Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dog food blogging: CBC news story

Gee, before Google News I never read the Winnipeg StarPhoenix. Another story on the f/u to the melamine / cyanuric acid contaminated Chinese gluten episode:
Pets deserve better food standards: expert

To make a point about pet food, veterinarian Meg Smart brewed up a pot of leather boots, wood chips and motor oil.

"It would pass (Canadian) standards," she said about her concoction.

Smart, a nutrition expert from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, will be featured on a CBC documentary about the pet food industry on Thursday night.

"It's a complex system," said Smart about the industry. "Most diets aren't out there to harm animals. Most are adequate."

But many pet foods aren't adequate. In the spring of 2007, pet owners across North America watched as nearly 50,000 of their cats and dogs fell ill because of tainted food [1]. Menu Foods, a Toronto-based manufacturer, recalled all of their products containing contaminated wheat gluten, an ingredient the company imported from China.

Smart said these companies made a mistake and would never knowingly produce a dangerous product, but the ingredients used in the food may not be carefully monitored.

"I'd like to see a set of requirements, like for humans . . ." said Smart. "Or else, people have no way of knowing what they're feeding their pets."

Today, very few regulations exist for pet food. Leather boots contain enough nitrogen to pass Canadian standards. Wood chips contain enough fibre and carbohydrates. Motor oil contains enough fat.

Pet food ingredients are controlled and monitored by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, but they only monitor food manufactured in Canada. Most of the pet food Canadians purchase, around 85 per cent, is manufactured in the U.S.

So, what are you feeding your pet? Smart recommends people read food labels carefully because some pet food is well made.

Jason Skotheim has operated Horizon Pet Nutrition in Rosthern since the company started in 2004. He said his company is making sure the ingredients in their product are top quality and locally grown.

"We're trying to make this food like a Hundred Mile Diet for your dog," said Skotheim, referring to the popular diet book for humans.

His company sources all its ingredients and stays completely away from wheat gluten in favour of whole grains.

"Pets are part of the family unit," he said. "We want to make a premium pet food that people can trust."

Skotheim refers to small pet-food companies like Horizon as a cottage industry in Canada. Despite their competition from pet-food giants like Del Monte, Mars and Procter & Gamble, Horizon's business continues to grow.

Smart uses Horizon dry pet food for her dogs, but she says commercials are misleading when they say the food is recommended by veterinarians.

Small privately held companies can manage their services, and their reputations, in ways that large publicly held companies cannot. There's a lesson here that goes beyond my personal interest in Kateva's diet.

[1] I think that 50,000 number is suspect, though we'll never really know. The Wikipedia summary reports a US-only fatality rate in the hundreds, and I believe that was largely cats. Their urinary pH seemed to cause a greater formation of the melamine/cyanuric acid crystals and renal failure. Really though, there's no money to study this sort of thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Horizon Dog food is made in Canada. This alone makes me feel more comfortable about the product. I do think we do need to regulate companies that make food products for our pets. I'm a breeder and owner of three Bulldogs and spend a lot of money on pet food every month. Really when I purchase my food at the pet store I'm very confused and spend an hour or so driving the staff crazy with all my questions. But if there are no regulation the staff memeber are just repeating the information they receive from the sales rep that brings them the product. Chances are that the rep's aren't going to give them any information that may be bad about the product or they would not sell them much of the product... But with out regulations the reps probably really don't know much about what really goes into our pets food. Unless we make our own pet food we really do not know what's going into it, so lets make the pet food companies accountable for the health and lives of our beloved pets! It cost money to have regulation boards, the pet food is expensive but a few more dollars on each bag to help pay for some peace of mind really won't make that much difference...