With 70% of pet food vesesel imports to the US coming from China, “Made in the USA” is a mighty thin security blanket. Looking for “USA Made” on the label won’t protect your pet. You need to ask the manufacturer where their ingredients come from. If it’s China, there’s cause for concern.
Between 2011-2012 the NY Times and others reported massive food safety issues in China.
- Pork adulterated with the long-ago banned but still widely-used drug clenbuterol;
- Pork sold as beef after it was soaked in borax, a detergent additive;
- Rice contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal discharged by smelters;
- Four brands of beef dog food recalled because it contained no beef;
- Whole eggs that are not eggs but man-made concoctions of chemicals, gelatin and paraffin;
- Repeated poisoning of humans due to excessive levels of the chemical nitrite in meat;
- Arsenic-laced soy sauce;
- Mushrooms and popcorn treated with fluorescent bleach;
- Bean sprouts tainted with an animal antibiotic;
- Melamine tainted milk powder (yes, it’s still happening);
- Moldy bread being repackaged and resold;
- Farmed seafood with illegal levels of antibiotics;
- And of course, the recent FDA warning about chicken jerky dog treats from China causing illness and death.
In April 2011, one of China’s largest meat producers recalled thousands of tons of pork laced with clenbuterol. Clenbuterol is an animal feed additive that causes heart palpitations in consumers of the meat. If no longer sold for human consumption, one could wager that the pork ended up in pet food or animal feed… Even in the US we redirect contaminated human food to pet food and animal feed.
The most recent case of nitrite poisoning occurred last year when a one-year old Beijing girl died after eating fried chicken.
While none of the four recalled brands of China’s beef dog food are sold in the US, the ingredients sold to those manufacturers could very well be the same ingredients sold to US manufacturers. As an example: most glucosamine (the substance that’s supposed to help with joint mobility) is made in China.[i]
In 2007 the US banned imports of chicken from China due to health safety concerns. That ban – which applied only to human food – was lifted in October 2009 for purely economic and political reasons.[ii]
And as the graph at right shows, according to A Cancer Journal for Clinicians the rate of stomach cancer in Eastern Asia far exceeds the rest of the world.
When China’s human food supply is unfortunately laden with problems, we should not assume that the food made for dogs is somehow better. Dogs as human companions occupy a tiny corner in Chinese culture. In the US, 39% of households have a dog. In China, only 6.6% do.
Looking for USA Made on the label is important. But it is equally if not more important to ask the manufacturer where their ingredients come from. Many probably don’t want to tell us.
An estimated 85% of the pet food market is shared between just five players that operate over 60 well-known brands (see fig 1.)
- Mars Inc: Mars Petcare (headquartered in Franklin, TN) controls 33%
- Nestlé Purina: Nestle Purina PetCare (St. Louis, MO) controls 32%
- Colgate-Palmolive, Co: Hill’s Pet Nutrition (Topeka, KS) controls 8%
- Proctor & Gamble: P&G Pet Care (Dayton, OH) controls 8%
- Del Monte (San Francisco, CA) controls 2%
Mars Petcare and Nestle Purina PetCare are nearly tied at over $14 billion each in annual worldwide revenues, and together they operate 87 manufacturing sites.
Still with all we know about the health concerns surrounding food from China, Waggin Train (maker of chicken jerky and other treats including the Canyon Creek Ranch brand) flourishes. Acquired in Sept. 2010 by Nestle Purina, Waggin’ Train has been the dog treats’ fastest growing leading brand with annual growth rates of around 30% over the last three years. It’s products are made in China.
Dogswell makes its jerky treats in China. So does IMS Pet Industries (aka IMS Trading Company). Located in NJ., they’re an importer of China’s dog treats including the Walmart brand that was pulled from the shelves for making dogs sick. The president of IMS issued a November 2011 statement about how they protect their products by blasting them with radiation (that’s the subject for another post) but no amount of radiation will take out melamine, heavy metals, toxic levels of nitrites, bleach, arsenic or some other contaminant that’s not bacterial in nature.
Second to China’s 70% share of vessel imports is Thailand with 25%.
Footnotes & References & Useful Info.
[i] A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, 7th Edition. Ruth Winter, M.S.
[ii]China is the third largest importer of food into the US. In 2009 (before the lifting of the ban on chicken) their food and agricultural exports to the US totaled $4.9 billion (twice their 2003 figures). About 75% of that 2009 figure consisted of various fish and shellfish, juices, canned and other fruits, vegetable and nut products. In Oct. 2009 the ban was lifted because China had retaliated with a similar ban on US chicken. Since we sell vastly more chicken to China than we buy from them, and since we were in tough economic times, Congress repealed the ban. You can read more here: http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/crs/R40706.pdf
Fig. 1 Data on the biggest pet food manufacturers can be found at Petfood Industry. An alphabetical list of brands and their manufacturers is below.
For valuable information on the ingredients included in popular dog treats like MilkBones, Beggin’ Strips, Pup-Peroni and others we suggest reading Where’s the Beef… And for an eye-opening look at what’s in Milo’s Kitchen check out It Might Be in Milo’s Kitchen But It’s Probably Not In Yours.
|Brand (listed alphabetically)||Manufacturer|
|Beggin’ Strips||Nestle Purina|
|Busy Bones||Nestle Purina|
|Canyon Creek Ranch||Nestle Purina|
|Cat Chow||Nestle Purina|
|Chef Michael’s||Nestle Purina|
|Daily Essentials||Del Monte|
|Dog Chow||Nestle Purina|
|Eukanuba||Proctor & Gamble|
|Fancy Feast||Nestle Purina|
|Farmstand Select||Del Monte|
|Fit & Trim||Nestle Purina|
|Frosty Paws||Nestle Purina|
|Hill’s Prescription Diet||Colgate-Palmolive|
|Hill’s Science Diet||Colgate-Palmolive|
|Hill’s Science Plan||Colgate-Palmolive|
|Iams||Proctor & Gamble|
|Kibble’s n’ Bits||Del Monte|
|Kit & Kaboodle||Nestle Purina|
|Meow Mix||Del Monte|
|Mighty Dog||Nestle Purina|
|Milo’s Kitchen||Del Monte|
|Moist & Meaty||Nestle Purina|
|Nature’s Recipe (Cat & Dog)||Del Monte|
|Pro Plan||Nestle Purina|
|Puppy Chow||Nestle Purina|
|Purina One||Nestle Purina|
|Purina Veterinary Diets||Nestle Purina|
|The Goodlife Recipe||Mars|
|Waggin’ Train||Nestle Purina|
|Whisker Likkin’s||Nestle Purina|
|Wholesome Goodness||Del Monte|
|Wholesome Medley||Del Monte|