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pet food products
pet food industry
commercial dog food
cereals
Research Dog Food Ingredients - A Consumer Fight Back
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Research Dog Food Ingredients  -  A Consumer Fight Back

I have been unable to pick up a British newspaper this week without reading about the scandal in the European processed food industry. Horsemeat has been discovered in beef products. Politicians are up in arms about the mislabelling of food. Products are being whipped off shelves faster than people can buy them. Investigations are underway. Criminal activity is suspected and companies are already lining up to sue each other.

Horsemeat is legally sold in parts of Europe, but in this case it has been marketed as beef. People are now worried because they feel that they do not know what is in their food. It has shown just how complex the human food chain has become. This entire outcry is taking place within a highly regulated industry. I’ve felt compelled to compare this situation with trying to buy some decent commercial dog food in an industry much less restricted than the human food chain. The labelling of pet food products is so woefully unclear; do I know what my dog is eating? Definitely not!

In Britain the labelling restrictions for what goes into dog food are not as tough as those for feed which is given to farm animals. For farm livestock, each ingredient must be listed separately in order of weight. Dog food manufacturers can list them by category -- e.g. 'meat and animal derivatives', and ‘cereals’, which means a whole load of ingredients can actually be hidden from view.

Basically, this allows manufacturers the flexibility to take advantage of cheap sources of ingredients that can then be legally added to pet food. One statement I read in the papers said that this European horsemeat was destined for the pet food industry, but “somehow” found its way into human processed food. Now I look at pet food labels a lot, and I have never seen horsemeat listed as a product. But I suspect it is there. It will be hidden behind a category such as” meat and animal derivatives” which means that any part of a "land animal" can be included such as head, skin, guts – you name it. Yuck!

Consider just some of the pet food recalls in both Europe and the US.

• 2007 – Melamine was found in wheat gluten imported from China which went into pet food products. It caused kidney failure. Many pets died or were made seriously ill through this contamination.

• December 2012 – dry pet food found to contain metal and plastic.

• January 2013 – dog treats in the US found to be contaminated with trace amounts of antibiotic residue used in the Chinese poultry industry.

It is worth noting here that the pet food chain is as complex as its human counterpart. The largest number of ingredients going into the pet food industry in the US is from China. If the source of the ingredients is from the four corners of the earth, is it any wonder that stringent checks often break down with horrible consequences? Add to this the fact that manufacturers do not have to identify the sources of the individual ingredients that were used to make a product. They can use the phrase “Made in the USA”, "Made in Britain", even if the ingredients where simply processed in those countries and not sourced there. Why is there no outcry about this?

Well I think there is an emerging outcry. It’s from all those pet owners out there fighting back against the suspect claims being made by pet food companies. More and more pet owners are getting very interested in the ingredients in pet foods. Growing numbers are turning to home-cooked food or feeding a raw diet to their pets. Dog forums are full of conversations about ingredients, and some reputable manufacturers have even set up websites to explain their labelling policy. I often email manufacturers these days if I am unclear about any of the ingredients listed on the packaging. If I get no reply – then I do not buy that product. With US sales of pet food alone topping $18 billion in 2011, it’s about time the industry started listening to what consumers want.

What type of information do I want on a pet food label?

1. The quality and type of ingredients used by the manufacturer

2. Clear labelling with specifically named ingredients not categories

3. Named sources of the protein in the food. Protein for example can come from chicken beaks and feet, which is not exactly nutritious!

4. Country origin of the main ingredients in the food

5. A guarantee of "nutritional adequacy"

The human food chain should, and is, tightly regulated. But my dog is a very important part of our family, and I want to know what is in the food I buy for him, just like I want to know what is in the food I buy for my kids! So are there any things we can presently do to keep our pets safe? Here's my advice:

• Take time to research your dog food products and buy the best quality feeds you can afford

• Teach yourself about what to look for and avoid on dog food labels

• Take control of the situation and think about switching from commercial to home-cooked dog food

My pet is overweight and arthritic. I believe that one of the reasons he has become overweight is the commercial food I gave him when he was younger. I cannot change any of that now, but in order to keep him fit and healthy in the future I need to be more informed about what I am feeding him. After all, if I can’t eat what’s in a dog food, then perhaps the dog should not be eating it either!


Street Talk

Yes, great stuff

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Thanks Geoffrey. Horsemeat issue still raging over here in the UK. Wish they would get as worried about what goes into dog food!

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Great stuff,

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Thanks again Frank. It means a lot knowing people read what I write.

Reply
  about 5 years ago
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