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Two sides disagree on pet food safety issue

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Carla McCann
February 16, 2008

Did you expose your pets to poisoning because you trusted pet food makers?


No, says Dr. Sean Delaney, vice president of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, who calls the nationwide deaths of hundreds of dogs and cats caused by eating toxic manufactured foods a rare tragedy.


Yes, says Ann Martin, author of “Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Foods,” who claims pet owners incorrectly put their trust in the commercial pet food industry until the March 2007 deaths.


The two represent extremes in the debate over product labels on cans and packets of foods describing the contents as succulent morsels, choice chicken, lamb, beef and whole grains.


Delaney believes pet foods are safe and nutritious, for the most part.


The national recall last year of millions of cans and pouches of gravy-style pet foods that followed the deaths doesn’t present a clear picture of the industry, he says.


Melamine, which apparently poisoned the animals, was traced to wheat gluten. The gluten is a protein source that Menu Foods, Nestle Purina Pet-Care Co. and Hill’s Pet Nutrition imported from China.


The recall also revealed that much of the contaminated food being sold under a variety of brand names all were prepared in the same vats at a Menu Foods factory.


The reason being is that Menu Foods specializes in this “unique processing,” Delaney says.


Few other plants are set up to do that type of processing, he says.


It’s important to note that Menu Foods showed it had strong controls in place by being able to immediately track the contaminated ingredient, Delaney says.


Manufacturers follow rules and regulations adopted from guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, Delaney says. Although the AAFCO has no regulatory authority, most states adopt their rules and guidelines.


The recall, which continued into May, included more products than


actually were affected, Delaney says.


“About 99 percent of dog and cat foods were unaffected,” he says.


Martin disagrees. In her book, she says standard fare for most commercial foods is far from nutritious.


“In fact, many of the ingredients are potentially harmful and composed of the dregs from slaughter houses and the rendering business,” she writes. “Even some of the premium foods promoted by pet food companies are really not any different than their standard line—other than being more expensive.”


Delaney says the Food and Drug Administration has proved many of Martin’s claims false.


In one study, the FDA randomly tested pet foods for the drug used to euthanize animals. The results were negative, proving slaughterhouse dregs were not being used in pet foods, Delaney says. Tests on pet foods for cat and dog DNA also were negative.


“I think people can trust what’s in the food is on the label,” he says.


Menu Foods’ mistake was buying products from an unscrupulous supplier, Delaney says.


“No one working in these pet food manufacturing plants want to make foods that harm animals,” he says. “Everyone involved in these operations are pet lovers. Everyone’s heart was broken by the deaths caused from the toxic foods.”



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