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Help To Avoid Another Pet Food Recall

Feb 6, 2008
2007 turned out to be the worst year in history for pet food recalls. There is no chance of being completely certain that your pet's food is poisoned or will be on a recall list - but there are some important thing to look for and avoid that can improve your chances to locate a healthy, safe pet food.

Judging the safety or the nutritional value of a pet food starts by ignoring the advertising, the price of the pet food, and ignoring the front of the bag. The real signs to the safety of a dog food or cat food lie on the back or side of the bag or can in the 'Ingredient Listing'. Regardless of what marketing terms ('choice', 'premium', and so on) are on the front of the bag or can of pet food, a pet owner cannot determine the quality or how safe the food is unless they look at the ingredients. With dry foods there can be 90 different ingredients (or more), with canned foods there can be 50 or more different ingredients. But don't panicyou don't have to understand hundreds of different pet food ingredients! You just need to be aware of a few key ingredientspet food ingredients that you do NOT want to see in a dog food or cat food (or treats).

'Wheat Gluten', 'Corn Gluten', or 'Rice Gluten'. These three ingredients were the bad boy pet food ingredients of 2007. Tainted glutens were found to be the cause of thousands of dogs and cats becoming ill and dying. It is not that glutens themselves are toxic to pets - these ingredients have been used in pet foods for years. The problem was the source or manufacturer of the glutens - imported from countries with far less quality standards than in the US. (The majority of glutens used in the US pet foods are from imported sources.) These imported glutens contained added chemicals that caused crystals to form in the kidneys of dogs and cats.

It is important to avoid dog foods and cat foods that contain imported glutens. And pet owners should be aware that glutens provide no real nutrition to their pet's food. Glutens can be used as a thickener and as a protein boost for a pet food. Adult dog foods must provide a minimum of 18% protein and adult cat foods must provide a minimum of 26% protein. Sometimes, when a pet food does not provide sufficient actual meat in a food - glutens are added to boost the protein to the required percentages. A better protein source for your pet comes from meat - not from glutens.

'By Products'. By-products have never been the cause of a pet food recall, but they are definitely ingredients you want to avoid feeding your pet. To give you an understanding of by-products, I'd like to compare this pet food ingredient to pies - you know, the dessert! How many different types of pies you can think of? There are apple pies, cherry pies, chocolate pies, meringue pies, meat pies, mud pies, pie in math, cow pies (yuck!) - I think you get my point. Now imagine if you purchased a pie and you didn't know what kind of pie it was. You wouldn't know if it was apple pie or mud pie or even cow pie. All you would know is that you purchased a 'pie'. The same thing applies to by-products in pet food.

The official AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials - responsible for all animal feed manufacturing rules and regulations) defines by-products as "meat by-products is the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth, and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto."

The pet food ingredient by-product is a catch-all ingredient. Any or all left over animal tissues left over from human food are clumped into this one pet food ingredient. Pet owners have no guarantee of what they are feeding - intestines or liver. By-products can be listed in many variations on the pet food label - Chicken By-Products, Beef By-Products, Chicken By-Product Meal, Beef By-Product Meal, and so forth.

'Meat Meal', 'Meat and Bone Meal', or 'Animal Digest'. These ingredients are very similar to by-products with a similar AAFCO definition. A catch all pet food ingredient using various left-over parts of animal tissue not used in human food. Again, no certainty of what your pet is actually eating.

'Animal Fat'. The FDA has tested many different pet foods - and released a long list of foods that contain the drug pentobarbital - the drug used to euthanize dogs, cats, cattle, and horses.

How can the drug that is used to euthanize animals be found in pet food? The answer - euthanized animals are rendered (cooked) and the end ingredients are placed in pet food. It has long been rumored that euthanized dogs and cats (from animal shelters and veterinarian offices) is the major source of the pentobarbital in pet food. The FDA/CVM (Center for Veterinary Management) developed testing methods on two separate occasions to determine the species source of the drug. No results have ever been determined. The pet food manufacturers adamantly deny they use rendered dogs or cats - but again, NO clinical evidence has ever been released to confirm the pentobarbital is from euthanized cattle and horses in pet food as they claim.

However, the one thing the FDA/CVM has determined through their testing is the pet food ingredient 'animal fat' is the most common ingredient to contain pentobarbital. In other words, if you are feeding a dog food or cat food (or treats) with the ingredient 'animal fat' in the ingredient listing - you are (more than likely) feeding your pet euthanized animals. Not every batch of pet food tested that contained the ingredient 'animal fat' has proved to contain pentobarbital - but why would any pet owner want to take the chance? Avoid dog foods, cat foods, and dog and cat treats that contain the ingredient 'animal fat'.

'BHA', 'BHT', 'TBHQ', and 'Ethoxyquin'. These pet food ingredients are chemical preservatives and you might have to look through the entire ingredient list to find them. It is worth the look because there is plenty of clinical evidence to associate all four of these chemical preservatives with cancer and tumors (simply do a Google search on any one of these chemicals). All four of these chemical preservatives are rarely used to preserve human food and if so, are used in quantities far less than what is allowed in pet food. Avoid any dog food, cat food, or dog and cat treat that contains 'BHA', 'BHT', 'TBHQ', and 'Ethoxyquin' on the label.

'Corn', 'Wheat', 'Soy'. There is no clinical evidence that these common pet food ingredients are dangerous to pets, but they have been associated with pet food recalls of the past. Grains such as corn, wheat, and soy (and all their variations) are prone to a deadly mold called aflatoxin. According to AAFCO regulations, pet food manufacturers are not required to test ingredients for safety or absence of mold.

Of course there is no guarantee to assure you your pet's food will never be recalled, even though there should be. Avoiding pet food ingredients that have a controversial history and continuing to learn about what your pet eats will greatly improve your odds. And always read the ingredient listing on your pet's food and treats.
About the Author
Before you feed your pet one more meal, visit TruthAboutPetFood.com to learn how to choose the best, safest food for your dog or cat. Make sure you visit the Paws Club library of pet food articles and learn how Petsumer Report provides pet owners with information the pet food label doesn't tell you. pet food, pet food recall, dog food, dog food recall, cat food, cat food recall
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