Sign, sign, look everywhere for signs…

Avatar BCR | September 3, 2008 1 View 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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Sign, sign, look everywhere for signs…

A report from ABC News yesterday doesn’t give me a great deal of hope for changes in the pet food industry. The news story told of the findings from an ‘expert panel’ that recently reviewed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Their report titled “FDA Science and Mission at Risk” is bad news for both people and pets.

The report stated the worry for pet owners is that the pet food industry – which has over $20 billion a year in sales in the US – is regulated by only two people at the FDA.

The report found failures in every area…the FDA’s computer system – which tracks EVERYTHING these days – “is so antiquated, it’s constantly breaking down”. (This could explain the over 17,000 complaints of sick pets or dying pets the FDA received from the pet food recall that started in March 2007 – ending up being reported for months as only 18 sick or dying and recently the ‘final numbers’ being reported as just shy of 300 deaths and illnesses.) Inspectors hand write “urgent” reports, inspections have dropped from 35,000 a year in the early 1970’s to only 6,000 this year. This is not a good sign.

The next thing to consider is the media. I’m old enough that I should remember this (it took some research to refresh my memory!) – pet owners now face the same dilemma that the anti-smoking campaigns struggled with back in the 1970’s – advertising dollars controlling the media.

Cigarette companies for years controlled television, radio, and print media – threatening to pull MAJOR advertising dollars if any negative press was told regarding smoking. Hush money. And from my research – many of the big corporations are still guilty of it (including the pet food industry – ever wonder why you don’t see 20/20 or Primetime Live doing an expose on the pet food industry?). From an article titled ‘The Squeeze’ by Russ Baker – “A major advertiser recently approached all three newsweeklies – Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News – and told them it would be closely monitoring editorial content. So says a high newsweekly executive who was given the warning (but who would not name the advertiser). For the next quarter, the advertiser warned the magazines’ publishing sides, it would keep track of how the company’s industry was portrayed in news columns. At the end of that period, the advertiser would select one – and only one – of the magazines and award all of its newsweekly advertising to it.”

I could go on and on about this but I think you have my point. With regards to your pets and their safety – here is what we’ve got…An inspection service that only provides the pet industry (hundreds of US pet food manufacturers – thousands of different pet foods – countless suppliers of ingredients) with only 2 inspectors and a ‘bought out’ media that doesn’t report truthful yet negative stories about the pet food industry.

It is NOT all gloom and doom for our pets. Before you start raising your own chickens and cattle and the grains needed to feed them – there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are signs to look for – even though they are difficult to see at first glance.

From my Petsumer Report work – I have run across some interesting (good and bad interesting) pet food ingredients. In an attempt to prove it is not all gloom and doom with pet food – I want to explain the signs that the ingredient listing of pet foods tell us. Not that you don’t know this already – but the signs are not the television commercials or the print ads for pet food. Nor is the pictures of ingredients or marketing words such as ‘Premium’ or ‘Choice’ the signs we need to consider when purchasing a pet food. I’m talking about the hidden signs that give us some pretty good information to base our pet food purchasing decisions on.

The following is the first five ingredients of a pet food from a major – worldwide – pet food manufacturer – it is not a budget pet food (it is not my intention to slam any one particular manufacturer – thus I am not mentioning any names).

The first five ingredients are: Chicken meal, rice, corn gluten meal, corn, chicken fat (naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols, rosemary extract and citric acid),…

Now – if you were looking at this pet food you would first look at – at least – the first five ingredients. The next bit of information you need to know is where they get their ingredients from. After calling the manufacturer you learn that they do NOT use US only ingredients. There’s a sign. Add the ingredient corn gluten meal with the information (the sign) that it is NOT from a US source – you’ve got two signs. Chinese imported glutens – containing a deadly combination of added ingredients – were the cause of the pet food recall this past March.

Next – corn. Corn, wheat, and soy are prone to a deadly mold – aflatoxin – that has been responsible for numerous pet food recalls. When you now know the fact that the FDA only has two inspectors for the pet food industry – I consider the ingredients corn or wheat to be more signs. The FDA would not be responsible for inspecting each shipment of corn or wheat to a pet food manufacturer – but the FDA is the top dog regulatory organization that oversees quality control practices of pet food manufacturers – along with the Agriculture Department of each state. Let’s see…two FDA employees overseeing the entire pet food industry of the US – I doubt much attention is paid to quality control. Grains that are so prone to a deadly mold, added with little to no quality control inspections, equal a great big sign to me. If there was tremendous health benefits to a pet consuming corn, wheat, or soy…well – maybe it would be worth the risk. But the evidence does not prove that these potentially dangerous ingredients are better for pets than their carbohydrate counterpart’s potatoes, carrots, and so on. Corn is a sign with this pet food.

Score of signs so far with this pet food – three bad signs. Just to be fair – the first ingredient and the last ingredient are good – very good – pet food ingredients. Chicken meal and naturally preserved chicken fat are signs of a quality pet food. So – actually we have two good signs and three bad signs so far.

And there are good signs to look for as well…when you look at a pet food label – scan the ingredient listings for the minerals. Good signs are minerals listed as zinc proteinate or copper proteinate or Copper Amino Acid Complex (source of Chelated Copper) – key words are proteinate and chelated. The pet food above does have proteinated minerals.

Another good sign to look for is probiotics or friendly bacteria (friendly bacteria helps to keep the intestinal system healthy and working properly – since the majority of a pets immune system is located in the intestinal system – keeping it healthy helps keep the pet healthy). Friendly bacteria will be listed as very scientific words such as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bacillus Subtilis, Bifidobacterium Thermophilum, Bifidobacterium Longum, Enterococcus Faecium. There is recent veterinary research that shows many pet foods that contain friendly bacteria when the pet food manufacturing process begins – does not complete the cooking process with live bacteria. So even though it is listed in the ingredients – it doesn’t provide the pet with the health bonus it was intended to. That’s discouraging news but to me it is still a good sign that the pet food manufacturer went to the trouble and expense of attempting to add an ingredient (they don’t have to add this – most don’t) that was put there to help benefit the health of the pet. Regardless of the research – personally I still consider probiotics a good sign.

One more good sign to look for is antioxidants. Science has shown for years that antioxidants can help prevent heart disease and cancer and can slow the effects of aging. Pet food ingredients that contain antioxidants are tomatoes, carrots, and whole grains. And a leading antioxidant supplement used in some pet foods is called grape seed extract. Our pet food above does not contain antioxidants.

Final score of signs this pet food tells us is three good signs and five bad signs. Not the best sign.

Don’t be too discouraged over the FDA news. There are many quality pet food companies out there – they are doing their best to show us the signs they are producing quality foods and treats for our pets. They are limited by law to what they can officially tell us – but the signs are there. To me, if a pet food company doesn’t bother to add scientifically proven health benefits to their foods (chelated or proteinated minerals, probiotics and antioxidants) – that’s my sign. If a pet food company hasn’t gotten the message that some ingredients purchased outside the US have a proven history of being tainted and pose a huge risk to pets – that’s my sign.

In Petsumer Report – I cannot be so bold as to put flashing arrows pointing to the good signs and flashing danger warnings pointing to the bad signs of a pet food. Doing so would probably be considered by some as me being partial or prejudiced to particular pet foods. I am trying my best not to be (it’s a challenge). But the signs are there. As they are there for any pet owner who looks for them. Please look for the signs – it’s about all we have for now.

Wishing you and your pet the best,

Susan Thixton

Truth About Pet Food

Petsumer Report

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