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Food Contamination - Comments

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Gee, I'm glad I've never opened a bag of Cat Food to THAT sight! Though I have seen a similar condition in other animal feeds. The cause is excess moisture - generally introduced somewhere in the transportation chain, between the factory and the store. Having spent 21 years in the Trucking industry, I can vouch for the fact that an appalling number of cargo trailer roofs DO leak - and except for instances involving major holes, are often ignored, in the constant pressure to 'keep the wheels turning'.

In the typical transport of bagged products (such as Cat Food), you have hundreds of bags stacked on a pallet - shrink-wrapped around the sides, but open on top - with 30-60 pallets loaded on a single trailer, which typically has multiple leaks (missing rivets, forklift gouges). When it rains, water naturally drips on the product. Often, with the coated bags that are common, such water slides right off the top layer - but it does soak in, somewhere, as it seeps on down through the stack.

Often, Weeks pass between the time of loading at the factory, and final delivery to the store - with that time most often spent sitting in a trailer, parked out in the Sun, not in a climate-controlled warehouse. In that time, heat typically dries out the surface of the bags - and adds its own input to bacteria/mold growth - before they are handled by humans again. Add to this today's superstore environment - where the shrink-wrapped pallets often go intact from the factory floor to the sales floor. Thus the water damage often goes undetected until the final consumer gets home and opens 'the bag from hell', as you did.

The more reputable Trucking Companies do make an effort to find and fix the leaks, when the trailer is empty and in a shop. But that occurs only once a year, for many fleets, and often even less.

The Truck Driver is the company's 'eyes in the field', with an almost daily view of this widespread problem - but also has the least incentive to take action. The Driver is, in most cases, paid ONLY for the miles the truck rolls. He rarely gets compensated for any downtime involved in reporting a problem and getting it fixed. As long as that remains the case, leaking trailers will remain the biggest single unaddressed problem, for the entire supply chain.

Even though our manufacturers might not be aware of content of products coming from China, they are just as guilty of putting profit motive before safety. Considering all of the health problems that have come from manufacturing over there, the American companies still use the Chinese factories because they are cheaper. I'd pay more for a product wholly manufactured here because I'd feel more secure in its quality.

While this is a horrifying behavior on the part of Walmart/Special Kitty, I can't agree that it implies anything about the profit motive. If profit was the motive in this case, did Special Kitty succeed? By having poorer quality ingredients and no quality control, perhaps they saved a dollar in costs. But the consequence was to lose all the future profits from having you as a customer, as well as who knows how many others who will read this blog entry. In extreme cases, as you mentioned, they could face costly and damaging lawsuits. No profits there!

What does it actually mean to be motivated by profit? To profit, on either an individual level or a company level, means you create more value than you consume. It means being productive to the best of your ability. For a company, this means offering consumers the best value for their money. I sincerely hope that companies that provide great products and services are motivated by profit, and are successful, so that they can continue to provide those products!


Alas I -- even when combined with everyone who reads this blog -- are a small drop in the Walmart bucket. I doubt losing every one of us would have a noticeable impact on them. -rc

I thought you might be interested to know that there's a pet shelter here in Newfoundland (Heavenly Creatures) that won't even take Special Kitty cat food as a donation either for their own use or for their "Pet Food Bank." I used to wonder why. Now I know.

I work in store that specializes in high-end and hypoallergenic foods for cats and dogs, so this may give me bias against mass-market brands, however the reality is that basic knowledge on pet nutrition is sadly lacking among consumers, manufacturers, and even most vets (whose nutrition training is often provided by the manufacturers of the food they sell.)

Despite thousands of years of breeding, domesticated cats and dogs' digestive systems are almost identical to that of their wild counterparts and this needs to be kept in mind when we decide what they should be putting in their bodies. The reality is that they are designed to eat whole, raw animals and while not every person's budget or lifestyle can accommodate putting raw meat in front of their pet every day, an effort should be made to find something at least nutritionally equivalent. That usually means high protein, low carb, low or no grains, no "by-products" and materials of a quality fit for human consumption. Unfortunately, 95% of pet foods, wet, dry, or vet distributed, don't even come close.

About nine years ago, my husband picked up a book in a used bookstore called, intriguingly, Food Pets Die For, by Ann Martin. After reading this book, James and I started making our own homemade food for our cats. Now we only buy brands that are specifically made from human grade ingredients. Ann Martin outlines the various items that can be included in pet food, including roadkill, pets that have been put to sleep, any collars that those animals may be wearing, including flea collars, and other horrifying "ingredients".

There is no regulation for pet food, making it the slough tray for any industry wanting to process, sell, and profit from its own waste. Because the food we feed our (now five) cats has no filler in it, they create less waste and we scoop much less litter. They are extremely healthy and active, even our oldest, who is at least 13 years old. If you're interested in this issue, you will find her book fascinating and repellent at the same time.

Why feed your pets "pet food" anyway? Dogs and cats aren't designed to eat corn, wheat, rice, and other hi-carb fillers which is what most of dry pet food is made with. Dogs have lived with humans for 10,000 years eating scraps. Continue the tradition and feed them eggs, meat (lately ground beef is cheaper than dog food), oil, fruit, cheese, bonemeal (so they don't have to crunch up the bones). Your pet probably won't turn his nose up at it either.

I would encourage all pet owners to check out the dry food at your local pet store. Smaller ones tend to have better prices than the big chains like Petco and PetSmart, but not always.

The only draw back is that you may have to buy a 17-20 pound bag to get the best savings -- but not always. Some of the brands to look at are Premium Edge, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lovers Soul, etc. They are surprisingly affordable. Ask clerks for advice... most know what they're talking about.

For instance, if I buy an 18 pound bag of Premium Edge (a very decent "middle of the road" quality food), it will cost me about $21.00.

When I feed a food with less fillers, my cats eat less, poop less, and the smell isn't as hideous.

There are a number of higher quality brands of both dog and cat food that are the same price or cheaper than the Purina, Meow-Mix cr*p...and much more nutritious.

No matter what brand you're buying, if the first ingredient is CORN -- walk away. Former "top quality" foods like Iams and Science Diet were bought out by big corporations and are NOT using the formula they became famous for. They are a notch above Special Kitty...and you're paying a fortune.

A little education about the type of food you feed makes for a healthier pet and a happier wallet.

Randy, you usually do a great job finding the facts, but this time you missed something. Dairy cows are emphatically NOT fed low-dose antibiotics. The only antibiotics dairy cows are given are as needed for sickness or infection, and then the milk is dumped down the drain until the withholding period is over. Milk is one of the most tested products in the country, and antibiotic residue in milk is something no farmer would mess with. When the milk truck driver goes to the farm, he pulls a milk sample which is carefully preserved and labeled. Then when the truck gets to the dairy (it could contain milk from several farms) a sample is pulled and checked for antibiotics. NO antibiotic residue is allowed. If any antibiotics are found, the entire tanker is dumped and the individual farm samples are tested. This will identify the farm where the residue came from. Then that farmer is on the hook for ALL of the milk -- they won't just not get paid for their milk, but they have to pay the other farmers for their milk, too. This is thousands upon thousands of dollars. Most farmers keep antibiotic test kits on the farm and test individual cows to make sure they're free of antibiotics once the therapeutic course is over and before her milk is put "into the tank" again. If a farmer has even a suspicion that someone messed up, they'll test the tank before the milk truck shows up and will dump the tank themselves rather than being on the hook for other farmers' milk, too. The US milk supply is exceptionally safe. I can give you an earful on the "hormones" (BST) given cows too, if you'd like.


Regarding antibiotics in milk cows, while I freely admit I had assumed that "constant low-dose antibiotics" was common in all herds, not just meat stock, Wikipedia notes:

In dairy herds, grazed cattle typically have a reduced need for antibiotics relative to grain-fed cattle, simply because the grazed herds are less productive.[22] A high-energy feedlot diet greatly increases milk output, measured in pounds or kilograms of milk per head per day, but it also increases animal physiological stress,[22] which in turn causes a higher incidence of mastitis and other infectious disease, more frequently requiring antibiotic therapy (reference needed).

...so perhaps the difference needs to be made more clear to the public at large. As for growth hormones, "The United States is the only developed nation to permit humans to drink milk from cows given artificial growth hormone.[2] Posilac [artificial bovine growth hormone developed by Monsanto] was banned from use in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all European Union countries (currently numbering 27), by 2000 or earlier." (source). That we allow agribusiness to dictate policy here is not a comfort. -rc

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