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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21 comments
flunkmusic
flunkmusic

I bought a new moped,a model made in china, [hammer head] the piece of shit had to go back for repairs 3 times and then quit for good after ONLY 17 MILES. 17 MILES!!!!!! the shop owner soon went out of business [likely to avoid taking back all the bad bikes] leaving me with a boat anchor. then our paper mill was destroyed due to unfair Chinese trade practices leaving my wife without a job after 30 years of work their, destroying our little village. stora enso and general motors had it demolished. [so it could never run again].  I'd like to take those ceos respectively and shove them down china's fucking throat!!! and then nuke the lot of them,the filthy bastards.  kill china and get it over with.        now a brother in law and his wife are going to china to TEACH ENGLISH, I hope they eat some raw fugu. and never come back.  M.H.

Jack
Jack

If you use a commercial dog food or treat look on package for phone number and give them a call. 1st -- Let them know that you are recording the phone call . 2nd -- Ask them if their product is made in USA ..---Most will answer Yes (so proud) 3rd-- Ask them if any of the ingredients in the product comes from China. -- Most will answer Yes and try to explain. Now ask yourself these questions 1st --Do you love your pet? 2nd -- Do you trust China to supply safe ingredients in the food you feed your pet. 3rd -- Does the information you have gathered make you mad. --( It made me mad as hell when I lost my best friend.) Let the dog food companies know you will boycott their products and spread the word.The only thing they understand is $$$$$$$$$$ I now verify that any food or treat I give a pet DOES NOT have any ingredients made in China. Zero Tolerance.

sallykwitt
sallykwitt

I love animals so much. This is so upsetting. Thank you for bringing attention to this horrible situation.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi Beth and welcome. It amazed me too at how cheap must these shipments be to be worth the considerable costs of shipping. And with that thought, it is scary that food from China would be pushed into our food supply without a label. My concern is with the terrible pollution of natural resources and the quality of feed that is used in their agricultural products. Thanks for adding your voice.

Beth Parker
Beth Parker

Wow. It never occurred to me that companies would ship food products from so far away. After all, we produce plenty of food right here. With as much trouble as China seems to have with keeping lead out of products manufactured for children, I'd hate to think about what might be in these imported dog food ingredients.

Joanne
Joanne

Thank you for bringing awareness to this! I'll share it on my networks.

Nanny McFur
Nanny McFur

Thanks for bringing this forward! The same thing applies to people food. I watched a documentary about people food coming from China but labelled either made in USA or made in Canada. The manufacturer is required to have a specified percentage of Canadian or American content in order to say it is made there - HOWEVER - and believe it or not - this includes packaging!!!

Champion of My Heart
Champion of My Heart

I wonder what kind of answers we would get if each of us contacted our dog food companies and asked about ingredients from China.

Jon
Jon

Hi - This is a fascinating article. But I'm curious as to how you validate your claims that (a) "The numbers of pets deceased because of these jerky treats is around 400 and another 200 have had various ill effects," and (b) "Veterinarians point to the chicken jerky product." I ask because I think you need to link to whatever sources you have that support these contentions, or you risk providing fodder for the companies that are selling the products you seek to have examined, and are not helping the overall cause to expose the low quality (if not danger) of Chinese pet foods and ingredients. If they can point to this and say, "Well, she has no sources for this data," most journalists will just dismiss you, case closed, and move on. I'm very sensitive to this issue because (a) some of my work relates to advocacy media, and (b) I recently started to tutor myself in dog foods, in the course of writing my first book, about the transformative power that a dog can have on a person's life. See: http://shaynathemiracledog.com/book/about-book/ Hope you find my question and comment useful. Sincerely, J

Amy@GoPetFriendly
Amy@GoPetFriendly

It's sad how little progress we've made in the past 5 years - and I'm disgusted that these companies care so little about the welfare of our pets. I think they do put their bottom lines first - after all, that's likely how their bonuses are determined. We've been eating pink slime for years without our knowledge - I don't even want to think what goes into the dog's food. We're sticking with The Honest Kitchen - the don't use any ingredients from China.

Karen Friesecke
Karen Friesecke

And that's why I make my own dog food. At least I know what goes into it.

Kimberly Gauthier
Kimberly Gauthier

Mary! Thank you for this post! In a LinkedIn forum someone told me that I was looking at it wrong, that companies are focused on their bottom line. I reminded him that I won't care about their bottom line when I'm with my dog at the vet, because of their tainted food/treats. I was stunned that he would make a comment like that in a forum of dog lovers. Granted it's a dog products forum, but the reason I sell dog products, is because I believe in the company I work for and I love my babies. His comment felt like a punch in the gut - is this how they really feel?

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

Thanks for sharing  your experience here Jack and I am very sorry about your dog. I wish I had received notice of your comment, which probably hit just as I was changing comment systems. My apologies. I'm  sure you are aware that the vitamins added to many pet foods often come from China, but it's worth repeating for everyone. Heavy metals, arsenic and other toxics have been found.

 

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi Joanne - thanks so much for sharing. So many don't know what corporations are doing to pet food, or even people food for that matter!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

We know vegetables, cheeses, fruits, packaged, canned, frozen and bottled goods come from all over the world - we often don't consider it's the same for meat and chicken. I had read a few years ago, with no confirmation from an expert source, that chicken from China was being shipped. I asked the butcher at Jewel, a major grocery chain, if they were using chicken from China and he said no. That was before the Juicy Juice problem. If you have a link to that documentary, please add it here. Thanks for stopping by =)

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi Roxanne - I have called regarding ingredients before and was told the reps were not allowed to talk about it. That didn't surprise me given it was one of the big companies. I recently contacted a small business with a skin & coat product for dogs - they operate out of Wisconsin - and I remarked it was good to see the product was made in the USA, but what I needed to know was are the ingredients from the US. She understood my point and offered there had just been a board meeting about this issue and they are going to put that on their labels going forward. When they do, I'll buy the product. I like your idea about individual calls to dog food companies - that in itself would send a message!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

* Hi Jon - you are correct about citing sources and I do, so I am not sure why I did not include the AVMA citation for the statement about vets pointing to the chicken jerky in their reporting, except to say it was very late/early when I put this together. That has been linked and the reference to the numbers of dead vs recovered was changed to reflect the overall number of reports totaling 600 - at this time there is no way to verify the number of dead dogs were due to the chicken jerky and not some other cause. That will be answered when the FDA find the determining factor(s) in China. Your points are well taken and I do find them useful! It is never a bad thing to have your positions questioned or be asked to provide corroborating evidence. Thanks for including the link to your book, too.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

I think your idea of sticking with The Honest Kitchen is an excellent one! I too find this a disturbing case of deja vu. The FDA have conducted 371 tests since 2007 which you can see here http://www.petsitusa.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/... But none of the testing results done this year have been released, something the Congressmen were reportedly unhappy about. And the whole pink slime thing...I have not eaten hamburgers anywhere but at home for the last 15 or so years. I found out what they did to cattle in their raising and slaughtering when I was working with a cancer prevention group. (It's also where I first heard about what was in dog food!) Imagine my surprise there was yet another reason to justify what some think is odd behavior - yikes!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

My thoughts exactly Karen - while it takes a little time and research it's worth it. I do it for myself with what foods need to be organic and which don't - why wouldn't I do it for my dog?

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

That person's comment would be funny if it weren't so sad. *You* are looking at it wrong? He may have simply meant he was seeing it from the corporate perspective, not meaning it to reflect his thinking. it is easy to misunderstand a person's intention when commenting. We can each read a sentence and it can have a very different meaning depending on where we pause and which words we give more weight to - it's easiest I've found to leave judgment about what we *think* someone said in a comment alone and follow up with a question ["is that your opinion or are you merely relating a corporate view?"] I can't say how corporations feel - I don't think they have feelings, but then I don't believe that corporations are people regardless of the Court ruling =) Thanks for stopping by Kimberly.

Karen Friesecke
Karen Friesecke

Since a dog's life is essentially worth almost zero dollars, large corporations don't care.

Trackbacks

  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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