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New Questions About the Safety of Leading Pet Food Brands



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Just how safe is the pet food you sell? That’s the question from a lot of customers after a string of headlines this year involving one of the most respected names in pet food. While it’s important to stay informed about what is in the food you sell—just as with food for human consumption—it is increasingly difficult to determine with vast supply chains that often stretch around the globe.

In February, Frank Lucido filed a class action suit in federal court in California against Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. claiming two of his dogs became sick and one died after he fed them Beneful. His suit claims reports of sickness in more than 3,000 dogs around the country that had eaten Beneful. The suit blames this on Beneful containing toxins, including propylene glycol and mycotoxins.

Within weeks, Paul Malcolm, who said his bulldog/Rottweiler mix became severely ill and died after eating Beneful Healthy Weight for three to four years, filed a second suit in Federal court in Massachusetts.

The complaints have caught the eyes of U.S. senators Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin, who have written to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), asking them to investigate the claims and also give a progress report on steps enacted in 2007 to make pet food safer. The law requires the FDA to strengthen labeling requirements and establish an early warning system for contaminated products.

Purina has dismissed the claims in the lawsuits as “without merit.” An official company statement said: “Unfortunately, class action suits are common these days. They are not indicative of a product issue. In fact, we’ve faced two such suits in the past with similar allegations. Both were found to be baseless and subsequently dismissed by the courts. Adding to the confusion, social media outlets can be a source of false or incomplete information.”

Much of the controversy is over the use of propylene glycol in Purina’s Beneful dry kibble—and the fact that it also is an ingredient in some antifreeze. But it is, in fact, approved for use in both pet and human foods by the FDA when “used in accordance with good manufacturing and feeding practices.” Purina noted that it is used in “cake mixes, salad dressings, soft drinks, popcorn” and other human foods.

Most pet food recalls have come about because contaminants such as Salmonella and E. coli have been discovered. But others occur because labels list ingredients incorrectly or a product has not been formulated correctly, which might impact the health of an animal that eats it over a long period.

While it might be close to impossible to be 100 percent sure of the safety of the foods you stock, reputable companies should be able to provide details of their safety protocols. It pays to be suspicious of a company that can’t or won’t provide this information. Retailers must remain informed, because their customers are going to increasingly question the safety of the foods and treats they buy.


This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Pet Product News

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