Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pet food regulation protecting the public and guaranteeing health?

The other day I wrote under the headline “Sad: Where did the products go” a comment about the owner of this pet food manufacturer who is at the end of his rope and has had it with all the regulators making his life difficult. I promised you there would be 2nd part following, here it is:
The incident I wrote about is not a unique one. Dr. Wysong, also a pet food manufacturer, talks in his book “The Truth about Pet Foods” among plenty of very informative and educational nutritional topics also about having similar problems with the regulators. In the corresponding chapter he starts with a number of problems he experienced, here are some examples:
At one point his company developed an organic, non GMO (genetically modified organisms) food and wanted to call it “Organic” Their request was strictly denied. Furthermore, they couldn’t call their ingredients “organic despite the fact that this is what they indeed were. Regulators required third party confirmations, affidavits and proofs like “in some kind of criminal case” He complains: “We were trying to do something good and were treated as if we were planning a mass murder.” And he goes on: “Now if we wanted to use AAFCO approved dehydrated refuse and scrap plastic (As listed on an Official AAFCO Publication 1998) and call it “100% Complete”, no problem.” He concludes by asking: “Do you feel safer now that our killer “Organic” food is not on the market?”

He reports of another time when regulators objected to their plans of using the phrase “Optimal Nutrition”. He explains: “They argued that if we used levels of nutrients above their “approved” levels, that would make our ingredients unapproved food additives. In other words, if we were to discover that regulatory minimums were insufficient to prevent diseases (which we, and scientists world wide have done), we could not move our formulas to match this new knowledge. No, regulators would want us to stay at their minimums, condemning pets to preventable disease. Public protection?”

He has many more of similar detailed examples, to show them all here is not the purpose of my writing. Just a few of his next, sort of short list: “The net weight has to be listed in kilograms, not just pounds. The word “complex” has to stand beside a vitamin. Names of the ingredients all have to be in the same letter size and style.Positioning of the Nutrient Analysis on the label has to be “just right”. Wording regarding AAFCO has to match precisely to the dot their regulations. “

It all sounds to me like some people in those regulatory institutions have a lot of time on hand. Time of course costing the consumer. Twice: First taxes to finance the organization and 2nd our pets don’t get healthier, i.e. our expenses to make and keep them healthy rise.

Dr. Wysong then has a 3rd listing in which he talks about what his competitors get away with. Like for example:
““Top Choice (Trademark of Gaines Pet Food)” Here the front panel claims “Better than Hamburger” and “Chopped Beef Burger for Dogs”. Better tasting, better nutrition, better smelling? Exactly how better? The second claim “Chopped Beef Burger for Dogs” should read “Chopped Soybean Meal and High Fructose Corn Syrup Burger for Dogs” since these are the first two ingredients. Where are the regulators?”
“”r/d” (Trademark of Hills Pet Nutrition) – “With 40% fewer calories than grocery store brands” – which brands? “Three times more fiber” – than what? Water? They don’t say. They claim an “optimum supply of vitamins, minerals and protein” – what does this mean? How can they say optimum but we can’t? Where are the regulators?”
And he has many more of these very precise examples. He starts his conclusion on the subject as follows:
“Again, nothing of the above is meant to find fault with other manufacturers. … The public is intelligent enough to separate fanfare from reality. This does, however, demonstrate a double standard when, instead of being cute or offering raffle tickets in our packages, we attempt to make serious health innovations.”
He sees the problem also in the fact that “the “100% Complete” premise has not been critically examined by regulators or for that matter by most nutritionists, veterinarians or the public.” And he concludes that perhaps a solution as being applied to baby formulas may be finally in order: Years ago those formulas being synthetic resulted in being so disastrous that the World Health Organization finally stepped in. Today the manufacturing of baby formulas is subject to the WHO/UNICEF Code.
I don’t know if we have to go that far. I do know, however, the following:
Our companion animals are plagued with diseases in epidemic dimensions. I have learned from being in the business, studying the subject matter and researching that the source for this problem is to find in the commercially mass produced pet food. I also know, or at least believed until now, that organizations like AAFCO were put in place to protect pet owners and their pets from those diseases by monitoring the pet food manufacturing processes. A while ago I started wondering why the percentage of pets suffering from diseases is a steadily growing number. Common sense now tells me that apparently nothing is being done to fix the problem. And then when I read stories like the ones of these two pet food manufacturers I wonder. It is impossible that lobbying has to do with it? Obviously the industry giants would have pockets deep enough to get politically involved. Is it possible that they prefer to spend their money on lobbying rather than on improving their products? Or is it possible that lobbying is still less costly when innovation? Too bad that smaller manufacturers cannot afford lobbying.
Maybe it’s time to dissolve AAFCO. My reasons: A: Whether we have them or not, nothing changes anyway; B: I am sure the government could use the money and if it is just to save some foolish bankers and enable them to fix their mistakes before they destroy the economy completely and C: For the benefit of the smaller or midsized, privately owned pet food manufacturers. As usual and this is typical for them, they concentrate on what they do best: Being innovative and deliver the best possible product for the benefit of the health of our pets. They wouldn’t have to deal with and stumble over road blocks constantly thrown in their way. Or being slowed down by regulators who, while “serving and protecting” accomplish zero. Imagine where we could be without the red tape. We, accompanied by our animals indeed could live in a protected world.

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