Food & Nutrition
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Dog Food Watch: Recalls


Realistically speaking, it’s unlikely that the food system can be made 100 percent safe. Nonetheless, we need to know we can trust that those who make the food we feed our companion animals are held to the same standards as those who supply the food we eat ourselves.

Over the years, we’ve become well aware of the concept of food sourcing. In addition to knowing exactly what goes into the food we feed our dogs and cats, we also need to know where it comes from. How the finished products are processed, packaged and distributed is also vitally important. As P&G’s Taylor observed, pathogen elimination is challenging when working with large quantities of raw meat and poultry.

Do some food processors take shortcuts to save money? For some, that might be the case, as evidenced by the huge 2012 recall involving a Diamond co-processing plant in Gaston, S.C. , which ultimately affected 17 brands representing more than 30,000 tons of dry dog and cat food. Because a rare strain of Salmonella infantis was found in some product samples, all brands, ranging from high-end Wellness to Costco’s brand, Kirkland, were recalled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 49 people in 20 states and two in Canada who came in contact with pet food made at this facility are confirmed to have been affected. When the FDA inspected the plant, they found numerous problems with the contamination-containment processes, including the use of cardboard and duct tape on some of the equipment. How they got away with this—how they managed to fly under the radar of the companies for which they were making food—is anyone’s guess.

Yet another problem that cries out for better monitoring involves actually getting recalled products off store shelves. A reporter for a Colorado television station found bags of the tainted Chinese jerky in stores such as Safeway, K-Mart and Albertsons almost a month after it had been recalled. I learned about this from attorney Jennifer Reba Edwards of the Animal Law Center in Wheat Ridge, Colo. As Edwards points out, “The bigger problem is [that] once recalled, the products are still getting to the end user. Retailers are not pulling the products from the shelf and you can buy them online; that is almost a bigger problem than the recall itself—preventing it [from] being available to the end user.” Who is responsible for this step? Who should be held accountable? This is definitely a problem to track and one that consumers need to be aware of.

Within the dog community, the issue of salmonella is controversial; some question its potential to harm dogs. However, I don’t believe this is debatable. There are too many instances in which people have been damaged by cross-contamination or mishandling in the home of food intended for pets. The FDA considers it to be an adulterant in both human and animal foods, as well they should. More to the point, as Jennifer Edwards says, “I’m pregnant; I would really be upset if I were to be exposed to salmonella. It goes beyond protecting our animals—we have to protect our people as well.”

If ever there was a reason to look at the big picture, this is it. We have only one food supply, and it should be safe for both humans and animals. This is, and ought to be, the standard that foodsafety regulators, the food industry and we—the consumers—need to meet.

*A Bravo! company spokesperson told me that the product that tested positive had been tested by a third-party inspector before leaving the plant and had a negative-contamination finding. In an unusual step, the FDA allowed that point to be included in their recall statement.



This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 74: Summer 2013
Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and editor in chief. thebark.com
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Frances | June 8 2013 |

I would expect anyone handling raw meat - whether direct from the local butcher or a frozen complete dog food - to take the basic hygiene precautions we were all taught as children. Avoid cross contamination, wash hands and implements well, etc, etc, with additional, more stringent precautions if anyone in the household is at high risk of infection. Kibble is very definitely another matter altogether, but surely anyone feeding a raw diet should have the sense to know how to handle raw meat?!

Submitted by Anonymous | June 11 2013 |

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a wealth of information pertaining to Claudia's article. Explore the links located on their website. I'll mention a few items:

1. Pet food can make pets and people sick

Pet ownership has many positive benefits. Pets comfort us and give us companionship. But as much as we love animals, there are simple precautions we need to take to keep our family members, including our four-legged members, safe and healthy. Here are some tips to help protect you and your family.

Shopping for your pet? Here are some purchasing tips:

Look at the package:
Buy bagged food with no visible signs of damage to the packaging, such as tears or discolorations.
Avoid buying canned food with dents.
Avoid raw diets for your pets:
CDC recommends against feeding raw food to dogs and cats because of the risk of illness to the pet as well as to people living in the household.

2. Do not feed your pet a raw diet
Here is why:

Raw diets consist of foods such as meat, poultry, milk, and eggs that have not been cooked or treated to remove harmful germs.
These food items can carry harmful bacteria including Salmonella and Campylobacter.


Submitted by Jill Hawley | July 10 2013 |

Just wanted to comment about the comment against raw food.

Raw food is great for keeping your dogs and cat on their natural diet. No grains, extremely low amount of veggies which need to either be lightly cooked or run through the food processor, since dogs don't have the long digestive tract needed to break them down and small amounts of fruit.
Lots of people say that the risk of contamination is too high. Well that's why you take measures to keep them low, such as sanitizing your work area and food bowls, washing your hand. BTW salmonella is found in processed pet food too! Although I haven't heard of any dogs getting sick just the owners.

Next the source of the food is of great importance, hormone free,organic, free range,pastured animals are the best options especially when it comes to liver since it filters out all the bad. You want to make sure that those animals are on their natural diet too, so no grains for them either. Cows eat grass for a reason, so why feed them grain?

Then we have the great debate on bones, don't use bones that are cooked, ever, they will splinter and can cause blockages or perforations. Then you want to make sure you're using none weight bearing bones only as, they will be easy for your dog to digest.

I want to know EXACTLY what is in my pets food and where it came from. Buy local when you can but be sure the food is GMO and hormone free.

And just wanted to add in how unlikely it is for your dog to be the one who gets sick, my dogs used to feed on the carcasses of deer we had hunted then butchered when we lived in the country.

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