Why Have Big Pet Food Manufacturers and Regulators Become so Terrified of Small, Local, Fresh Food Producers?

raw pet food

Story at-a-glance -

  • The FDA is illegally bullying raw pet food manufacturers into recalling products based on data that is not proven or scientifically validated
  • The FDA is advertising to veterinarians and consumers that fresh food feeding is dangerous to the health of pets and other family members, despite their own data that shows dry pet food as a primary risk
  • Urging consumers to avoid fresh foods increases and stabilizes profits for processed pet food manufacturers
  • To protect big pet food companies, the FDA continues to overlook dangerous AAFCO-approved ingredients in pet and agricultural foods, such as meat from euthanized pets, “waste” (feces) including litter and even salvaged pet foods
  • Almost every raw pet food recall is the result of misinformed officials acting on knowledge shared with them by large corporations

By Chelsea Kent of the Food Regulation Facts Alliance

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and State Departments of Agriculture have been quietly cracking down on raw pet foods, but their stated reasons for doing so contradict their own published data. There are several important things to know about how this can affect your pet and family.

No. 1 — Processed Pet Food Manufacturers Are Threatened by Fresh Foods

Consumer education about factory farming has turned alternatives like raw foods into industry disruptors. Smaller manufacturers able to prioritize quality, humane sourcing and cleanliness over the interests of corporate shareholders are gaining a larger market share than ever before.

Huge brand name companies can't profitably manufacture fresh food products because quality ingredients are more expensive. Sourcing from industry trash (biodiesel, rendering, oleochemical, pharmaceutical)1 is far more profitable and sustainable when selling price-motivated products.

In a "vote with your dollar" economy, choosing raw or hand-prepared foods means supporting a healthy local economy and keeping your money out of the hands of corporate shareholders.

No. 2 — Claiming Fresh Pet Food Is Dangerous Makes Processed Diets Look Better

Advertising the risks of feeding fresh foods2 ensures profits for processed pet food manufacturers. Pet food manufacturers are expected to comply with the Zero Tolerance Policy,3 but in reality the FDA only enforces it on raw pet foods.4

The FDA, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) and the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) all publicly claim that raw pet foods are more likely to contain harmful pathogens than kibble products and urge consumers not to use fresh foods.5

However, the FDA's published recall documents evidence that kibble is far more risky. While commercially available raw pet foods have not been confirmed to be responsible for illness in humans or pets, kibble products have caused 100,000+ illnesses and deaths in pets6 and 190 illnesses in humans.7,8,9

No. 3 — The Goal Is to Eliminate the Fresh, Raw Pet Food Market

The FDA is pressuring fresh, raw pet food companies to sterilize their products to protect pet parents from pathogens. Sterilization can be done via cooking, pasteurizing or by using chemicals. If the FDA were to mandate sterilization of raw pet foods, these diets would no longer be "raw," thus ensuring truly raw pet foods are eliminated from the market (which also ensures profits for processed food manufacturers).

However, products that need to be sterilized often come from factory farming10 or other low-quality sourcing.11 Whether it's fresh produce or animal products, mass production is a dirty, dirty process that sterilization only "Band-Aids."

While cooking, chemicals or pasteurization can eliminate pathogens so a product may test as "safe" as it leaves the manufacturing facility, it also eliminates good, competitive bacteria that work as a protective mechanism after the product is packaged and shipped. Beneficial, natural bacteria can defend against your pet's food becoming a petri dish of pathogens while in transit and/or after you get it home.

How safe is unpasteurized, raw food? FDA recall statistics show that fully raw commercially available pet foods are 64 times less likely to experience a recall than kibble, while high-pressure pasteurized frozen foods are 1.5 times more likely than kibble to experience a recall. This proves that pasteurization doesn't solve sourcing problems.12

No. 4 — Salmonella in Pet Food Is Found Primarily in Kibble

The FDA continues to disregard published scientific data that proves that a 99 percent moisture product13 would only have to be heated for five minutes at 140 degrees F to kill all salmonella, while a product that is 10 percent moisture (e.g., kibble) would have to be heated for several hours at the same temperature or higher to kill pathogens.

Kibble products are, on average, heated at slightly over 200 degrees F for two to seven minutes in the extrusion or baking process, which is about 40 times less duration than is necessary to eliminate pathogens, especially if the ingredients are from factory farmed animals or other low-quality sources. Despite this, the FDA claims that the risk of pathogenic contamination is higher in raw foods.

Also, the only instances in which humans have ever gotten sick from handling pet foods involved kibble products (low moisture content, e.g., Diamond Pet Foods in 2007,14 Mars Petcare in 200815 and Diamond Pet Foods in 201216). A total of 190 people were infected with salmonella by handling dry kibble pet foods.

Further, a study published in 1972 noted that "dried dog foods were incriminated as the source of salmonella infections among colonies of laboratory animals as early as 1952,"17 so the FDA has been aware of this connection for nearly seven decades.

And last, the FDA claims that all serovars of salmonella pathogens are poisonous and dangerous to pets and people. However, of the 2,500+ strains in existence, the CDC lists only 1,023 as having ever been found in humans, and of those only 15 are considered concerning.18 However, raw pet food producers will be told to recall even if the strain of pathogen is not known to have ever caused illness in pets or humans.

FDA volunteer research studies have proven infective doses of salmonella to be fairly high in most cases.19 However, raw pet food companies are told to recall products even if State Departments and the FDA have not quantified the product to see if it contains infective doses of pathogens.

To make matters worse, current testing methods are unable to consistently differentiate between live and dead salmonella cells.20 So a product that only contains dead, nonviable and fully safe pathogens could still be subject to recall by the FDA.

No. 5 — Risks of Salmonella Shedding in Pet Poop Are Hugely Overblown

Regulators claim pets increase human exposure to pathogens when they consume fresh, raw foods because they may poop out pathogens. However, the FDA referenced scientific studies in which dogs were fed chicken that was intentionally contaminated with eight forms of pathogens, showing that 56 percent of the dogs fed pathogens did not, in fact, poop them out, and of the 44 percent that did, none got sick.21

A separate study revealed that 8,157 canine rectal swabs resulted in 27.6 percent positive tests for salmonella.22 What was not mentioned is that 72.4 percent of dog feces do not contain salmonella, even though dogs eat poop, dead things, dirt, garbage and body part chew bones.

No matter what you feed your pet, poop is not supposed to be sterile. Safe handling of pet waste is necessary no matter what your pet's diet is, and no matter what the status of your immune system is.

No. 6 — The FDA Is Working to Ensure Pet Parents No Longer Have Access to Fresh, Raw Pet Food

Regulators are systematically going after fresh, raw pet food manufacturers as they gain popularity, because lobbyists pressure regulators to support the corporate structure of kibble manufacturers. Food trends that shift consumers permanently away from brand names are very threatening to corporate agriculture and food companies.

Is all cooked food bad for your pet? No. Actually, many foods are better or safer when they're cooked, such as grocery store meats and some hard-to-digest veggies. Yet recent attacks on raw pet foods are an example of the relationship between lobbyists and regulators capitalizing on consumer disinformation and naiveté.

Should raw pet foods not be regulated? Like all pet foods, they certainly should. Many co-op pet foods illustrate the fact that inaccessibility to regulators can result in false labeling, pathogenic contamination and inadequate nutrients. Regulations can prevent problems and keep products safer, but only if the regulators are held accountable for equal and fair treatment and enforcement of all pet food products and manufacturers, which is currently not the case.

No. 7 — The Impact on Fresh, Raw Pet Foods

Almost every raw pet food recall is an action by misinformed officials motivated by false information propagated by processed pet food manufacturers. Many once truly raw pet food companies have caved to FDA pressure to sterilize their products, which could increase risk of nutrient deficiency, endocrine-inhibiting plastic exposure, lipid oxidation/rancidity23 and pathogenic re-contamination.

Other raw pet food producers are being bullied by State Departments of Agriculture and the FDA to follow suit, which will decrease your access to the freshest and cleanest pet products on the market. These companies are small, independent and don't make the big bucks because they purchase quality ingredients rather than industry trash.

This leaves them with minimal resources to hire lobbyists or lawyers to help understand and decipher policy, or risk continued bullying from regulators if they don't comply with pressure to recall unnecessarily.

Most small raw pet food manufacturers started their companies because they lost a pet to a corporate pet food giant's processed products, and so they set out on a mission to make better diets for other pet parents. Entire families and livelihoods are wrapped up in these small companies that are driven by passion, not profits, and these small operators have no support in their fight against regulators.

Answers Pet Food is pushing back to make the regulators of the Colorado Department of Agriculture (and eventually the FDA, if necessary) abide by their own laws and policies. The company is demanding regulators stop bullying manufacturers to recall products based on inadequate information that is not scientifically validated or proven.

These efforts are being made at great risk and cost to Answers, but the owners believe it's a worthy cause that will hopefully prevent the elimination of an entire pet food market segment they passionately believe in.

How You Can Help

Feed fresh foods to your pet

Educate your veterinarian and your friends about feeding fresh

Support Answers Pet Food in their fight against regulators

Educate yourself about pet food regulation at Food Regulation Facts and TruthAboutPetFood.com, visit Pet Fooled on Facebook, consider attending AAFCO meetings

Request FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) reports on pet food products you're unsure about

Call the pet food company whose products you buy and ask them questions — find out why they went into business, where they source their products, their experience with the FDA and Departments of Agriculture, what steps they take to ensure their products are safe, whether they use mechanically separated, factory farmed, rotten or other types of food industry trash, etc.

If you want to make a difference, ask a pet food manufacturer you like, a pet food advocate or a pet food organization how you can help. And remember: You do make a difference when you make a purchase (when you "vote with your dollar"), and when you participate with others who are passionate about providing fresh foods to pets.