By Lorie Huston, DVM
May 1, 2013
petMD recently conducted a survey of pet owners on the subject of pet food recalls that indicated that most pet owners have concerns about their pets’ food. More specifically, pet owners are worried about the potential for contamination of pet foods and what pet food companies can do to prevent contamination. Here are some of the top findings from the survey.
The recent rise in pet food recalls is taking its toll on consumer confidence. Of the pet food consumers taking the petMD survey, 82% said they don’t think pet food manufacturers are “currently doing all they can to keep pet food free of salmonella and other contaminants.”
No pet food company wants to go through the hassle of a recall. However, no reputable pet food company wants to risk the health of the pets that consume their food products either. In many instances, foods are recalled not because there is certainty that the food is dangerous but because testing has indicated that a potential problem might exist. Many pet food companies would rather be cautious in this situation, issuing a voluntary recall rather than risking the possibility that even one pet might become ill. There are also several quality control procedures that responsible pet food manufacturers can and do perform to help prevent contamination of their product.
Only 15% of respondents know if the manufacturer of their pet food is practicing strict, physical separation of raw ingredient from cooked product in the manufacturing process, a crucial practice for controlling food contamination. However, the petMD survey shows that an opportunity exists for pet food manufacturers to win new business (or retain current customers) since 86% said they would be more likely to buy a pet food if they knew these practices were in place.
Separating the raw ingredients from the cooked product is one of the most important considerations in reducing the risk of contamination. Cooking is the process that kills microbes, such as Salmonella, which can contaminate foods. Responsible pet food companies realize this and go to extremes to keep the areas where raw ingredients are received and prepared separate from the areas where the cooked product is processed and packaged. In these facilities, employees must go through a number of decontamination procedures, such as foot baths, hand washes, covering shoes with disposable booties, and more before entering the “clean” portion of the facility. Even the airflow in these facilities is designed to prevent recontamination. While some manufacturers may fall short in this area, responsible pet food manufacturers operate their facilities in this manner. What's disconcerting is that not many pet owners know whether their pet food company of choice practices these quality control procedures.
Respondents also reacted strongly against a common industry practice of shipping food to retail destinations before final test results from the manufacturing facilities has identified whether a batch of pet food is indeed salmonella free. Ninety-eight percent of survey respondents said that they want pet food manufacturers to hold products on site until test results are confirmed, a practice known as “positive release.”
Some pet food manufacturers abide by this practice. Unfortunately, it is not common in the industry. Choosing a trustworthy pet food company that goes this extra step in ensuring their products are safe is the pet owner’s best option in making sure their pet receives safe uncontaminated food. Pet owners can find out if their pet food manufacturer practices “positive release” by calling the 1-800 number on the pet food bag and asking if the company meets this standard.
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