Archive for March, 2009

31st Mar 2009

Recall of Salmonella-Contaminated Pistachios

Salmonella-contaminated pistachios are being recalled in the US. Four different strains of salmonella were found on roasted pistachios shipped for processing in a variety of products. The pistachios are being voluntarily recalled by Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., in Terra Bella, California (an affiliate of Setton International Foods Inc.).

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

16th Mar 2009

Emergency Help for Rats with Respiratory Problems

The following is a technique my husband picked up at the Neonatal Care Unit. We have applied it with great success to our rescued rats when they are in respiratory distress or during gasping attacks .

- Take the animal and hold her gently in a comfortable position with one hand.
- Tap with the tips of two (or three) fingers hard (but not too hard) on her ribcage on the
sides of her body, directly above the lungs. You should faintly hear the tapping sounds.
- Alternate tapping on both of her sides.
- Make a short break.
- Repeat for a couple of minutes or until the rat gets restless.
- Reward with kisses, petting and/or a special treat.

Our rats really respond well to this emergency intervention.

We apply this treatment also when acute gasping attacks are not an issue to relieve respiratory distress (i.e., when we hear that fluids have accumulated in the lungs).

You can do this anytime, when you watch a movie, when you sit still, or on your trip to your veterinarian – whenever you have both hands free to help your pet.

This is a temporary solution only; you have to consult your veterinarian to learn how to best resolve the underlying problem.

Aside from being a supportive or an emergency intervention, this simple treatment can help tighten the bond between you and your pet. Our rats usually enjoy it and start licking our hands soon after we start with this procedure. They really don’t seem to get tired of it.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Home Remedies & News Bits Comments Comments Off

16th Mar 2009

Food Safety Modernization Bill

This is a link to a new bill to better protect the safety of our foods:

This bill is under review by the House and Senate now. The link refers to the House bill.

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

12th Mar 2009

Complete or Balanced Pet Foods – Does Supplementation Make Them Nutritionally Adequate?

Almost all of the so-called ‘balanced’ or ‘complete’ pet foods are supplemented with isolated nutrients (particularly vitamins, amino acids, and minerals) to achieve measured levels of nutrients mandated for particular species by the National Research Council (NRC). These levels are required if a given manufacturer wishes to display the coveted “Meets AAFCO”s standards” (Association of American Feed Control Officials) claim on marketing materials and product labels.

No one doubts the need to provide pets with ample nutrients to keep them healthy. There is also no doubt that supplementation of pet foods with nutrients is necessary if the natural nutrients in the ingredients are devitalized during the manufacturing process by high heat (e.g., extrusion, canning, cooking) or if the used ingredients are of low nutritional value to begin with. But several problems are associated with the current practice of adding isolated nutrients rather than nutrients that occur naturally in whole foods. Below is a list of some of these problems.

1. Most of the nutrient supplements used by the pet food industry are of questionable quality.
Since most of these supplements are synthesized in chemistry labs, contamination during manufacture can be a problem, and actual potency may be questionable.

2. Isolated nutrients often work differently than their natural food-borne counterparts.
Isolated nutrients may be more or less potent—or bioavailable—or they may simply work differently than nutrients in their natural context. For example, isolated calcium supplements may actually cause health problems if given in excess or in the absence of nutrients that are required for proper calcium absorption or excretion; whereas calcium occurring naturally in food is easily absorbed and can be excreted if consumed in excess.

3. Feeding a ‘balanced’ or ‘complete’ diet that is supplemented with isolated nutrients gives pet owners a false sense of security and comfort—largely unsubstantiated—that this food offers everything that an animal needs to thrive.
Instead of feeding a variety of high quality foods with a wide spectrum of natural nutrients, offering so-called ‘complete’ or ‘balanced’ foods exclusively often leads to nutritional deficiencies or even chronic diseases. As a result, health problems can often appear as early as young [just post-puppy] adulthood.

4. Supplementing low quality ingredients (e.g., ingredients that are potentially allergenic, unhealthy, or devitalized by heat) with isolated nutrients cannot prevent the onset of diseases associated with poor quality and insufficient levels of appropriate basic food ingredients.

5. Despite the fact that most pets in industrialized countries are fed heavily supplemented ‘balanced’ or ‘complete’ diets, the frequency of diet-related disorders has increased considerably among these pet populations.
If the promise of these supplemented ‘complete’ or ‘balanced’ diets were actually being fulfilled, wouldn’t most animals fed these foods be dying of old age, rather than succumbing to one or more of now all-too-common chronic disorders such as arthritis, allergies, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease, to name just a few?

So what’s a good alternative to the ubiquitous artificially supplemented ‘complete’ and ‘balanced’ diets?
Well, quite simply, the best diet you can offer your animal companion would include a variety of real whole foods that are known to be compatible with the needs of his or her particular species. Using high quality real whole food ingredients that contain nutrients in their natural context should do the trick.

So, why isn’t this common practice? The answer is obvious; it’s much more costly and time- and labor-intensive to formulate and produce foods from expensive, high-quality, ingredients in a manner that ensures nutrient levels that meet NRC standards.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Regulations Comments 1 Comment »

10th Mar 2009

Organic Pet Foods

Anyone who considers his or her pet a part of the family knows how hard it is to pick a good pet food from the overstocked displays at their favorite neighborhood or online pet supply store. At first glance, it seems like one has a myriad of great choices—that is, until you actually read the fine print and begin to understand what label terms mean and wonder which claims to trust.

If you’re reading this, you probably know about the benefits of organic products (e.g., healthier, more nutrient-dense, less agricultural and other synthetic chemical residues and toxins), and it’s likely that you restrict your survey of various products to organic pet foods. Nevertheless, it’s probably difficult for you to discriminate between marketing fiction and labeling facts, even in this pet food category. Such confusion is understandable, given the general lack of regulations that allows the abuse of descriptive terms for pet food ingredients in general and organic pet food ingredients in particular.

The law
Currently in the pet food industry, only USDA certified organic claims are regulated and enforced by U.S. law. All other non-certified organic claims are not regulated or enforced by the U.S. government and therefore may or may not be true, as they have not been verified by an unbiased third-party. As a State compliance officer at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) wrote in 2008: It is buyer beware of any pet food product that does not show that it is certified by one of the National Organic Program (NOP) certification agents.”

At present, USDA organic certification for pet foods follows the NOP standards set for human food products. However, new organic pet food policies are being developed which will likely—and unfortunately— water down these standards to the point where they will be not much better than those set for organic livestock feeds, setting the bar very low indeed.

Specifically, these new standards will probably allow the inclusion of more synthetics in USDA certified organic pet foods than are currently permitted in the so-called ‘National List’ of allowed non-organic ingredients and manufacturing processes (details of may be viewed at (

The organic certification process
The organic certification process for a given organic pet food manufacturer includes a review of all products made by that company, organic certificates for every ingredient used, and non-GMO (genetically modified organism) statements for every ingredient used, where applicable, as well as regularly scheduled inspections of the production facility.

Organic certification and ingredients
All ingredients included in any USDA certified organic pet food must be fully traceable back to their origins. This is critically important in any cases of pet food recalls that may arise. This requirement automatically prohibits the use of any ill-defined pet food ingredients, such as so-called ‘rendered’ ingredients, fish meals, or generic animal fats which can’t even be traced to individual source species, let alone their origins.

Organic certification verifies pet food claims
Organic certification through an unbiased USDA-accredited certifying agency is also the consumer’s best assurance that all ingredients are fully disclosed and that the manufacturing site is free of the toxic chemicals that are commonly used in both non-certified organic pet food and human food manufacturing facilities alike. In general, this certification is the only credible verification for the claims that are often made by pet food companies (i.e., ‘organic,’ ‘antibiotic-free,’ ‘hormone-free,’ ‘no GMOs,’ ‘no by-products,’ etc.).

The future of the organic certification standards for pet foods
Although some less desirable synthetic ingredients will probably be included in the ‘National List’ that is now being developed in connection with the planned organic pet food policies, both current and future standards will guarantee that claims made about USDA certified organic pet foods are true. Fortunately, pet food manufacturers will be able to choose not to include any synthetic ingredients, even if they will be allowed to do so under the law. Exclusion of such ingredients will certainly be another worthwhile label claim to look out for in the future.

Categories of certified organic pet food products
Use of the USDA organic seal is reserved for certified organic products containing at least 95% of certified organic ingredients; conventional ingredients cannot be used in this class of USDA certified organic products if organic versions are currently available. Pet food products that contain at least 70%, but less than 95%, organic ingredients cannot display the USDA organic seal; however, they can carry the label, ‘made with organic ingredients’ and, as in the case of products containing more than 95% organic ingredients, they must disclose the organic certifier which assured that the listed organic ingredients are indeed organic and that the chosen processing methods comply with current standards, as well as that the products do not contain any GMO ingredients. Among the better known of these organic certifiers are Quality Assurance International (QAI), California Certified Organic Famers (CCOF), and Oregon Tilth (OTCO).

Certified organic pet foods are also ”green”
USDA certified organic pet foods are not only healthier and intrinsically safer for your pet, they are also the only ones that are currently considered to be ‘green,’ i.e., supportive of sustainable and ecologically balanced manufacturing practices. A Green Seal certifying agent confirmed in May 2008 that, USDA organic certification is the best and most credible label for pet and human food products, also in respect to any green claims.” Green Seal is a third-party certifier that uses stringent processes to verify green claims. Due to the availability of a rigorous organic certification process through the USDA, Green Seal currently does not have any standards, either in place now or planned for the future, to certify food products for both humans and pets.

What does this all mean for consumers and the pet food industry?
So, the next time, you’re looking for a good pet food product for your animal companion, play it safe and choose one that’s USDA certified organic. Not only will you support your pet’s health, you’ll also help protect the health of our environment. Moreover, when you make this choice, you won’t be supporting unethical pet food manufacturers that routinely use false claims to the maximum extent allowed by law to push sales of their inferior products.

P.S.: An OTA (Organic Trade Association) or Green America (formerly ‘Coop America’) membership does not guarantee that a given pet food is either USDA certified organic or green.

P.P.S.: Onesta Organics is the first both certified organic and ”green approved” (i.e., approved by Green America, formerly ”Coop America”) pet food manufacturer in the USA.

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