Raw Pet Food Safety: 6 Manufacturers Tackle the Concerns
Freezers are popping up in pet stores all over the United States in an effort to keep up with the growing demand for raw pet food. These freezers bulge with various flavors and varieties, from whole food toppers to heart-shaped burgers, all while helping boost retail sales.
However, as with most things that gain rapid popularity, scrutiny doesn’t fall far behind. In this case, it’s the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shining the spotlight on raw pet food. FDA officials warn consumers about how raw pet food diets can be “dangerous” to both pets and their owners because it’s more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria compared to other types of pet food.
The FDA has adopted a nationwide, zero tolerance standard for Salmonella presence in pet food, a stance that is not only unsupported by science but noncompliant with federal laws and beyond the powers delegated to the FDA by Congress, according to Freedom to Feed campaign officials. The campaign, which was launched by Answers Pet Food earlier this year, has amassed nearly 16,000 petition signatures in support of barring these FDA standards. Answers Pet Food, which is headquartered in Fleetwood, Pa., also filed a corresponding declaratory judgment complaint in the United States Colorado District Court in July. In addition, the company is seeking injunctive relief against the FDA.
While there seems to be a consensus on the need for increased education for pet owners concerning the safe handling of raw pet food products, industry insiders say the height to which the FDA is taking its warnings is beyond reasonable.
Here’s what raw pet food manufacturers had to say:
There have been concerns about the safety of raw pet food, particularly from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What are your thoughts?
“The FDA was set up to protect humans. While it is a necessary and helpful organization, the FDA does not have the scientific proof that raw pet food is dangerous to people. There are safe handling instructions on all raw food packaging, which is not unlike what you see on human food. In fact, human-grade protein ingredients are used by a number of labels, including ours. Let’s keep in mind that the canine and feline digestive system is very acidic and can easily handle most pathogens found in human grade protein. The benefits of a raw pet food diet far outweigh the very slim risk that a pet may come in contact with a challenging pathogen.”—Claudia Monaco, partner and marketing manager at State of Nature in Ruby, N.Y.
“The USDA [United States Department of Agriculture], which handles human food, has done a fantastic job in educating the consumer that there is going to be Salmonella in the chicken they are handling, and that they need to wash their hands, wash the boards, just handle it properly and you’re fine. The FDA, on the other hand, treats benign Salmonella like it’s nuclear waste, like it’s the worst thing for everybody and that’s just so untrue. So, our attempt is to re-educate the consumer and give them the true science.”—Jacqueline Hill, co-founder and vice president of operations at Answers Pet Food in Fleetwood, Pa.
“The raw pet food category is a newer pet food segment and requires more category education to convert pet parents to raw food. The raw pet food industry has experienced some product recalls, which has resulted in some customers having trust/credibility issues with raw pet food. This, unfortunately, gives the perception that raw pet food is not safe. Stella & Chewy’s works on educating pet parents on how we ensure our raw product is safe. Making raw food is a very unique process. Stella & Chewy’s firmly believes having its own raw facility assures for the best quality products and highest levels of food safety.”—Molly Mulcahy, vice president of brand marketing at Stella & Chewy’s in Oak Creek, Wis.
“Consumer safety is paramount and Primal has an unparalleled commitment to providing clean, safe products for our consumers. To ensure only clean product is available for sale, all poultry products are produced using cold water HPP [high pressure processing]. Additionally, we utilize a negative test release procedure verifying absence of E. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria on all products with zero tolerance for contamination.”—Kyle Frautnick, marketing director of Primal Pet Foods in Fairfield, Calif.
“As in all pet foods—kibble and raw—there is a risk for Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, the three pathogens that are most recognized. Northwest Naturals uses cold HPP [high pressure processing]. Following our protocol, all Northwest Naturals products are tested and only released with negative results for all pathogens.”—Patti Salladay, sales and marketing manager of Northwest Naturals in Portland, Ore.
To read more about how the popularity of raw pet food is changing the pet food category, check out PPN’s story in the October issue.