If you’re a pet owner,The 2007 Pet Food Crisis: Was it Preventable? Articles you probably heard about it. In February and March of this year, news organizations reported a sudden and alarming epidemic of kidney failure among cats and dogs. Though the numbers weren’t and aren’t officially known, some sources reported thousands of cat deaths across the country, plus many thousands of pets becoming seriously ill.
Soon after the outbreak began, the culprit was identified. A pet food manufacturer, whose wet pet foods are sold under dozens of familiar brand names, had allowed a lethal substance known as melamine to enter their products. This error wasn’t discovered until over 60 million potentially contaminated units had already hit store shelves.
The ensuing pet food recall caught the attention of pet owners nationwide. Media-provided lists of affected products seemed to grow by the hour. Soon, huge voids appeared on the shelves of supermarket pet food aisles.
The symptoms of melamine poisoning provide little comfort. Even for animals Cheri Honnas who survive, symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, depression, kidney stones, loss of appetite, and permanent kidney damage. To those of us who think of our pets as children, the thought of our cats or dogs suffering these symptoms is unbearable.
Also of little comfort, and exacerbating many pet owners’ unwillingness to re-introduce wet foods into our pets’ diets, is the current lack of official government oversight over pet food products. Of course, this doesn’t have to be a terrible thing. After all, most pet food makers understand that not to self-regulate is simply bad business. To allow an outbreak like the one that occurred this year is the quickest way to go out of business.
Even so, as this case has illustrated, lack of government oversight leaves our pets vulnerable to accidents and mistakes. Most pet food makers receive their raw materials from a variety of sources. In fact, it’s been suggested that the melamine-contaminated material in these products came from China. So, with materials coming from all over, what can be done to ensure that pet foods will not be contaminated in the future?
Obviously, we can do little to ensure that products made in China are not contaminated, but on our side, there is plenty we can do. The key isn’t to prevent contamination where prevention is impossible, but rather to detect contamination before it reaches our pets’ food bowls. Specifically, before a batch of food lands on store shelves, we can perform melamine testing.
Many companies, along all steps of the pet food manufacturing process, already perform melamine testing. Testing can be done not only on the finished food product, but also on the product’s ingredients, which, again, tend to come from all over. For example, if you’re an importer of materials that go into pet food products, to invest in a melamine testing service could potentially save your company from this type of embarrassment and disgrace.