Pet Food Companies – Using Chinese Ingredients? Listen Up.

by Mary Haight on April 11, 2012

pet food companiesPet food companies understand the value of social media – we see their representatives on Twitter and Facebook every day.  What company doesn’t welcome all the attention free product reviews, customer testimonials and engaging Facebook chat brings? When there’s a problem, responding quickly with the facts and providing timely, forthright updates translates to trust, trust to purchasing loyalty –  or at least respect. And then there are companies who really don’t embrace the concept.

Transparency must be a scary idea to brands who still believe they alone control their message. Some know they can bury bad news by getting bloggers to write about a new campaign, effectively pushing the bad reviews so far from page one, no one will see them. That sense of autonomy can set the stage for withholding information or facts that might be harmful to sales but helpful to the consumer in their decision-making process. It is not as if companies don’t know consumers are not keen on pet food from China. I found last year through a trade magazine that the big pet food companies were importing $21 million dollars of ingredients for pet food and treats  – and that was a report for only one month. Not a fact likely to be broadcast and you won’t find it on the label, either.

A Little History

Much like treatments or preservatives used in food/raw ingredients before they reach the manufacturer, foreign ingredients need not be mentioned on the packaging when the finished product is produced in the US. The consumer will never know what is actually in their pet’s food if they buy from the big names. That is why you can’t tell what ingredients come from where using barcodes, even though barcodes may be registered to specific regions. This is also why it took weeks to find the source of tainted turkey not long ago…it comes from everywhere and they mix it. And when the treats hit the fan…

Chicken jerky treats from China have been a danger for nearly 5 years. FDA released it’s third warning about these products in November 2011. Truth About Pet Food’s Susan Thixton notes when Zicam, a human intranasal medicine, was found to affect sense of smell retailers removed the product from their shelves as early as the next day. The numbers of pets who have reported various ill effects, including death, tally 600*[revised]. There is no verifiable information as to how many deaths have been positively linked to these treats yet. Veterinarians point to the chicken jerky product as a suspect cause, but without a definitive named chemical or ingredient that caused death, a recall can’t be mounted. How many National retailers have removed this product from their shelves? None. And not one manufacturer has recalled their product. Do they care about their customers?


New Food Laws, Non-Enforcement and Suggestions

It was more than a year ago that the Food Safety and Modernization Act was signed into law. The FSMA as I read it offers the FDA a new power – to recall when manufacturers won’t. I don’t know what the problem is – perhaps we should help them decide to use this power for good of pets everywhere in an email campaign, and copy our Senators. We already know the brands involved: Waggin’ Tails, Canyon Creek Ranch, Milo’s Kitchen. Senator Sherrod Brown (R-Ohio) and Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) have also been looking for answers and I would wager that is why FDA is, finally, in China.

I was reading a guest post by Mark Nicholson over on Jeff Bullas blog “How to Shield Your Brand’s Social Reputation”. I think Nestle Purina and Del Monte, the two pet food companies involved, might read and apply some basic principles discussed like, “If it concerns your customer, it should concern you.”

We know that social media offers consumers the pathway to have their voices be the “shot heard ’round the world.” Nicholson relates:

Entire product lines have been wiped out. Vacation destinations and hotels have been left with only the sound  of crickets, simply because a group of customers rallied together and called them a bad name.

It’s time to rally. Pet food companies using ingredients from China need to listen to their informed customers. Dogs are dying and it’s their fault. Again. Five years and only now are the FDA (back) in China conducting inspections. I am surprised we are in a similar if not the same unhelpful place we were in 2007. I can only hope the manufacturers initiate “voluntary recalls” – I won’t even roll my eyes at that phrase. Promise.

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  1. […] treats from China are responsible for deaths in pets, which can be seen most recently in a post to pet food companies and again in one about conditions in China , we need to know the science – what agent caused […]

  2. […] A Little History – Pet Food Companies & Chinese Ingredients […]

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