The Pet-food Protein-gate, part one
A couple of weeks ago (Daily Dose, 4/10/2007), I wrote to you about the breaking story of contamination in mass-produced pet foods that has so far sickened and killed untold numbers of beloved American pets - dog and cats, specifically. And because it was so early on in the crisis, I had very little information to impart to you about exactly what was causing these casualties...
But I did have some recommendations on how to safeguard your kitties and pups against this fate: To feed them ONLY raw liver, chicken necks (most other uncooked meats are OK as well), and at least one daily raw egg - including the shell - rounding out their diet with cut vegetables added to the bowl.
As you'll recall, this advice of mine directly contradicts not only everything you'll hear down at your local PetSmart store (or Petco, whatever), but also what several mainstream books recently published in wide release have to say about canine and feline diets. Believe me, though - I'm right and they're wrong.
Today, there's even more proof of this. More information has surfaced about exactly WHY our precious pets are dying. And as usual when it comes to nutrition - human or animal - one thing lies at the root of all the evil... Vegetarianism. In case you haven't heard, the U.S. FDA is all but certain the source of the contamination that's sickening and killing our cats and dogs is melamine, a toxic chemical used in the manufacture of plastics, pesticides, and as a fertilizer.
Melamine is high in nitrogen. Now stay with me here, this last little factoid is the heart of this whole insidious issue... Though deemed safe in low concentrations - like what might be found in vegetables grown in fields fertilized or insect-controlled with melamine - direct ingestion of the substance can be deadly.
Yet according to the FDA, melamine poisoning is likely what's sickening and killing so many of our pets nowadays. This kind of contamination would be VERY DIFFICULT without somebody adding melamine directly to pet foods, or to their ingredients.
Despite the fact that it's horrible for pets, most brands of modern pet foods - especially the dry varieties - are made almost entirely of vegetable ingredients.
There are several reasons for this, foremost among them being cost. It's far cheaper to make pet foods from soy this and wheat gluten that than it is to use real meats (which is impossible in the dry foods anyway)... But since the average pet owner is at least aware of the fact that animals, like people, need PROTEIN to survive, pet food makers are big on adding things to their food to boost the appearance of nutrition. And in this case, that "additive" was very likely poisonous melamine.
Remember how I said before that nitrogen was the key here? According to a recent USA Today article, the agricultural industry typically gauges a raw grain's protein content by measuring its nitrogen content. Nitrogen levels generally correspond quite closely with protein levels...
Are you starting to see how this shakes out? That's right. The FDA and other groups strongly suspect that nitrogen-rich melamine fertilizer was added in raw form to large quantities of ALREADY HARVESTED wheat and rice earmarked for pet foods in order to create the illusion that these worthless grains were higher in protein that they actually are. But this is only part of the story. Read on
The Pet-food Protein-gate, part two
To sell more pet food by deceiving pet owners into believing the dry vegetable junk food they're feeding their cats and dogs is protein-rich and good for them (it's actually horrible for them, melamine-laced or not).
As this crisis has unfolded, more information about how this toxic stuff may have gotten into the foods has surfaced... And it doesn't look good on the pet-food industry, or on big-box pet supply retailers. As it turns out, like everything else in this country nowadays, the raw ingredients for ALL of the banned varieties of pet foods came not from hard-working American grain farmers - whose products (though still bad for us and our pets) and harvesting practices are strictly regulated by the USDA, FDA, and other agencies...
But from communist CHINA, where pollution and environmental waste is rampant, regulation scare, and where the jack-booted government values nothing (not even life) so much as the influx of American dollars. And that river of money is enhanced if Chinese raw grains are thought to be richer in protein than grains from other places - even the U.S. of A.
According to FDA sources (like their Chief Veterinarian, for one), raw melamine has been found - not just in the U.S, but in other nations, too - in rice protein concentrate, wheat gluten, and corn gluten supplies earmarked specifically for pet foods. All of these tainted stockpiles were imported from China.
Now, we might have been alerted to this sooner if the FDA were able to monitor more of the foodstuffs we import. According to the AP and CBS, the agency can only test 1% of the food or raw ingredients that cross our borders. I guess their budget is stretched too thin from testing all those drugs - because they're SO good at that, right?
But that's another story... Of course, U.S. regulators can't PROVE that the Chi-comms are lacing Fido's food with melamine without inspecting the Chinese plants and farms themselves. And so far, that invitation hasn't been forthcoming. What HAS been coming out of China (besides killer grains) is a lot of double-talk and denials. Keep reading...
Silent after the first few weeks of the scandal, China is finally acknowledging that shipments of gluten and other food ingredients tainted with melamine originated on their shores.
They've also instituted a new ban on the chemical from all food products they export... But of course, China is rejecting melamine as a cause for any pets' deaths. China's Foreign Ministry is also claiming that the tainted supplies slipped through their normally rigorous customs inspections because they were destined to be used as pet food.
Yeah, I'm so sure - according to the AP/CBS piece, Chinese farmers have a well-documented history of exporting food products contaminated with human waste (ugh), pesticides that are banned in the U.S., and other problems... Aside from this, FDA investigators are getting the runaround from the Chinese.
One of the 3 exporting companies the agency is focusing on claims that food ingredients aren't even part of its core business - but that employees often make side deals to buy, sell and export such items... Nah, nothing corrupt or unregulated here.
All this brings up an interesting point: Do the big-box retail companies (PetSmart, Petco, etc.) that represent themselves as knowing all about how to raise healthy pets actually even know the least bit about what kinds of foods they're selling - or where they come from?
Think about it for a minute... If they knew that they were buying foods made by companies who bought their likely-contaminated raw ingredients from unregulated sources in shady, off-the-books back room deals - yet sold these foods anyway - what does that say about their scruples?
And if they DIDN'T know about all this, what's that say about their level of expertise in helping your pet lead a long and healthy life? On the one hand, they're heartless criminal killers - and on the other, clueless dunces.
But again, there are still more layers to this "onion" of a story. Like how the risks of melamine-contaminated pet food aren't limited to Fido, but perhaps have spread to the one who holds his leash, too. More in the next Daily Dose...
Always un"leash"ing the truth, William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.