In vet school, the conventional wisdom bestowed upon students was the mantra that formulated pet food diets – anything certified by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)– was the only way to go. This was reinforced by another seemingly popular belief that the public could not be trusted to prepare balanced meals for their pets. Cautionary tales about feeding “people food” to pets conjured up images of dogs binging on hot dogs and potato chips and cats eating only cans of Star-Kist tuna every day. Of course, this would be misguided and harmful over time. But it would take the toxicology class to wake me up.
In Toxicology 101, we learned about Aflatoxins. In particular, the deadly mold, Aspergillus flavus, that grows on peanuts and a few other crops, such as corn. Known to be a potent carcinogen, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes aflatoxin as a serious health risk. Moldy crops, discarded for human consumption, could and did find their way into the production of livestock feed, making cows and hogs sick. Purchased for next to nothing, these contaminated crops also found buyers in the pet food industry, making dogs and cats sick. The bottom line: Public health issues surrounding food are only human ones. The government doesn’t give a damn about our pet companions. And neither does AAFCO.
At the root of the problem is AAFCO itself. For example–in their pet food analysis, discarded peanut hulls can be counted as fiber, and in doing so, they set the bar so low as to allow other inferior ingredients besides moldy crops, like contaminated meats and meat by-products, to be sold as pet foods. The result – cheap, inferior brands of pet food have flourished. A pet food skeptic was born – and she never ate another peanut.
It would be years later before I attempted to take on the pet food industry with an e-book, How to Feed Your Dog – If You Flunked Rocket Science, in full support of homemade diets. I wanted to expose the pitfalls of formulated diets and point fingers at giant corporations like Purina. My case against Purina, and other guilty pet food manufacturers, is how they defraud pet owners. Purina’s fraudulent claims about Beneful being a “naturally healthy diet” is a bald-faced lie. It’s a list of ingredients that scream ‘don’t buy this one’ to informed shoppers who read pet food labels. To the uneducated, unsuspecting pet owner, clever advertising tricks and other gimmicks are sales tactics of manipulation. Cuts of red meat and colorful veggies plastered on shiny sacks of kibble is all part of the deception. It’s a perfect storm when these manufactured diets, lacking any real nutritional value, pass muster with AAFCO(a sellout for big agriculture) to shake the hand of greedy corporate shareholders. All of it adding up to bigger profits. Proof that thoughtless people are profitable. Just find the right advertising spin. But don’t take my word for it – ask Google. Is pet food making pets sick?