You do everything you can to keep your dog healthy. You keep him well-exercised, buy him non-toxic toys and feed what you think is the best food.
Then one day you read this:
“A federal judge in St. Louis has ordered companies from Missouri and California to pay a combined $7 million for shipping ingredients containing poultry feathers and other misbranded items to pet food manufacturers”.
That’s what The Associated Press reported in October 2018. If you’re reading this, you probably go out of your way to research. You label read and even ask questions directly of manufacturers.
But what if the information on dog food labels can’t be trusted?
The companies on trial: Wilbur-Ellis Feed LLC of California and Diversified Ingredients Inc. of Missouri.
Federal authorities say Wilbur-Ellis substituted lower cost ingredients for chicken and turkey meal. This included ground-up feathers. This was done in shipments to pet food manufacturers in 2013 and 2014.
Broker Diversified Ingredients sold adulterated and mislabeled ingredients to their clients, according to AP.
These ingredients eventually ended up in Blue Buffalo dog food. This later lead to: Purina’s lawsuit against Blue Buffalo for false advertising, according to PetfoodIndustry.com.
Both Wilbur-Ellis Feed LLC and Diversified Ingredients have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
In this case, the companies were held responsible. The public was made aware of the misdeeds and now both companies are going to have to pay up.
But this isn’t an isolated incident. Do other pet owners remain completely unaware of what they’re feeding their pets?
At least one study says yes.
In 2015, researchers at Chapman University DNA tested 52 commercial pet foods. Of the products that were tested:
31 were labeled correctly
20 were potentially mislabeled
1 contained a non-specific meat ingredient that couldn’t be verified
The researchers concluded:
“Although there are pet food regulations in place in the United States that are enforced by federal and state entities, there is still a lack of information on meat species authentication as well as accidental mislabeling and intentional food fraud. To date, few studies have been published on the prevalence of meat species mislabeling in pet foods. While this study suggests the occurrence of pet food mislabeling on the commercial market, further studies are needed to determine the extent of mislabeling and to identify points in the production chain where mislabeling occurs.”
Holistic veterinarian Dr Jean Dodds says this is an issue people should be aware of. And this doesn’t just mean pet owners. Vets recommending commercial and prescription diets and elimination trials also need to know.
Think back to all the pet food recalls involving the euthanasia drug, pentobarbital.
Dr Dodds reminds us about this too in her editorial (“Challenges in food quality, safety and intolerances”) in Timely Topics in Clinical Immunology, an international scholarly peer-reviewed journal:
“Of all the recent food recalls, perhaps the most alarming and disgusting was the admission that the tallow added to a popular company’s line of pet foods contained pentobarbital euthanasia solution from deceased pets. After the initial report from canned pet food, subsequent multiple testing of 24 brands of wet canned pet foods found only one popular brand that repeatedly tested positive for pentobarbital, albeit in very small amounts. But, no amount of this solution is permitted in foods.”
Pet owners are caught in a frustrating and anxiety-inducing position. All you want is to protect your dog, but given the real possibility of mislabeled dog food labels, can you?
So, how can you avoid those incorrect or mislabeled foods and feed your dog the best?
Unfortunately there’s no quick and easy fix for the mislabeling problem. But you can certainly help reduce the risk by being proactive and vigilant about what you feed.