Itchmo Opinion: The Right to Good Pet Food

NOTE: We have sent the following to Sen. Durbin’s office in response to his request for feedback.

We declare that the relationship between a pet and its legal guardian is second only to that of a parent and a child. The quality of care and feeding of those who depend on us is a reflection of our society’s humanity — the more we advance as human beings, the more we care for those who cannot help themselves.

As guardians of our pets, we the consumers have these rights:

  1. The Right to Independent Certification:
    A mandatory certification process for quality pet food as established by an independent board of experts with the power to de-certify any product or manufacturer. This organization must not be funded by the industry and must not have any conflicts of interest with manufacturers. Its role is to set a minimum or higher ingredient and nutritional guideline and to advance the cause of pet health and nutrition. Manufacturers can be certified if they meet this requirement, and must be inspected in a timely and regular basis. We believe that AAFCO does not have sufficient authority, staff, or independence to be relied upon.
  2. The Right to Accurate Labeling:
    What’s on the label should be what’s inside. Period. The manufacturer of the food itself must be clearly marked. Ingredients from other countries of origin must be clearly marked.
  3. The Right to Accountability:
    If a food is found liable for the death of a pet, the company responsible for marketing that brand of food must be held financially liable for economic and emotional damages.
  4. The Right to Fair Oversight:
    Pets and their guardians have the right to one governmental organization whose only constituent is the consumer and is accountable to the public. This organization must have the tools, willpower and support to prevent, monitor and publicize problems in pet food. Information it provides must be timely, accurate and disseminated to protect the interests of the consumer — not the industry. This organization must have the power to rapidly remove products that it deems to possess a significant risk of death or injury.

Signed,
Itchmo

If you have feedback, please let us know in the comments.

32 Responses to “Itchmo Opinion: The Right to Good Pet Food”

  1. Eric says:

    Now if you could get this implimented, that would excellent.

  2. Debbie4747 says:

    Reads very well with me. I hope it will get a good message across.

  3. susanUnPC says:

    Wow. Just wow. Powerful and concise. Way to go, Ben.

  4. Ann says:

    Most Excellent!!

  5. KatieKat says:

    GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. 4lgdfriend says:

    very nice: A mandatory certification process for quality pet food as established by an independent board of experts with the power to de-certify any product or manufacturer…..set a minimum or higher ingredient and nutritional guideline…must be inspected in a timely and regular basis…This organization must have the power to rapidly remove products that it deems to possess a significant risk of death or injury.
    Also the labelling.

    Who are the “nutritionists” ? What are the penalties? And how enforced? decertification and removal from shelves? How monitored and announced?

    GOOD!

  7. Karen says:

    Excellent!
    THANK YOU FOR YOUR EFFORTS!!!!!

  8. Cynthia says:

    I think this is great feedback for Senator Durbin’s office request. Thanks for posting it.

  9. Hope Wicken says:

    Great article. That would be amazing if we could get that passed. We should be able to protect our “furbabies” and it’s impossible when all the facts are not listed. I discontinued using Natural Balance when I found out that Rice Protein Concentrate was a fancy way of saying Rice Gluten. Keep up the good work .. we really need you.

  10. susanUnPC says:

    Thinking-out-loud ideas and questions:

    I wonder if leaders like Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins could help with #1.

    How would the independent certification be financed?

    Could the great group of blogs — Itchmo, Howl911, Pet Connection and others — band together and help create this independent certification body? Would ASPCA, HSUS, and other animal welfare groups help? Could we all pitch in financially to support it, set up its testing, reimburse its experts for their time and expenses — perhaps along with a grant that we could apply for?

  11. Donna says:

    Itchmo, what do you need for me to back you on this? My John Hancock? Name, rank and serial number? A little do-re-mi? Whatever you need, you got it. Be my voice, cuz I’m screaming here and no one hears me.

  12. blkcatgal says:

    Good job, Itchmo! Thank you for doing this.

  13. Gary says:

    Great, and I wish a compensation of pain and suffering of the animal even in a limited basis would be great. It would really force the manufacturer to be extra vigilent because of the financial liability possible.

  14. Therese says:

    Excellent, very well thought out and equally well worded. Thank you, Ben!

  15. karen says:

    hear, hear!! very well done and to the point!

  16. KatieKat says:

    susanUnPC..AWESOME ideas!

  17. sandi says:

    It sounds good, wait till the lobbyists get to him.

    Sandi

  18. Cheysuli says:

    A number of premium pet food makers do have independent certification on their foods. I think that #1 is completely possible.

    Food labelling becomes more difficult. Such standards as country of origin on products are not even required on human food labelling, although they should be. Perhaps a consumer’s rights on pet food would be a starting point.

    Great letter.

  19. dottie says:

    This is great! Thanks for all of the hard work you’ve put into it. How do we make it happen?

  20. 5CatMom says:

    Expressed clearly and with confidence - Morton S. Freeman could not have done better.

    Great work, Ben.

  21. Joan Steik says:

    Sending a bunch of (((HUGS))) to Ichmo and Ben. Thank you!

  22. Leslie Davison says:

    as a dog breeder/owner, and most of all ” guardian to my fir-children”
    i am convinced that these manufacturers and companies that have “misinformed us about their products” do not EVER DESERVE OUR BUSINESS NOW, AND IN THE FUTURE!
    for the “safe alternative pet food ” companies,,,,be aware that they have to ensure that this never happens to their pet food, as WE WILL BE MORE DILIGENT IN FINDING OUT WHAT WE FEED OUR PETS.
    everyone, buy this weeks “maclean magazine” dated april 30, the front cover of a pet with the large Heading ” THE REAL PET FOOD SCANDAL” is that any way to treat our best friends”?
    has solid information on this fiasco and who is responsible.

    Kindest Regards
    Leslie

  23. Jenny Barkley says:

    Love you, love you, love you. You said what my husband, myself, and all my pet loving friends believe should have always been done. The FDA & the AAFCO is a ugly bad joke, they will have to answer some day. We stand with you, if their is any way we can help you have are e-mail. We mean it. You will be in my prayers again tonight. THank-you.
    P.S. You can also tell them that pet lovers also vote, pay taxes, and will remember how our babies and ourselves have been treated and taken care of in our safe food America.

  24. pj0908 says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth! I would also like to know who all the unnamed are I keep reading about. They should be named and let me make my own decision.
    Thank you for all you have done for us here.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Hope - not that it matters, but for clarification - rice protein conc is not a fancy way to say rice gluten - rice does not contain gluten, so it is the accurate way to label (if it were labeled!) the rice protein source

  26. Kathy Hash says:

    In reading this blog and others I have noticed the terms “pet parents” and “pet guardians” being used through out, indicating an underlying animal rights agenda. Please keep in mind that the animal rights movement pressured the pet food industry to stop testing their products in the lab on live animals which could have prevented this tragedy in the first place.

    Speaking from a “guardian” perspective Itchmo is demanding rights instead of reform from Sen. Durbin. I believe this is the wrong approach.

    1. The Right to Independent Certification:
    A mandatory certification process for quality pet food as established by an independent board of experts with the power to de-certify any product or manufacturer. This organization must not be funded by the industry and must not have any conflicts of interest with manufacturers. Its role is to set a minimum or higher ingredient and nutritional guideline and to advance the cause of pet health and nutrition. Manufacturers can be certified if they meet this requirement, and must be inspected in a timely and regular basis. We believe that AAFCO does not have sufficient authority, staff, or independence to be relied upon.

    Why are we calling for board certified pet food? How can food be certified if it is not tested in a lab environment? Who is going to sit on this board, animal rights activists? We should be calling for mandatory testing giving the AAFCO the authority to do their job.

    2. The Right to Accurate Labeling:
    What’s on the label should be what’s inside. Period. The manufacturer of the food itself must be clearly marked. Ingredients from other countries of origin must be clearly marked.

    On this I agree. What is in the container needs to be accounted for on the ingredients list immediately not 6 months later. No more grace period to change the labels. When a new ingredient is added or changed, there needs to be sufficient lab testing before it is available to consumers. As has been pointed out country of origin is not even required on human food labeling so it doesn’t make sense to call for it on pet food.

    3. The Right to Accountability:
    If a food is found liable for the death of a pet, the company responsible for marketing that brand of food must be held financially liable for economic and emotional damages.

    This is an area where the animal rights movement hopes to plow new legal ground. The law views animals as property allowing those damaged by this tragedy the ability to recover expenses pertaining to the value of that animal and things such as vet bills. Allowing people to recover for the emotional value of the dog or cat sets a president for giving animals rights.

    4. The Right to Fair Oversight:
    Pets and their guardians have the right to one governmental organization whose only constituent is the consumer and is accountable to the public. This organization must have the tools, willpower and support to prevent, monitor and publicize problems in pet food. Information it provides must be timely, accurate and disseminated to protect the interests of the consumer — not the industry. This organization must have the power to rapidly remove products that it deems to possess a significant risk of death or injury.

    If not the FDA, what is the one governmental organization you are suggesting? Without mandatory product testing and proper labeling, the FDA did not have the tools necessary to protect the public. This needs to be changed with proper legislation and reform, not an animal rights agenda that is responsible for pressuring pet food manufacturers NOT to test in the lab, but to put untested products into the market place.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: Kathy, thanks for the well thought-out response. I am not sure why you think this is about animal rights — the rights that I suggest belong to the human beings as consumers as I outlined in the beginning. AAFCO has too many conflicts of interest to be independent, which is a key criteria in a system of checks and balances. As per accountability, emotional distress is a common human response to the loss of a close companion like a pet. It’s only fair that the human who suffered the loss be compensated correspondingly. Also, I disagree that lab-testing would have prevented this from happening. Lab testing was always conducted by Menu Foods and others. Human food is not tested on humans prior to sale. Lab testing is not a requirement to proper manufacturing of pet food. So far, it’s clear that the FDA is failing on many fronts, not just on protecting pet food, due to budget cuts and other limits. I am asking for one central agency in charge of all food safety, not several. I could not care what they are called, as long as they do their job. Hopefully, this addresses your concerns.

  27. Leslie Davison says:

    as a dog breeder/owner, and most of all ” guardian to my fur-children”
    i am convinced that these manufacturers and companies that have “misinformed us about their products” do not EVER DESERVE OUR BUSINESS NOW, AND IN THE FUTURE!
    for the “safe alternative pet food ” companies,,,,be aware that they have to ensure that this never happens to their pet food, as WE WILL BE MORE DILIGENT IN FINDING OUT WHAT WE FEED OUR PETS.
    everyone, buy this weeks “maclean magazine” dated april 30, the front cover of a pet with the large Heading ” THE REAL PET FOOD SCANDAL” is that any way to treat our best friends”?
    has solid information on this fiasco and who is responsible.

    Kindest Regards
    Leslie

  28. Carol says:

    WTG, Itchmo. Right on all counts.

    A first step could possibly be to require each manufacturer to have their products tested by an INDEPENDENT LAB, thoroughly tested and not just for %protein, %ash, %fiber, %moisture, etc. This would, I admit, be expensive. It’s been proven necessary. Let it come out of the salaries of the owners of the companies themselves. They were greedy and negligent. Let them bear the financial burden. This is not to let the FDA off the hook but to provide a first step in the remedy of our current situation.

    I know that some of the producers of dog and cat food are innocent of recent tainted ingredients being added to their foods. I don’t mean to punish them in my proposal but rather to give them a mandate to insure the products are safe for us in the future also.

    Our Jake, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, ate his first home cooked dinner last night and loved it. No ill effects tummy wise, either. I’m still in process of due diligence to make his food complete and balanced while hoping that I can return to dry kibble, which I think is better in the long run for his teeth. There were NO problems at all reported regarding the company we buy his food from. They own their own plant for their dry food and will build or buy a canning facility in the wake of this Menu foods disaster. I simply want more safeguards in place.

    As a matter of fact, I’d like more safeguards for our human food. For that we must turn to the FDA and make ourselves heard. Many of the dog food companies do use human grade ingredients, so that would also go a long way towards giving us safe manufactured dog foods products to select from.

    Itchmo, thank you for all your very hard work and a job well done,
    Carol

  29. Barbara says:

    Itchmo,
    Thanks for doing such a great job. I agree 100%. This whole thing has gotten completly out of hand. The news media seems to have pushed this under the table like it doesn’t mean anything. People who do not have computers have no idea what is really going on.

  30. Kathy Hash says:

    ITCHMO ADMIN: I am not sure why you think this is about animal rights —

    Using the terms pet guardians and pet parents instead of owners.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: AAFCO has too many conflicts of interest to be independent, which is a key criteria in a system of checks and balances.

    Please explain the conflicts.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: As per accountability, emotional distress is a common human response to the loss of a close companion like a pet. It’s only fair that the human who suffered the loss be compensated correspondingly.

    I believe it is dangerous ground. Just because it is a common human response does not mean it should set a legal president.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: Also, I disagree that lab-testing would have prevented this from happening. Lab testing was always conducted by Menu Foods and others.

    Lab testing is done discriminately. It is not mandated to be done when ingredients or foreign suppliers change. It needs to be done and results reported to the FDA prior to retail.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: Lab testing is not a requirement to proper manufacturing of pet food.

    It should be.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: I am asking for one central agency in charge of all food safety, not several. I could not care what they are called, as long as they do their job. Hopefully, this addresses your concerns.

    Again, who do you suggest? The USDA

  31. Lorraine says:

    … I know fertilizers are only tested for ingredients claimed to be in them on the label and is not required to list other ingredients … does pet food have similar testing? - and not have to test if there are any ingredients other than those listed on the labels … this has always been a concern of mine … yes, I am suspicious and cynical …anyone who has a pet or ever been exposed to legal language should be … words that we think we know the meaning of may not have that meaning legally … ingredients in pet and human foods have many names - ask anyone with sensitivity to msg … labeling has given us a false sense of security… all those pet foods met the nutritional requirements set out by law, with the unstated side effect of sickness and death.

  32. Elaine Vigneault says:

    Regarding testing: The melamine crystals are visible to the human eye. If ANYONE had inspected the contaminated wheat gluten, they would have noticed it. No one needed to test on animals to see.


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