Five years have passed since the 2007 pet food recall that led to thousands of pet deaths from dog and cat food containing melamine from China. While this tragic incident raised alarms and awareness of safety issues, pet food products and ingredients from China are still very common on pet store shelves. In fact, over $21 million dollars worth of dog and cat food ingredients, dog and cat food, treats, and chews are imported into the United States from China each month.1 These ingredients are often hidden from consumers, not appearing on product labels.
Pet Foods Made in the USA Doesn’t Mean China-free
“Made in the USA” appears on many pet foods. However, pet parents cannot rely on this marketing statement as an indication of quality. “I have found that ‘made in the USA’ does not tell the entire story,” says Jo Bighouse, owner of Midas Touch Naturally Healthy Pets in Berryville, VA. “Each of the manufacturers we represent are being contacted and asked if any raw materials in their products are imported from China, and we are not stopping there,” she continues. “If I am told the vitamins are from a country other than China, including the US, I am contacting that vitamin source to find out if their raw material is from China. If I can confirm that a pet product manufacturer includes raw materials sourced from China, I will not sell the product.”2
Difficult to Track Original Sources for Pet Food Ingredients
Following the chain of ingredients in pet food back to their original source takes a lot of homework. For example, the “added vitamins and minerals” found in nearly all pet foods, even so-called “natural” brands, are actually man-made, or synthetic. Pet food companies typically don’t add synthetic vitamins and minerals one at a time to batches of their food. Instead, they purchase canine or feline premixes, which contain as many as 20 or more blended synthetic vitamins and minerals, from other suppliers, companies like NutraBlend or Hoffman-La Roche Ltd. These companies in turn buy the individual vitamins and minerals in bulk from other sources and blend them together in the required proportions.
You can see how a simple call to the manufacturer adding synthetic vitamins and minerals to their pet food may not get you an accurate answer. They probably have no idea where they come from. Another company buys them and blends into canine and feline premixes for them. If they do know, the source may very well be China and they probably do not want to disclose this to their customers. Pet food companies know ingredients from China create a negative impression with pet owners.
Many Hidden Raw Materials for Pet Food Ingredients Come from China
China has virtually cornered the market on most all vitamins and synthetic amino acids such as taurine. The Seattle Times reports that many of the world's vitamins are now made there.3 It is nearly impossible to get all the synthetic vitamins and minerals that are routinely added to pet food without using Chinese sources.
But other pet food ingredients have raw materials that come from China but are not disclosed to pet parents. For example, “natural liver flavoring” often appears on pet food packaging and the consumer is led to believe that it is just liver. But by looking at the product label for “Dry Cat Palatability Enhancer – A Source of Natural Liver Flavor,” which is sold to the pet food company and then added to its food, you can see this flavoring contains eight ingredients, including soybean oil, the synthetic chemical sodium acid phyrophosphate, and hydrolyzed poultry liver.4
Soy is a common allergen for many pets so something consumers don’t want in pet foods. Sodium acid phyrophosphate can be toxic, as indicated by its LD50 level (amount required to kill ½ the subjects in lab tests), and primarily comes from China.5 “Hydrolyzed chicken liver” carries hidden MSG (monosodium glutamate) because the process of hydrolizing protein results in the production of MSG.6 Because they are all part of the so-called “natural” flavoring, these hidden ingredients, some from China, do not appear on the pet food label.
Pet Parents Must Be Vigilant to Avoid Ingredients from China
If you want your pet’s food China-free, you’ll need to do your homework. Fortunately there are others in the pet industry that are equally concerned about your pet’s safety and have done much of the research for you. Independent pet retailers like Jo Bighouse of Midas Touch Naturally Healthy Pets in Berryville, VA are increasingly doing this research so they can offer their customers the best possible products. Pet advocates, like Susan Thixton of TruthAboutPetFood.com, call pet food companies all the time and report their findings on their websites. Finally, quality pet food manufacturers, like Nature’s Logic, do not use ingredients from China. Nature’s Logic has the only full-line of raw, canned, and dry pet food with no chemically-synthesized vitamins or minerals. All the nutrients dogs and cats need to thrive come from whole foods and 100% natural ingredients. For more information about Nature’s Logic, visit www.natureslogic.com .