Shoppers are more concerned than ever about the safety of their pets’ food after contamination resulted in the deaths of dozens—and potentially hundreds (official counts are difficult to get)—of pets in 2007 and 2008. Investigations revealed melamine had been added to pet foods manufactured in China. Melamine is a nitrogen-containing particle that is used as an industrial binding agent and flame-retardant among other things; it is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as an ingredient in human or animal food in this country. It’s suspected to cause kidney failure and was found in the kidneys and urine of deceased cats that were part of a taste-testing study conducted by Emporia, Kansas-based Menu Foods between Dec. 2006 and March 2007.
The melamine found in the pet food manufactured in China was labeled as “wheat gluten” and “rice protein concentrate.”
How can you be sure you’re carrying absolutely safe, nutritious meals for your furry friends? Call the manufacturers and ask where they get their ingredients, says Ann N. Martin, author of Food Pets Die For (NewSage Press, 2008). If the company won’t give you all the information you want to feel secure about the products’ safety, don’t buy them, she says. “Domestically sourced ingredients are definitely a plus,” says Robert Silver, DVM.
After researching the pet food industry for almost 20 years, Martin feeds her own dogs and cats a homemade diet, but she says there are good pet food companies out there—they’re just usually smaller operations.