Pet Fooled – How Our Pet’s Chronic and Acute Health Problems Are Linked to Pet Foods
There’s a big, fat problem in the pet food industry today. Domestic cats and dogs in the U.S. are experiencing an epidemic of health problems at levels that have never been seen before. Increasingly, our pets are more diseased than ever, getting chronic illnesses very similar to those in people. The rates of cancer, kidney and liver disease, arthritis, chronic degenerative diseases, auto-immune diseases, allergies, pancreatic disease, Inflammatory bowel disease and intestinal lymphoma, and diabetes—have all skyrocketed in recent decades, and all of them are linked to diet say veterinarians. Pet obesity is at epidemic levels. Yet, Americans have never spent more on their pets and on pet food. So why is this happening?
Consumers may think the pet food industry is heavily regulated with strong federal oversight. But that could not be further from the truth. The FDA, the federal regulating body with oversight for the industry, allows harmful standards of toxic and carcinogenic ingredients set by the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) and created by the pet food manufacturers themselves, for pet food in the U.S. That’s where the problems start. They end with sick pets being diagnosed with chronic health problems requiring long-term medical care because of the unhealthy commercial pet food they are eating.
Pet Fooled is a wake-up call for today’s pet guardians. With interviews by leading veterinarians and prominent pet food experts, the film examines the highly unregulated pet food industry and the negative and deadly impact it is having on the health of dogs and cats in the U.S. today. Our cats and dogs are slowly and progressively getting sick and dying from commercial pet food. They are at risk of dying prematurely because pet food manufacturers are feeding them harmful, toxic, carcinogenic, and poisonous ingredients, and there is little to no oversight and accountability. Pet food companies are getting away with using toxic and poison-laden foods containing bio-chemicals, deadly preservatives, rendered animals (from road-kill, euthanized animals from vets, and dead farm animals), pesticides, industrial chemicals, drug residues, contaminated animals, along with foods lacking in the essential nutrients that our dogs and cats really need. The pet food industry is badly broken and the government is looking the other way and allowing it. Watch Pet Fooled to find out why.
Film Length: 1 hour / 10 minutes
Film Premiered: 2016 / Public Launch: 2017
Watch the Film on These Pay-For-Play Services
What is Rendered Animal Protein in Pet Foods?
Rendered meat or protein can come from diseased animals, euthanized animals, road kill, or processed human food waste. The commercial pet food companies aren’t required to put this on the label. If it is listed as an ingredient, it is called “rendered animal protein,” where renderers collect dead animal bodies and the waste of dead animals, and sell it to commercial cat and dog food companies. Here is the list of acceptable “rendered animals” for protein in commercial pet food by FDA and AAFCO standards:
- Euthanized animals from veterinary offices
- Leftovers from slaughterhouses (whatever is not used for food)
- Dead farm animals that die on farms, or their leftovers
- Road kill – all animals
- Euthanized animals from farms
- Diseased animals from factory farms, slaughterhouses, or farms
- Processed human food waste
Controversy About Dry Food or Cat & Dog Food Kibble
Dry pet food is a highly processed food that is basically void of moisture. When your animal eats dry food, they are put into a permanent state of dehydration. The manufacturing process to make the dry food “shelf stable” for long periods of time means that it is cooked at extremely high temperatures. This process creates two potent carcinogens (according to the EPA and the World Health Organization) – Acrylamides and Heterocyclic Amines. These carcinogens result from cooking meat and fish at high temperatures. Dry food is also full of Aflatoxins that come from grains, including corn, wheat, and rice, as well as nuts and legumes that can be contaminated with molds that grow into carcinogens. Also, many commercial dry foods contain PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), a chemical used as a flame retardant, and is often found present in commercial pet foods today.
MOST HARMFUL INGREDIENTS IN PET FOOD TO AVOID
- Corn, corn meal, corn gluten meal (causes severe allergies, health problems, and unnecessary carbohydrate)
- Wheat or soy (causes severe allergies, health problems and unnecessary carbohydrate)
- Soybean or soybean meal
- BHA (Toxic Preservative)
- BHT (Toxic Preservative)
- Ethoxyquin (Preservative)
- Vitamin K3 (Menadione) – the synthetic version of K1 is toxic to kidneys, lungs, and liver
- Sodium Nitrite
- Caramel Color or coloring
- “Meat Meal” and “Rendered fat” and “Ocean Fish”- Rendered animals not explicitly identified
- Meat By-Product – Rendered animals; what’s left over after an animal has been slaughtered, and any edible food is removed
- Brewers Rice, brown rice, millet, oats, potatoes, peas – Good for a goat, but bad for cats and dogs – no carbohydrates
- Carrageenan / Carrageenan Gum
- Xanthan Gum
Who Is Responsible for Pet Food Ingredients?
The Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) and the pet food companies themselves have colluded together to determine what the acceptable ingredients and ingredient levels are that can go into commercial pet foods. The ingredients that can go into pet food is heavily influenced by the pet food corporations. The AAFCO basically accepts the standards that are set by the commercial pet food corporations.
The FDA is the federal government regulatory agency that is tasked with the oversight of the pet food industry, but in actuality, the FDA conducts very little oversight of the industry. The FDA’s primary role is not regulating quality production, the sourcing of ingredients, or ensuring safe food for pets, which it should do—but instead, the FDA is only regulating what the AAFCO has set as standards for pet food, and making sure that these standards are met. They ensure that what is stated on the pet food label is actually what is on the label. But the FDA has nothing to do with what goes into the food itself, or the harm it can cause.
Dr. Karen Becker, DVM says, “This is not the government overseeing safe and adequate food sources for cats and dogs, this is a self-regulated industry setting their own requirements, creating their own regulations, and then the dog and cat food manufacturers can meet these very low standards set by the AAFCO and the FDA that have been put into place for the benefit of the cat and dog food companies.”
What the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Policy Permits in Commercial Cat and Dog Food (the following are acceptable):
- Contamination by pesticides
- Contamination by industrial chemicals
- Contamination by natural toxicants or toxics
- Contamination by filth
- Contamination by microbiological contaminants
- Contamination by unpermitted drug residues
- The compliance policy by the FDA says that we won’t enforce the law
What Does “Natural” Mean to the FDA?
To the FDA the word “natural” for pet food means: “A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process ….” This is really the antithesis of natural to most people. There is absolutely nothing natural about rendered products or the heavy processing of food that can cause it to become unnatural and harmful.
What does “Organic” mean to the FDA? The FDA defines organic for pet foods as containing only 3% organic matter, not more! So next time you reach for organic, check the label to see the percentage of organic food is actually in the can.
How Regulated is the Pet Food Industry?
The industry is very loosely regulated, see why:
- There is no pre-market approval of these pet food products before hitting the market
- There are no regular inspections of manufacturing plants that make the products
- Only 30% of pet food facilities are inspected 1 or 2 times over 3.5 years
- There is no government authority to recall a contaminated product
- There are no mandatory state inspection standards across all 50 states in the U.S.
- The claims on the label are not close to those of human food, nor have to be
- A company that produces a contaminated pet food product is not required to notify the FDA and pet stores in a timely manner or within a specific time period, if cats and dogs are getting sick and dying from the food
- Pet obesity is at epidemic levels in the U.S.
- The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that cancer in pets now accounts for almost 50% of all deaths of pets over 10 years of age in the U.S.
- In the U.S., there are 80 million dogs and 90 million cats that have owners
- American’s spend 60 billion on their animals every year
- The pet food industry is really only controlled by 5 large corporations
2007 Recall of Pet Food Poisoned With Melamine
Starting in March 2007, tens of thousands of pets in the U.S. started to become violently ill or died from eating commercial pet food. Consumers unknowingly were buying pet food that contained wheat flour that was laced with melamine and cyanuric acid causing acute renal failure associated with the ingestion of certain brands of pet food.
Canadian-based Menu Foods, a pet food manufacturer that was responsible for making hundreds of pet food brands, was at the heart of the problem because nearly 100 of their brands that were made in a single plant in China, were contaminated with the poison. But Menu Foods completely ignored that pets were dying and refused to recall the brands for several weeks, even after knowing their food was poisoning pets. Instead, canned and dry pet food continued to sit on store shelves to further harm and kill more animals.
Menu Foods failed to notify the FDA for over 3-4 weeks after they knew their pet food was tainted. Then they refused to testify in Congress staying silent, and to add insult to injury, were never fined or penalized by the U.S. government for knowingly allowing the food to continue to be sold.
After several weeks, a recall effort was finally launched and over 100 brands of tainted cat and dog food were recalled containing wheat gluten laced with the thickening agent melamine, done in an effort by the Chinese to save money and increase profits. Further investigations revealed the presence of a second toxic contaminant, cyanuric acid, that also fatally poisoned animals. One little piece of irony, is that melamine is actually legal to use in human food, according to the FDA. Welcome to our unsafe food system in the U.S.
Menu Foods Brand Recall 2007 List for Cat Food (67 Brands)
Menu Foods Brand Recall 2007 List for Dog Food (64 Brands)
Poisoned Pet Treats on Shelves from 2007 to 2013
Following the 2007 melamine poisoning, dogs in the U.S. started getting acutely sick and dying from eating chicken and turkey jerky treats manufactured by Milo’s Kitchen (Del Monte), Canyon Creek Ranch, and Waggin Train. Though the packaging and label promoted “good health” and “natural ingredients,” these treats were anything but healthy. All three companies sourced their treats from one single manufacturer in China. Dogs consuming the treats were getting violently ill, bleeding from their mouths and nostrils, convulsing, getting ruptured stomachs, twisted intestines and dying from being poisoned to death. But instead of these companies pulling their treats off the shelves following investigative research, they ignored the claims and refused to take any responsibility. Then these three companies had the audacity to threaten and try to silence the pet owners whose dogs suffered or died, to keep the pet owners from disparaging the company’s reputation and profits.
Instead, consumers posted stories of their dying pets on the Internet, which became the only way that unsuspecting pet food consumers discovered the poisoning epidemic. Milo’s Kitchen (Del Monte), Canyon Creek Ranch, and Waggin Train left the treats on pet store shelves for seven years, from 2007 to 2013, before admitting the illegal traces of antibiotics found in the treats. Del Monte claimed there were no contaminants found and flat-out denied taking any responsibility. Two of the companies took their product off the market and reformulated them in 2014, moving manufacturing facilities to the U.S. instead of China. The culprit? Antibiotic-tainted food. But reports of sickened dogs still continued in 2014 and 2015 from the treats.
Pets As “Property”
In 2015, the value of a human life was estimated to be between 6-8 million dollars. Even though our pets are considered to be members of the family and thought by many as “our children,” they are deemed by the law to be “property.” There is no specific economic valuation of pets like there is for human life. So damages to pet owners becomes insignificant compared to the massive profits the pet food companies make every year. But this may all change according to research being conducted by Sebastien Gay, Ph.D, who is working to estimate the true economic valuation of companion animals to pet owners.
Best Pet Food Advice (Quote by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, DVM)
“Feed your pet the very best quality food you can afford. It’s best to feed your pet an organic, all-raw, biologically appropriate food. The second best would be feeding a dehydrated raw food. The third best is a premium canned food. Last and worst is feeding your pet dry food. Only feed them dry food unless you cannot afford to feed any better quality food. Beware that there are better quality dry foods and there are terrible quality dry foods.”
Dr. Karen Becker’s Updated List of Best and Worst Pet Foods
Dr. Becker’s 13 Pet Foods Ranked From Great to Disastrous
Important Pet Food Information
- Poisoned Pets, A Look Inside the Commercial Pet Food Industry
- Visit the Truth About Pet Food
- Pet Food RECALL LIST
- Melamine / Cyanuric Acid Fact Sheet
- PDF of Dr. Karen Becker’s List of Best and Worst Pet Foods
- The Best and Worst Foods for Your Pet (Dr. Becker)
- Dogs Dying from Commercial Pet Food by Healthy K9
- The 2017 List of Best/Worst Pet Foods by The Truth About Pet Food
- Best Cat Food Reviews 2017
- Best Dog Food Reviews 2017
- What’s in your pet food? Checkout Petsumer Report
- Healthy Cookbook for Cooking Your Own Petfood – Pawsible
- Q&A Video from Film Premier https://youtu.be/UcuAKr5Ll_Y
Quotes From the Film
“There’s nobody looking out after the average dog.”
“I don’t trust companies anymore. They don’t care about me, they only care about my money. That’s a terrible thing.”
“All consumers would assume that the word “natural” does not mean “rendered products.”
“Once you start digging the evidence becomes overwhelming that the industry has significant issues.”
“The industry survived for 100 years without a single thought what went into pet foods until 2007.”
“Animals must be fed a species- or biologically appropriate diet. Each species must eat what it is supposed to eat. Each animal has its own biological requirements to thrive.”
“Dogs and cats are carnivores. They have evolved to be able to process whole raw meat. They can process whole living unadulterated protein. Their stomach acid is highly acidic to neutralize bacteria that could be harmful.”
“There is a growing number of small, health-conscious companies that are gaining traction.”
“Dogs and cats are nutritionally much more resilient than other species, what that means is we can nutritionally abuse them. They don’t die immediately, but they decline over time, they have overall vitality decline and an increase in health problems.”
“Cats are obligate carnivores ands have to consume meat to survive. They have a high protein requirement and a high moisture requirement. They don’t consume grain or carbohydrates.”
“To have cats eat dry food or kibble—is completely dehydrated and void of moisture, which cats need.”
“The major companies criticize raw diets, claiming they can make your animals sick. But there is zero evidence to support this claim.”
“The companies producing pet food are already making billions of dollars, so there’s no incentive to do clinically proven research about the impact of the pet food today, proving or disproving the quality of food.”
“It becomes very difficult to decipher what’s good food and bad food in the pet stores.”
Film Writer & Director: Kohn Harrington
Producer: Michael Fossat
Cinematography: Josh Gibson
Experts in the Film
- Barbara Royal, DMV – Veterinarian
- Karen Shaw Becker, DVM – Veterinarian
- Barbara Royal, DVM – Veterinarian
- Dan McChesney, FDA Representative
- Susan Thixton, Founding Partner of “Truth About Pet Food” and author of Buyer Beware