Pet Food Recalls: Where’s the Outrage?


If you’ve been following the news lately, you know there have been a couple of high-profile pet food recalls.

In January, J.M. Smucker recalled several lots of 9 Lives, EverPet and Special Kitty canned food for potential low levels of thiamine (vitamin B1). That same month, Blue Ridge Beef recalled its raw cat and dog food for potential contamination with Listeria. But the most horrifying recall in recent history was the recall of a number of Evanger’s dog food products due to contamination with pentobarbital, the drug vets use to euthanize pets.

There have been a couple of high-profile pet food recalls lately.
Photo CC-BY-NC Charlie Owen

Evanger’s never issued a recall for any of its cat food products, but just the same, the fact that pet food could be contaminated with a poisonous drug — and no one seems to know how it got there — really grinds my gears.

If such an adulteration of human food happened, there would be national outrage. But where’s that rage when it comes to contamination or other problems with the foods we feed our furry friends?

Don’t our cats deserve the same attention to quality that is given to food produced for people?

What is it about the pet food industry that leads to such lack of attention and oversight for the safety of our animal companions?

Photo by Mona Magnussen via Unsplash
Photo by Mona Magnussen via Unsplash

I’ve certainly heard all the horror stories about how pet food is produced. I’ve actually seen (thanks to Mike Rowe’s TV series, Dirty Jobs) how food waste and other sorts of horrible stuff is thrown into a huge, stinking vat and rendered until it’s a nasty slurry that then, through the “magic” of processing, becomes pet food.

But the processing of commercial pet foods isn’t entirely to blame. Raw foods get recalled, too.

To the manufacturers’ credit, most recalls are voluntary — that is, the manufacturer says, “Hey, something’s wrong with our product; let’s recall it” — rather than mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Evanger’s, for example, was active in letting consumers know about the contamination in its food. It cut ties with the supplier that sent the contaminated meat to its processing plant, and, I believe, it even paid for medical treatment of dogs who got sick from the pentobarbital in the food.

Photo CC-BY-NC Julie Falk
Photo CC-BY-NC Julie Falk

Nonetheless, what would you do if you bought some hamburger that you were going to make into chili to feed your family, and you found out that it was contaminated with a potentially deadly poison? Wouldn’t you be up in arms? You bet your sweet bippie you would!

Why not hold the pet food industry to the same accountability levels as the human food industry? Why are so many pet food manufacturers using rendered sludge to make their food, for example?

I guess the ultimate question is, shouldn’t pet food be made to the same quality standards as people food? Shouldn’t manufacturers have to use meat that’s been inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture instead of getting the cast-offs from the human food industry? Yes, it would cost more, but what we would get in terms of our cats’ long-term health (and the resulting savings on vet bills), I argue, would be worth it.

Let's talk: how can pet food manufacturers be held to an appropriately high standard?
Photo by Jonas Vincent via Unsplash

What do you think? Would you want to see the pet food industry held accountable as human food manufacturers are? Please share your thoughts on pet foods and the recent recalls in the comments.

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