Monday, June 18, 2007

Pet Food Concerns to Drive Double-Digit Growth in Alternatives: Study

JUNE 18, 2007 -- NEW YORK - Alternative pet foods are emerging as the primary beneficiaries of the recent pet food recall crisis, and could enjoy double-digit growth rates over the next two years as traditional mass-produced foods suffer from the perception they might be less safe, according to a new study by market research firm Packaged Facts.

"Billions of dollars in pet food brand sales are now up for grabs as a result of the pet food recall crisis and its ongoing effects as consumers seek out safer, higher quality foods for their pets," noted David Lummis, senior pet market analyst at Packaged Facts. "This is a highly emotional issue for many pet food companies, with many now actively reexamining and restructuring their operations as a result of the recall."

Indeed, Packaged Facts estimates there will be a brand shift in the market worth $1.3 billion to $4.3 billion in pet food sales, given that the brands used by approximately one in six pet owners were part of the recall.

The report, "Product Safety and Alternative Pet Foods: North American Market Outlook," traces the government, industry, and consumer responses to date from the recent spate of pet food recalls, that triggered alternative pet foods' ascension. The report outlines the implications for North American sales of alternative pet foods, which are now being positioned as both safer and healthier than their traditional pet food counterparts.

The report identifies the main beneficiaries in this brand-switching trend as "high-quality pet foods chosen as alternatives to traditional brands," all of which it groups under the term, "alternative pet food." These include high-end natural and organic pet foods; fresh pet foods including raw/frozen, refrigerated, and homemade; and 100 percent U.S. sourced, locally grown, and other smaller-batch pet foods.

The study evaluates both the short- and long-term impacts of the pet food recall, and explores related trends, such as levels of consumer awareness of the recall and current and expected effects on purchasing behavior; more direct company oversight of ingredients sourcing and production; new labeling and organic pet food standards; new product trends; new technologies in fresh pet foods; and increased government oversight of the industry.


Monday, April 30, 2007


Written by Gary Alexander

In dedication to 9-year-old Jizo, who died of renal failure in the early stages of the recall. We miss you, boy.

Those who have been following the twisting course of the ongoing PET FOOD recall crisis have been privileged to witness a remarkable exercise in slight-of-hand, deception and deceit on the part of a corporate media culture determined to keep an already explosive story from detonating fully. With few exceptions, the key words underlying the crisis have been kept out of the debate for an alarming and disheartening reason…

In retrospect, the mysterious wave of deaths from acute renal failure and similar illnesses had begun to rise last year but failed to attract widespread attention until early March. Kidney failure has, in fact, been a leading cause of pet death for over a decade but the toll was rising dramatically in 2007. The first company to issue a recall notice, after it was observed that “routine” taste tests in February were killing one in six of their test animals, was the Canadian distributor, Menu Foods, who initially recalled over 60 million cans of “wet food.”

At the time the recall was announced, an employee of the NY State Health Department confided that a rodent poison named ‘aminopterin’ had been detected in pet food samples by a state lab but, like so much else in this episode, the idea that folic acid-inhibiting rat poison (detected in only two samples, according to an early story on the recall), suggestive of other symptoms which should have been present but were not, could have contaminated 873 hundred tons of wheat gluten destined for pet food just didn’t add up even in a layman’s mind. Cornell University quickly entered the investigation but, like the FDA, failed to confirm the aminopterin traces.

Toward the end of the month, the new villain was announced to be the industrial chemical melamine, which was present in the urine of affected animals but, in none of the readily available studies, displayed anywhere near the toxicity levels that would account for the lethal results reported. Again, the idea that a chemical contaminant could infect so many tons of wheat protein also seemed unlikely, prompting suspicions that something else was going on.

Locally, the extent of the secrecy became evident last month when attempts to gauge the impact on pets of the Catskill-Hudson Valley region of the Food and Drug Administration’s national recall of some brands of dog and cat food were met with one of two typical responses from local veterinarians. If no deaths had been reported, area vets and animal hospitals would announce that they had performed some “blood work” for concerned pet owners but no fatalities had been recorded. Responses from other vets when asked about pet fatalities, however, were more along the lines of an ambiguous “We’re only dealing with the (pet) food (company) representatives and we can’t give out that information.”

Since Menu Foods, as lawsuits began being filed in late March, announced that they would be responsible for veterinarian bills proven to associated with the recall, it would seem apparent that some sort of secrecy provision was attached these arrangements. Secrecy and misdirection, in fact, seemed to attend almost every aspect of the recall to the extent that, for weeks in March and early April, the FDA website’s recall page, which withheld vital information about the brand names involved at a critical time, played down the threat by listing pet fatalities in the teensa number that was reflected in major media coverage until the Associated Press released their first story on the crisis, by Andrew Bridges, on April 9th, advancing an estimate of 39,000 injured animals.

Meanwhile, as websites maintained by veterinarian associations and pet-owner groups were posting deaths in the thousands by the end of March, National Public Radio ran a recall story in early April citing the FDA figure of 17. On the same day, 3,168 dead pets had been recorded in a survey by a pet-owner site. [As of April 28, 2007, 4,546 pets have been reported as deceased.]

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FDA searches company that supplied suspect ingredient in pet food

Threat still exists....

- The federal Food and Drug Administration conducted a search of the Las Vegas offices of ChemNutra, supplier of the ingredient suspected in the contamination of millions of cans of recalled dog and cat food, the company said today.

ChemNutra said it had been informed the company could be held accountable because it imported the melamine-adulterated wheat gluten used in the tainted pet food even though the company had no knowledge its supplier in China had introduced melamine into the product.

Read more here

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Pet Food Alternatives

Dog Biscuits added to the List

The recall of pet foods and treats contaminated with an industrial chemical expanded Thursday to include dog biscuits made by an Alabama company and sold by Wal-Mart under the Ol'Roy brand.

said the manufacturer, Sunshine Mills Inc., is recalling dog biscuits made with imported Chinese wheat gluten. Testing has revealed the wheat gluten, a protein source, was contaminated with melamine, used to make plastics and other industrial products.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

No Threat to Humans

Alleviating some concerns of US customers, the ingredient importer announced that none of the contaminated wheat gluten was used in human food.

The Chinese wheat gluten imported by ChemNutra Inc. all went to companies that make pet foods, according to Stephen Miller, chief executive officer of the Las Vegas company.
ChemNutra said it has recalled 873 tons of wheat gluten that it shipped to three pet food makers and a single distributor, who in turn supplies the pet food industry.

Read the full article here

Friday, March 30, 2007

FDA finds new chemical in pet food.

FDA finds new chemical in pet food.

• NEW: FDA finds new chemical in tainted pet food, sick animals
• FDA says chemical used in plastics found in food, sick animals
• NEW: Scientists not sure melamine was cause of pets' deaths
• PETA to call Friday for recall of dry pet food it says has sickened dogs, cats

FDA finds new chemical in tainted pet food, sick animals
Story Highlights
• NEW: FDA says chemical used in plastics found in food, sick animals
• NEW: Scientists not sure melamine was cause of pets' deaths
• PETA to call Friday for recall of dry pet food it says has sickened dogs, cats
• Manufacturer recalled 100 brands of food after dogs, cats suffered kidney failure

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- Recalled pet foods contained a chemical used to make plastics, but government tests failed to confirm the presence of rat poison, federal officials said Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration said it found melamine in samples of the Menu Foods pet food, as well as in wheat gluten used as an ingredient.

Cornell University scientists also have found the chemical, also used as a fertilizer, in the urine of sick cats, as well as in the kidney of one cat that died after eating the company's wet food.

Menu Foods recalled 60 million containers of cat and dog food earlier this month after animals died of kidney failure after eating the Canadian company's products.

It is not clear how many pets may have been poisoned by the apparently contaminated food, although anecdotal reports suggest hundreds if not thousands have died. The FDA alone has received more than 8,000 complaints.

The new finding comes a week after scientists at the New York State Food Laboratory identified a rat poison and cancer drug called aminopterin as the likely culprit. The FDA said it could not confirm that finding.

New York officials have detected melamine as well, though it's not clear how that chemical would have poisoned pets. It's typically used to produce plastic kitchen wares, though it's apparently used as a fertilizer in Asia, said Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

The recall involved nearly 100 brands of "cuts and gravy" style dog and cat food made by Menu Foods. The recall covered products carrying names of major brand-name and private-label products sold throughout North America. (Menu Foods recall informationexternal link)

The apparently melamine-contaminated wheat gluten also was shipped to an unnamed company that manufactures dry pet food. The FDA is attempting to determine if that product, imported from China, was used to make any pet food, Sundlof said.

Menu Foods used wheat gluten, a source of vegetable protein, to thicken the gravy of its pet foods, FDA officials have said.

Meanwhile, animal rights advocates called on federal food safety regulators and pet food companies to expand a nationwide recall of dog and cat food to include dry varieties, claiming they make pets sick.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans to make the appeal Friday in Washington after it said it received complaints from pet owners who claim their animals suffered kidney failure after eating dry pet food.

Norfolk, Virginia-based PETA wants the FDA and the companies to extend the recall to foods that have received complaints, chemically test it and perform necropsies on the animals involved. It also wants companies prosecuted if the FDA's probe turns up wrongdoing.

FDA spokeswoman Julie Zawisza said she did not know how many of the complaints the agency has received have concerned dry pet food. Officials at Ontario, Canada-based Menu Foods, which made the recalled pet food, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Veterinarians aren't seeing a trend of pets getting sick off dry food, said Paul Pion, founder of the Veterinarian Information Network. He said since so many people use dry food, you would expect to see many more ill pets if the food was tainted.

The Veterinary Information Network reported Tuesday that at least 471 cases of pet kidney failure have been reported since the recall, and more than 100 pets have died. (Full story) Menu Foods has confirmed 16 pet deaths.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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