Saturday, January 10, 2009

Case file Pet Food: Pro's and Con's of information sharing on the Internet

Due to the fact that I have received numerous inquiries regarding the same issue I decided to dedicate a small comment here on the blog. Customers of mine feeding Innova dry formulas to their dogs have contacted me concerning Innova Dry Food and an incident circulating on the Internet. Note that the incident dates back to July 2007. That would not make it right if there indeed would have been a problem, but it is important to remember that the timing falls into the direct aftermath of history’s largest pet food recall ever. I strongly believe that many such stories without any merit have been published on the Internet either by people who enjoy creating panic and thrive on scaring concerned pet owners or by people who just don’t know better and believe they need to share their unsubstantiated wisdom with the rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I honestly believe that one of the greatest advantages of the Internet is the fact that we all can share information with each other instantaneously and it seriously helps if there are events like pet food recalls which, if unknown to pet owners can be extremely harmful. However I also believe that it is important that we initially take everything first with a grain of salt. Not all information published on the net can be taken for granted and sometimes it is even harmful to companies being involved in such wrongful accusations. Therefore all I am saying and asking for: Yes, please let’s share everything we know and learn, but also let’s make sure that while we are sharing our knowledge and experiences, that everything we publish is the truth and not just some wild idea we came up with or some unfounded assumption we make.
Coming back to the Innova issue I wanted to talk about:
This was found on I visited the site, there is no clear indication as to who is standing behind the site, like any “About us” section. That in itself to me already is suspicious. If you have something to say, do it loud and clear (as certainly done on this site) and state your name, address and contact information so I can comfortably feel that I deal with a reliable source. I did some more reading on the site. Without getting into too much detail, it appears that the site owner is a pet owner who had to deal with fatal consequences after feeding contaminated pet food, which was subject to history’s largest recall ever. He states: “Chuckles was the nicest little cat I've ever known. She was murdered by Menu Foods in January.” Here is my response: “Dear Pet Food Recall site owner: I completely understand your frustration and bitterness. Please trust me, you have my deepest sympathy and condolences. There is nothing in this world what could replace what you have lost. I admire you for having the strength to make such an effort as you do with your site to make sure such incidents do not happen again. All I am asking for is come forward and let us know who you are so that we know we are dealing with a credible and reliable source here. Thank you.”

Coming back for the second time to the Innova issue I wanted to talk about: Here is the statement on the recall site:

NOTE: What follows is Donna's description of her efforts to find out why the unrecalled Innova dog food she was feeding her pets was making them sick, along with a small photo of the food in question. In addition to issues related to cyanuric acid and acetaminophen, her story brings to mind a previous pet food recall where pets sickened or died as a result of massive vitamin overdoses in the food. But let's let Donna tell it:In May we decided to test our dog food because we discovered black and beige chunks of unknown substance embedded in the kibble in two 33-lb. bags of Innova adult dry dog food. We contacted the pet food company and forwarded samples of the product to them for analysis. We also paid for samples to be tested at ExperTox laboratory. A week after receiving the samples, ExperTox called to advise us that the chunks yielded cyanuric acid (3.71 ug/g) and acetaminophen (trace). (test link)Natura Pet had advised us it would take 3 weeks for analysis of the samples. At the 3 week mark (June 8), we called to advise them of the laboratory’s findings and ask the results of their tests. A representative from Natura returned our call on June 13 and was unaware of any issues with their food. They discovered the sample we sent was still sitting on the desk of the person we shipped it to and had not been analyzed. They called 2 hours later with a message referencing a news article stating the FDA had “ruled out acetaminophen.” They called again on June 15 to advise the chunks were vitamin mineral premix that had “clumped” and “not been ground up completely.” We are not certain how they identified the chunks so quickly after our call. Also, if they knew it was a “vitamin mineral premix clump”, why had they not already advised us during the previous three weeks they held the samples. As of June 29, we have had no further contact from the company.Our dogs were both sick with sporadic gastric-related problems beginning in January through May. Symptoms: gastric upset, vomiting, eating grass, refusal to eat kibble, increased water intake. Most significant was our female developed extreme incontinence almost overnight. We began calling the pet food company in January asking about formula changes or supplier/ingredient changes and were told “absolutely no changes.” We continued feeding this food as (1) it was not on the recall list; (2) our symptoms were totally different from the reported acute renal failure; and (3) the company insisted their food was safe and they had begun new expanded testing protocols.On June 1 when we received the analysis results, we stopped feeding all purchased dog food and began home cooking for our dogs. The gastric problems cleared up and the incontinence disappeared within two days and has not returned.We have a laboratory report specifying toxins in the dog food. We have a pet food company who stated the chunks were vitamin mineral premix; however, they have yet to advise us of their analysis results. The only conclusion we can draw at this point is while our dogs ate this food they suffered sporadic gastric illness and incontinence and when we stopped feeding this product all symptoms disappeared.”
By the way, I looked at the test link provided in the claim, there is no legally substantiated evidence that the samples provided indeed were Innova samples. This is not to say that I don’t believe Donna what she is saying, but at the same time I have to say, I am sorry, but I cannot accept this the way it is.
After my last customer contacted me with regards to this posting, I personally contacted Innova and received their following response:
“Dear Paul,

Thank you for contacting Natura Pet Products. We at Natura Pet Products have never had a recall in the history of our company, with any of our foods. Below is a letter that I have attached from our President, Peter Atkins; in regards to this incident.

Natura tested both samples from Donna as well as retains of the premix used in that production run for melamine and cyanuric acid. All three came back negative. We also sent representative samples of the production run of Donna’s food for additional testing at UC Davis and Expertox; all of which came back negative. We have had no other complaints from this (or any other) batch of food, and we are 100% confident in the safety of all of our products. It is important to note that the only lab to make this acetaminophen finding is Expertox and both the FDA and the ASPCA ( ) have found their results to be unfounded.

If you’ve seen our food over time, you know that it is normal for some of the bigger pieces of the raw materials that we use to end-up being visible in the final product. Because our formulas include whole foods and grains, occasionally some larger pieces can make it through the process and appear in the finished kibbles. So, from time to time we do see larger pieces of brown rice, oats, flaxseed, chicken and turkey bones (remember that chicken meal and turkey meal contains the lean tissue and some bone and cartilage material), carrots, alfalfa sprouts, apple seeds, and on rare occasions vitamin/mineral premix. This is normal and certainly not harmful in any way.I hope that this information is helpful. I know that in these post-recall times everyone is very worried about ANY commercial pet food and I can appreciate your worry and concern. Please be assured that Natura is a responsible company and we pride ourselves on the quality of our ingredients, our quality control programs and our commitment to making the healthiest pet foods in the world. Peter AtkinsNatura Pet Products

It is also important to remember that Natura stands behind our products 100%. If you have any additional questions or concerns please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

Best Regards,

Natura Consumer Service Rep”

In my opinion this case clearly has to be dismissed. The claim was never substantiated and the final outcome clearly was that the accusation was a wrong one. It would have been nice if the owner of the recall site would have published a statement to that extent as well. Well, that’s why I publish this comment: To bring the case to closure.
Stay tuned as I will write more on similar topics soon. Unfortunately too often I had and have to learn that pet food is being blamed for health issues, which have absolutely nothing to do with the food. Just because there was a massive and very serious recall in 2007 does not mean going forward from there on every problem is to be blamed on the pet food. You all know me, I am absolutely not a fan of commercially mass produced and marketed pet food. As a matter of fact, I almost fight them. Too often these foods have been in negative news and involved in recalls. I do however believe that there are still companies out there making good and healthy food. After all the research I did for our business and for my own sake and pets, I strongly believe Innova is one of them and, unless something serious would make me change my made, they certainly have 100% of my support.

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