Archive for December, 2008

21st Dec 2008

Pet Food Claims: Organic Pet Food, Green Pet Food

Currently, only certified organic pet foods are regulated and enforced by the US government. All other (non-certified) organic claims are not regulated or verified by an unbiased 3rd party and may therefore be true or false. Since non-certified organic claims are not enforced by US law, they are frequently abused by pet food manufacturers and pet supply retailers.

Many pet food manufacturers, which omit the most obvious unhealthful pet ‘food ingredients,’ use the term ‘natural’ to describe their products. However, ‘natural’ is another term that is not defined, regulated or enforced by US law.

Lack of regulations has allowed some pet food companies to take their marketing campaigns a few steps beyond the natural claim.

When ‘organic’ became trendy, these companies called their products ‘organic’ even if their products contained at most a small fraction of organic ingredients, if any at all. Organic ingredients are more expensive which explains why organic pet food products are higher-priced than conventional ones. However, if a pet food is not certified organic, one can never be sure if organic claims are true, or if one pays more for a ‘placebo organic’ pet food.

Last year, ‘green’ went main stream because consumers want to do the right thing and are willing to pay more for green products. What is the reaction of several pet food companies? They now call their conventional products ‘green!’ If you are lucky, they might package their conventional pet foods now in recycled boxes – which most likely are imported cheaply from China.

WHY CAN THIS HAPPEN?

1. The government doesn’t do a good job. It doesn’t regulate the terms which consumers use to make buying decisions. This way, consumers can be tricked into buying something they believe to be healthy or sustainable. Lack of government regulation and a stance that the market will regulate itself does not work in the long run, but it inhibits the true organic and green movement.

2. Media are swallowing claims, hook, line, and sinker, from companies with the biggest advertising budgets. Being a zoologist, this always reminds me of a mother bird which feeds the hatchling that opens its mouth the widest most. Some TV programs, newspapers, websites from non-for profit pet organizations, pet magazines, and even some ‘pet food experts,’ spread false information about pet food regulations, products and companies, because they obviously don’t do their research well.

3. Some organic and green organizations, which the public considers as unbiased, list non-certified organic pet food companies along with certified organic pet food companies. Many of these organizations require a membership fee or accept advertising money from pet food companies. Most of these organizations have no or no thorough, screening process for the companies which they accept as members or which they endorse. Indiscriminative listings, where organic/green pretenders are named next to companies which are verifiably (i.e., certified) organic and green, do not support the green or organic movement. However, consumers assume that the companies were carefully screened before being listed in these directories or before being permitted to use these organizations’ seals. Shoppers aren’t aware that non-certified organic and green marketing claims can presently actually be bought by pet food manufacturers which cannot get their products certified organic.

THE FACTS

1. Only certified organic pet food products follow the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations set by the USDA. Currently, organic certification of pet foods follows the NOP regulations exactly as they apply to certified organic foods for human consumption. All other (non-certified) organic pet food claims are unregulated and unsubstantiated.

2. A State compliance officer at CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) stated in an email to me: “It is buyer be ware of any pet food product that does not show that it is certified by one of the NOP certification agents.”

3. Green Seal told me: “USDA organic certification is the best and most credible label for pet and human food products, also in respect to any green claims.”

THE SOLUTION

Until government regulations and reliable information through the media catch up, consumers have to educate themselves. They have to look beyond the flashy headlines and ads in magazines, on TV, and websites which often don’t reflect the true quality of the promoted companies and products.

Quote from a green Austrianopithecus: “Even if a lie is repeated 1000-s of times, it does not make it true.”

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off

20th Dec 2008

Advantages of Organic Raw Pet Foods

Depending on the processing methods employed to produce them, commercial pet foods fall into one or the other of the following two categories: heat-treated and raw.

Devitalized pet foods:
So-called ‘heat-treated’ pet foods are processed using all-too-often excessive levels of heat. These foods are baked, cooked (canned), extruded, or heat-dried (often the case with kibble- or pellet-type pet foods). Diets based on such heat-treated pet foods are probably the least desirable in terms of maintaining the health and general well being of most animals.

Heat treatment (canned, baked, most extruded kibble or pellet food):
Heat processing of food destroys all enzymes, many vitamins and antioxidants, and changes the molecular structure of proteins and even fibers. Attempts to replace nutrients that have been destroyed by heat with supplementary—and predominantly synthetic—nutrients can never compare nutritionally with the benefits and quality of natural, minimally treated nutrients. At present, there is no way to replace structurally altered fibers or denatured proteins. These alterations make heat-processed foods and their constituent nutrients less bio-available or beneficial, and certainly less effective in maintaining health, preventing disease, and helping the healing processes that normally follow injury. Structurally altered pet foods may actually contribute to health problems (e.g., food allergies or inflammation).

AAFCO nutrient requirements:
Devitalized pet foods require supplementation with minerals and vitamins to provide at least some nutrients. Mineral and vitamin supplementation is often used to comply with the American Feed Control official standards for balanced or complete diets. However, these standards can’t possibly reflect the actual nutritional requirements of every domestic animal species. Accordingly, Dr. Junger believes that animals should eat a variety of foods that provide a broad spectrum of natural nutrients. If animals are fed a variety of quality foods to begin with, targeted and individualized supplementation with select high quality products can then be used to support good health at different life stages, to prevent age-related deficiencies, or to promote healing after injuries.

Raw pet foods:
Today, with the availability of raw pet food options, consumers and their pets have good diet options. The best raw pet foods are fresh, consisting of raw animal products, plant material, or a combination of the two. Frozen raw pet foods are often a more convenient choice. If fresh or frozen raw foods aren’t available, dehydrated raw foods are a good second choice. The advantage of these dehydrated foods is that they can be stored easily for longer periods of time with little mess and no worry about short-term spoilage.

Dehydrated pet foods:
In terms of nutritional quality, not all dehydrated raw pet food products are the same. Apart from the ingredients used, the quality of this variety of raw pet food depends largely on the temperatures to which their ingredients were exposed during the dehydration process. Dr. Junger’s company, Onesta Organics, uses a truly gentle and slow dehydration process that preserves overall nutritional quality. Customers should be aware that some companies market their pet foods as ”dehydrated” or ”raw” even if they use a mixture of dehydrated and previously cooked ingredients.

Highest quality raw pet foods:
As with all pet food products, an important determinant of quality is the choice of ingredients used by manufacturers. Onesta Organics uses only human grade ingredients that are certified organic by a USDA-accredited organic certifying agency. This assures that the ingredients used are verifiably organic. USDA organic certification also ensures that Onesta Organics products are free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), hormones, and antibiotics, and that no potentially toxic or otherwise unhealthy synthetics are added to your pet’s food. It also means that all ingredients used are traceable back to their original source. Such sourcing is impossible in the case of conventional pet food manufacturers. Unlike the products of companies which state that their pet food is organic—and, in some cases, might even claim GMO-, hormone-, and antibiotic-free status—only USDA certified organic pet foods are inspected and scrutinized by an independent third party, which assures that all claims made are indeed true. Aside from the fact that Onesta Organics uses healthful, certified organic ingredients in their raw pet foods, unlike other pet food manufacturers, this company sees no point in adding ingredients that are known to be highly allergenic to its pet food products.

Conclusion:
The folks at Onesta Organics believe that USDA certified organic, raw pet foods are among the healthiest choices for your pet. Moreover, it’s critically important for pet owners to provide their animals with a wide variety of food choices. In most cases, such a broad-spectrum feeding approach will minimize, or perhaps even negate, the possibility of the kinds of nutritional deficiencies and chronic diseases in pets we hear about all too often these days.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off

20th Dec 2008

Green Pet Food Claims

According to common sense and a Green Seal employee who wrote to me in 2008: “USDA organic certification is the best and most credible label for pet and human food products, also in respect to any green claims.”

CAUTION: Currently only *certified organic* pet food claims are regulated and enforced by the US government. All other (non-certified) organic pet food claims are not verified by an unbiased party and can be abused for marketing purposes.

You don’t have to believe me ……

A State compliance officer at CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) wrote to me in 2008: “It is buyer be ware of any pet food product that does not show that it is certified by one of the NOP certification agents.

Currently, Onesta Organics is the ONLY both certified organic and green (Coop America approved) pet food company in the USA.

Quote from a green Austrianopithecus: A “green” box made in China for a conventional pet food product makes neither the pet food nor its manufacturer green.”

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic and Green Pet Foods Comments Comments Off

20th Dec 2008

Sourcing of Pet Food Ingredients

Food ingredients:
I know that most organic (even human-grade) food ingredients are imported to the US but not many pet food manufacturers will tell you that. Although I did not yet hear that any organic ingredient from China was tainted, I am not sure how good the oversight over organic farming is in this country. However, there is certainly a lot of energy wasted transporting these foods, which could easily be grown here, to the USA.

Supplements:
Aside from ”obvious” tainted or even toxic (e.g., ”high-protein” gluten, cyanuric acid in wheat flour) pet food ingredients, China probably supplies almost all (or all?) of the ”supplements” which many pet food manufacturers add to their pet foods. I have seen pure ”pharmaceutical-grade” chemicals sold for research purposes that are ”Made in China” (printed in very, very small font on the vial).

This supplementation of pet foods is required by law to be able to market pet foods ”nutritionally balanced” or ”complete” (these are the foods with the desired AAFCO statement on the package), but it is actually necessary to provide at least some nutrients to devitalized over-processed pet foods. However, how many undetectable or still undetected toxins does supplementation with low-quality vitamin and mineral preparations add to already mostly questionable ingredients?

What I”d like:
1) More sincere support for organic agriculture in the US. This which would decrease pollution, waste of natural resources (e.g., petroleum-based agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers, water), enhance health, provide local jobs.

2) Meaningful regulations and more oversight in the US pet food industry. E.g., only certified organic claims are currently regulated by the US government, all other organic claims aren”t and need not be verified, so with non-certified organic pet foods, you never know if you get organic when you buy organic.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off