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Dog Food Regulations Need to Change
In a Goliath versus Goliath fight, two of the largest dog food manufactures are suing each other in court. While the claims at first seem trivial, it has revealed some truly ugly truths about the pet food industry, and highlighted how poorly our pet’s food is regulated and monitored. Owners of pets with food allergies, or those just trying to avoid certain ingredients for their four-legged friends, may have great difficulty knowing what is actually in that bag or can.
The old pet food giant Purina first started suing the new pet food giant Blue Buffalo, claiming that they were slandering Purina’s products in Blue’s commercials with claims Purina was using poultry by-product meal as a primary protein source. Poultry by-product meal is made by grinding up rendered chicken carcasses, which may include organs, bones, undeveloped eggs, and even feathers. While poultry by-product meal may contain protein, it sure seems like something unappealing to make into pet food. Blue Buffalo has built an advertising campaign based on how their ingredients are superior, and therefore healthier for pets, than Purina and other brands.
Purina states categorically that they do not use poultry by-product meal in their food, which would make Blue Buffalo’s accusations a lie, and therefore slander. From there, the lawsuit takes a twist; Purina claims they went further and did genetic testing on many of Blue’s products, only to find that Blue Buffalo foods actually contained the poultry by-product meal that Purina was accused of using. How could that even be possible, since it has never been listed on the ingredient list?
The truth reveals how poorly the pet food industry is regulated. Human food has to be meticulously labeled as to all the potential ingredients that could be present; this is why many candy bars that have no nuts in them still have to warn consumers that they may have been made on a machine that processed nuts recently. Pet foods have no such requirements, which means your “super-premium” salmon and red lentil formula may have been made on a machine that had just finished making a a cheap poultry by-product meal and corn formula, which means those ingredients will also be in your super-premium food. If your dog or cat is allergic to chicken, it may be pure luck, or lack thereof, whether or not there is chicken in that pet food you just purchased. That also means organic, non-GMO pet food may contain those things some consumers are specifically trying to avoid.
Additionally, the FDA allows dog food companies to change their formula entirely for months without changing their labels. That expensive “super-premium” salmon and red lentil formula you buy could be made entirely with poultry by-product meal and corn for several months, as as long as they switch back within a few months, the manufacturer not required to ever change their label, or ever inform the public a change was made.
The Blue Buffalo- Purina controversy has highlighted how poorly the FDA looks at our pet food. The pet-owning public expects better for their pets, and our pets deserve better. It is time for accountability from the pet food manufacturers, and not just pretty words and packaging.
Michael Rumore, DVM
Lake Seminole Animal Hospital