Pet Food Recalls Keep Going, and Going…

Recalls are a fact of life in the pet food business, but 2007 has been a banner year. Now, just when you thought the melamine scare was over, there’s more bad news. Bestros Chicken Jerky, a treat product made in China and sold at Wal-Mart, was found to contain melamine by an independent lab. There have been several reports of animals becoming ill or dying after eating these treats. However, testing by FDA failed to find any melamine.

Also at Wal-Mart, pouches of Special Kitty cat food have come under fire, with complaints that recalled lots are still on the shelf. There are a few new reports on cats getting sick from the food. Consumers have also found pouches with a new sticker glued over the old one with recalled lot numbers. Supposedly, the manufacturer still had thousands of unused pouches sitting on its shelves when the recall occurred. A decision was made to put newly-made food in the old bags, and just add stickers with the new lot numbers and dates. Several consumers caught on, and had cashiers scan the original sticker—which produced a no-sale warning. This raised more suspicions that recalled food could still be on the shelves. Wal-Mart’s response? “The glue on the new stickers wasn’t good enough.” Henceforth, new food will have its own new packaging.

FDA announced in late July that meat-and-bone meal (MBM) from giant rendering company Darling International was recalled—in April—due to melamine contamination. No explanation from FDA why it waited 5 months to make a public announcement. MBM is a common ingredient in low-cost dog and cat foods. Darling says that none of the contaminated MBM went into pet food, but it was distributed—and consumed—as livestock feed. FDA believes that by the time the intended consumer—such as chickens or fish—get done eating melamine-contaminated feed, it is “diluted” to levels that are safe for human consumption. Of course, no tests have ever been done to confirm this; it’s all theoretical.

And if it’s not one thing, it’s another… A late-July Castleberry Foods recall included both human food and pet food, including Natural Balance Eatables for Dogs, due to a case of botulism in a person.

In August, several dog foods, including Red Flannel and Krasdale Gravy (made by Mars) and Ol’ Roy (made by Doane’s for Wal-Mart) were recalled due to contamination with Salmonella, a bacteria that can cause serious illness in humans (but rarely affects pets). These recalls were small, and limited to the few states that received shipments, including CT, MA, MD, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA and WV. There is currently an outbreak of Salmonella in humans in the Pennsylvania area that has been linked to contact with dry dog food—but not to the recalled brands. The brands that are actually causing people to become ill have not been named by FDA; and they have not been recalled. Salmonella is a very common contaminant of pet food.

What can consumers learn from these ongoing pet food recalls? Note that nearly all the foods involved in these recalls are made with inferior ingredients, and sold at discount feed and megastores. While better quality pet food costs a little more up front, the savings in dollars and heartaches by avoiding toxic pet foods are…priceless!

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