In a bid to regain consumer confidence after the massive pet food recalls, Natural Balance will allow consumers to look up test results on all batches of their dog and cat food on their website. The new service was unveiled Sunday. (Lab staff pictured at right.)
Consumers will be able to go to the Natural Balance website, select a dog or cat food formula and enter the expiration date code to see the test results. When we talked with Natural Balance last week, the test results were being uploaded and not every batch was available. Each batch is indicated by the Best By date printed on the packaging.
Currently, the Los Angeles-area based company tests for melamine, cyanuric acid, aflatoxin and vomitoxin at their in-house lab and through Midwest Laboratories. The test result indicates whether that batch showed positive or negative for each of the four toxins. The test results we saw only showed no toxins detected, so we don’t know what a positive toxin finding will look like.
Testing foods is not a guarantee that consumers will react positively to the new batches of food. Some consumers have expressed doubt about the independence of in-house labs in the past and many have turned to testing their pet food samples on their own. And because the testing is based on toxins previously found in pet food, it will not detect future threats that are currently not on the radar. Melamine and cyanuric acid was not identified as a likely threat to cats and dogs until well after Menu Foods fed the food samples to pets, leading to their deaths, in laboratory animal tests.
Natural Balance CEO Joey Herrick told Itchmo that he is spending more than $500,000 to test all future products sold by his company. Natural Balance has created a lab, purchased testing equipment and hired two full-time lab staff to run their tests. Some companies have published individual test results based on consumer feedback, but this is the first case that we know of where a pet food company is systematically publishing all of its test results.
Herrick said that Natural Balance is holding its shipments from the manufacturers until the tests have cleared every batch. American Nutrition, Chenango Valley Pet Foods and Diamond Pet Foods manufactures and/or packages foods sold under the Natural Balance label. All three manufacturers were affected by the pet food recalls due to tainted rice protein concentrate or wheat gluten.
Natural Balance does not yet test for acetaminophen. “We will test for acetaminophen and other toxins in the future,” said Herrick. He added that adding each test takes time and money, but he was willing to do so “in order to sleep at night.”
Natural Balance was recently named as a defendant in a class-action lawsuit. Herrick maintains that he has paid all veterinary claims filed against the company.
Herrick says that the investment his company made in testing the pet foods will take more than five years to recoup.