FDA finds raw pet food distasteful

FDA finds raw pet food distasteful

The FDA recently announced it would send field staff out to collect samples of commercially-manufactured raw dog and cat food. The samples will be analyzed for SalmonellaListeria monocytogenes and E. coli, all of which have been found in raw pet food, in the animals who eat it, in their feces, on their bodies after eating it, in the areas they inhabit, and on their owner's bodies. Not surprisingly, this has led to both pet and human infection and illness.  If the FDA finds pathogens, it could result in a recall, press release and Reportable Food Registry Submission.

Why is this necessary? Some pet owners, egged on by a certain element in the "holistic" veterinarian community, desire a more "natural" diet for their pets. This is based on the fallacy that, the facts of evolution aside, dogs are really wolves (and cats are tiny tigers?) who eat uncooked meat in the wild. So you should let your dog's inner wolf run wild and dig into some nice, juicy raw meat. Proponents point out, as further "proof," that feral dogs and cats eat uncooked meat, as if these creatures have consciously chosen a healthy lifestyle instead of being left to appalling circumstances by irresponsible pet owners. And even your house cat may indulge in the occasional bird. (Thereby contributing to the decimation of the songbird population, by the way.) For good measure, they throw in some anti-corporate rhetoric, making the pet food industry look like Big Pharma's first cousin. 


Commercial raw pet food manufacturers have cashed in on this misinformation by selling frozen and freeze-dried pet foods. Listen for the altie dog whistles in this sales pitch from Primal Pet Foods:

Our poultry, meat and game are antibiotic and steroid free without added hormones. We incorporate certified organic produce, certified organic minerals and unrefined vitamins to fortify our complete and balanced diets. All Primal Formulas contain fresh ground bone for calcium supplementation. This combination of ingredients offers optimum levels of the amino acids (protein), essential fatty acids, natural-occurring enzymes, and necessary vitamins and minerals that are the building blocks for your pet's healthy biological functions.

It's not cheap either. A pound of chopped assorted beef, pork and poultry parts (e.g., gizzards and hearts), advertised as "grass-fed, pastured, antibiotic, hormone, and steroid free; no artificial ingredients, preservatives, fillers, or by-products, or added sodium" can set you back $5.79.  For the do-it-yourselfer, raw food recipes are plentiful on the internet. 

All of this has been nicely sliced and diced by Brennen McKenzie, DVM, over on Science-Based Medicine. Here's his analysis of the "BARF" raw pet food diet, whose name does not inspire confidence in its creator's ability to think these things through. 

The argument that dogs are designed by their evolutionary history to eat raw meat based diets is riddled with errors and fallacies and ignores the impact of tens of thousands of years of domestication and cohabitation with humans on the physiology of our canine friends. The accusations that commercial dog foods are nutritionally inadequate or unsafe are not supported by any objective or scientific evidence, only anecdotes, intuition, and conspiracy theories. . . .


The benefits promised by advocates of BARF diets for dogs are numerous. Greater health, less disease, better quality of life, and much more. Dr. Billinghurst’s [BARF's creator] web site even claims, “Eating bones for a dog is a joyous experience. It is so enjoyed by dogs that it actually of itself boosts their immune system.” However, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support these claims. BARF proponents have no shortage of opinions and anecdotes to demonstrate the benefits of their diets, but they have a severe shortage of data.

Nevertheless, because not everyone is as impressed by the facts as you are, the FDA must spend your tax dollars trying to keep the holistic pet owner from harming his pets and himself. In addition to sending agents into the field, the agency posted tips on preventing the spread of infection through safe handling of raw pet food for those who simply must follow every health trend, no matter how ill-conceived or dangerous. 

Foodsafety.gov also issued warnings and information about avoiding contamination and illness. Here's their reply to the argument that feral dogs and cats eat raw meat:

Many pet owners who choose a raw diet for their pets point to the fact that when feral (wild) dogs and cats catch their prey, they eat it raw. While true, it is unknown how many of these animals get sick or die from eating their prey because they aren't typically brought to a veterinarian for care.

If you want to subject yourself to unproven raw food myths, I suppose that's your choice. But leave your poor pets out of it.  


Points of Interest 06/15/2015
Points of Interest 06/12/2015