My Pet World: Consumers still worry about safety of pet food

February 08, 2011|By Steve Dale

Question: I was in Canada last week and looked in the supermarket at cat food. One brand was imported from Thailand, and another imported from the U.S. In 2007, ingredients imported from China killed pets. Knowing where products come from might prevent a tragedy and offer consumer a best chance at making informed choices. Don't you agree? — E.H., Clemson, S.C.

Answer: This is an excellent and far more complex question than perhaps it should be.

To begin with, melamine and cyanuric acid were illegally added to foods to mimic increased protein. This was a criminal act, and the pet food companies affected were as horrified as consumers. We'll never know how many pets perished; the number doesn't really matter if your pet succumbed as a result of tainted food.

In 2007 and into 2008, I interviewed Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin for this column and on radio. Durbin serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee overseeing food safety, and he called for the hearing on the pet food recall. Repeatedly, he expressed concerns about our own food safety because of ingredients and products we import from China and elsewhere, and it turned out that he was correct.


I asked Durbin a question, which seems to be common sense. If it's a potential danger for America to import ingredients and products from China and other countries where we have little control and doubt their internal control processes, then, why don't we stop importing from those places? Durbin says that is not a realistic possibility.

Then what are we to do? Durbin really didn't have a direct answer, except to suggest additional inspections, etc.

Nutritionist Tiffany Bierer, health, sciences and nutrition manager for Mars Petcare U.S., points out that, for example, nearly all vitamins and minerals are imported from China (for human and pet consumption).

Bierer says, "At Mars, we have people on the ground in China, auditing facilities. All pet food companies can't say that. Also, check the packaging to insure the product is manufactured in the U.S., if that is important to you."

She adds, "Consumers do have the right to ask these types of question. Nearly all pet food brands include a phone number on the packaging."

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