Why So Many Dog Food Recalls?

In just the first nine months of 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted 31 recall and safety alerts for commercial pet food and treats. In 2012 there were 45 of these FDA alerts. Salmonella contamination or contamination risk lead the reason for recalls.

Chickens Have Salmonella

Chicken is a popular protein source for pet food makers because it is less expensive compared to other protein sources. Unfortunately, chickens are notorious for harboring Salmonella bacteria in their intestinal tract. Pet food is made from internal body organs including the intestines. These body parts are more likely to be contaminated by Salmonella from the intestinal contents than the chicken muscle meat that we eat.

No Inspection Requirements

There are no mandatory inspection requirements for pet food manufacturers by the FDA or USDA. They do not provide personnel to regularly inspect the facilities. Although slaughterhouses are required to have USDA inspectors, there is no further oversight of the carcass parts once they are removed and separated for shipping to pet food plants or rendering plants.

Outdated Salmonella Testing

Testing for chicken carcass for salmonella contamination is antiquated. By the time Salmonella is confirmed, the infected by-products would have already been turned into pet food.

The Co-Packaging Trend

The major reason for so many recalls is the trend toward co-packaging. Most pet food is not made by the company brand on the label. One plant may be the origin of many brands. If a plant experiences Salmonella contamination, multiple brands will be affected.

The massive pet food recall in 2007 due to melamine contamination was a result of co-packaging. Gluten protein contaminated with melamine (a plastic manufacturing chemical) caused over 8,500 pet deaths due to kidney failure. Over 130 brands of pet food were recalled. Every recalled brand was either made by one pet food company or supplied with gluten from that same company.

What Is The Answer?

Because chicken is inexpensive, pet food manufacturers will continue to use lots of it. USDA inspection or improved testing methods are not likely to happen in the near future. Co-packaging is here to stay because food plants are too expensive for every food maker to build. Such investments also make little economic sense for large or discount retailers.

The obvious answer is to make homemade dog food. That is what we have done and why we help others to do the same.

~Dr. Ken Tudor
The Dog Dietitian

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