection by Oregon Tilth or the USDA/NOP for that matter.

          Hope that helps clarify the matter!

  3. Michelle

    Kind of a joke isn’t it? It is basically buyer beware. The way I look at it is, if I won’t eat it then neither does my boy.

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      The post was not meant to be a joke. It was to explain the responsibilities of regulatory authorities to consumers.

  4. Batzion

    With the exception of AAFCO, it’s really no different than human food. Susan, you cannot fairly be expected to do everything yourself. We need to mobilize. I’m wondering if Ronnie Cummins at the Organic Consumers Association would be agreeable to a pet food “division” whereby we would have established inroads to petition and contact our Congressmen/women, the FDA, USDA, etc. en masse with experienced muscle behind us:

  5. prints

    Celebrity chef and talk show host Rachael Ray has an advertising problem.

    Despite claims on the label and on the product’s website that her Nutrish brand of dog food is “natural” and devoid of artificial flavors or preservatives, both wet and dry varieties contain chemicals and artificial ingredients, according to a recent class-action lawsuit against the makers of the Food Network star’s product.

    At a time when consumers have been shown to project their own preference for natural food onto their furry friends with U.S. sales of pet foods marketed as “natural” exceeding $5 billion a year, the suit against Ainsworth Pet Nutrition alleges that it has “reaped enormous profits” at the expense of pet parents who paid a premium for the Nutrish dog food.

    The suit points to several “chemicals and artificial and/or synthetic ingredients” — including L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Thiamine Mononitrate, and (to throw you a bone pronunciation-wise) caramel color — that it claims disqualifies more than a dozen Nutrish products as natural pet foods.

    For its part, the Nutrish site features an “ingredient glossary” that defines L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate and Thiamine Mononitrate as both being “part of an essential blend of vitamins and minerals that helps support your pet’s overall health.” There is no entry for caramel color.

  6. Hannie

    Who regulates pet food in the USA? NOBODY………which is why there are so many issues. The pet food companies are left to do what they want, make as much money as they want as our pets get sick & die. Pretty sad state of affairs I would say. Only way to know what your furbabies are eating? Cook it yourself…….

  7. Terri Christenson Janson

    This is why I do cook my own dogs food.

  8. Spencer

    Need some help! I am in California and am trying to understand the laws behind rendering. This is what I know – CA department of food and agriculture give licenses to facilities to sell a fertilizer. However, I can’t find anything on regulating the facility via monthly inspections, looking at incoming materials, tonnages, etc…

    Who monitors this information? And do rendering facilities have to obtain a permit to operate of sorts from any other government agency other than the local air board?


    1. Reader – (This is a case story in the Sac Bee, but identifies the following agency:) “Officials with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which regulates rendering plants, said their records show no adverse findings for the plant.” – Rendering plants are regulated by a variety of federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Federal agencies with significant regulatory jurisdiction over rendering plant operations include the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for animal feed ingredients, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for air and water, USDA for certain food products, the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the transport of material to and from rendering plants, and the US Department of Labor for employment and safety laws.

      State departments of agriculture typically regulate the transport and handling of materials processed in rendering plants, and certain licensure and product quality matters. State and local agencies also oversee enforcement of applicable environmental, safety, health, and employment regulations.

      The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires renderers to comply with new and extensive regulations to improve feed and food safety. Many industries are subject to this law in addition to rendering. FSMA gave FDA sweeping new authorities to implement the new law. FDA has issued regulations for hazard analysis, preventive controls, corrective actions, validation, verification and monitoring of processes, record keeping, foreign supplier verification and employee training. FSMA also gave FDA new authority to initiate mandatory recalls of adulterated products.

      Most renderers produce animal food ingredients and must comply with FSMA regulations and are subject to periodic unannounced FDA inspections. The major FDA regulation affecting rendering is called “Current Good Manufacturing Practices and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals.” The NRA (National Rendering Association) has been very proactive with its members in regards to training and implementation of this regulation. – (In Calif.) The Meat, Poultry and Egg Safety Branch also licenses and inspects the following: Renderers who recycle animal carcasses, packinghouse waste and inedible kitchen grease into animal feed ingredients and inedible industrial fats, oils, and other products. Collection Centers used for temporary storage of animal carcasses, packinghouse waste and inedible kitchen grease before transport to a licensed rendering plant. Dead Animal Haulers who transport carcasses of dead livestock and horses. Pet Food Slaughterers who slaughter animals for use as pet food. Pet Food Processors who prepare fresh or frozen raw meat products for pet food. Importers of fresh or frozen raw meat, meat by-products, horsemeat, poultry meat or poultry meat by-products for pet food or horsemeat for human food. -ARTICLE 5-C LICENSING OF RENDERING PLANTS – (Revised April 13, 2015)

      You’re kidding right, that Google isn’t working for you; sounds like maybe you’re doing a research paper for school … .

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