Archive for August, 2009

13th Aug 2009

Animals are Amazing – An Elephant Artist

Please visit this amazing video of an elephant painting her self portrait. You can purchase prints of this wonderful elephant art and support the people caring for these animals on the fair trade website which put up this video.

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

11th Aug 2009

The Pet Obesity Epidemic

Obesity has become an obvious problem for humans and their pets in most industrialized countries. Even skeptics can’t argue that most weight problems are caused by inappropriate nutrition, mostly a combination of too high caloric intake for the individual’s activity level.

A study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that nearly half of the dogs and cats in the US are overweight or obese. The specific numbers in their 2008 study shows that 44% of dogs and 57% of cats in the US are estimated to be overweight or obese with an annual increase of 1% and 4% respectively. Obesity rates were found to be 18% in cats and 10% in dogs. Here is the copy of the 2007 National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study.

Weight-related disorders seem to be more frequent in smaller breeds such as Chihuahuas, Dachshund, or Yorkshire terriers than large-sized breeds. Low activity levels of pets with low activity levels (e.g., indoor living).

Obesity-related Health Risks
Excess fat doesn’t only make your pet look plump and pudgy – it affects his health as well. The most common health risks are diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, respiratory problems, tumors and cancers. These diseases compromise a pet’s quality of life and longevity.

The Solution
Since excess glucose is stored in fat, pet guardians should select foods which are low in glucose (which is also the main component in honey) and simple carbohydrates (e.g., refined flours). If you buy commercial convenience pet foods or treats you should read the label carefully and consider your pet’s nutritional needs, total caloric intake, and exercise level, when deciding what and how much to feed to your pet.

P.S.: What about Honey?
Although honey has become a popular ingredient in premium’ or ‘holisticpet food products, few pet guardians may know that honey contains 23-41% glucose and 31-44% fructose. While it is already general knowledge that glucose is a primary player in both obesity and diabetes, it is less known that excess dietary fructose also increases the risk of several diseases including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney stones.(1) Fructose is metabolized by the liver and produces excessive amounts of triglycerides, a blood fat which can also interfere with insulin signaling in the brain thereby affecting brain cell survival, plasticity, and memory (Georgia State University, University of Waterloo). Unlike high-fructose containing sweeteners such as corn syrup and honey, fruits have not been linked to these health problems.

(1) Indian J Biochem Biophys 2009 46(1):66-72.

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

01st Aug 2009

Which Pet Food Claims are Regulated and Enforced?

There are a number of pet food claims which are frequently used but aren’t defined, regulated or enforced by law. This means that they can be used without problems by anybody for any pet food products.

Here are the currently most popular ones among of them:

And here is one claim that is verified by somebody who is not involved in a pet food’s manufacturing and marketing:
Certified organic

Isn’t that strange, that the terms mentioned above are so frequently used to describe pet foods while so little exists to back these claims up?

Additional claims which aren”t verified except when a pet food is certified organic are:
Hormone-free – as in ”hormone-free chicken”
Antibiotic-free – as in ”antibiotic-free meats”
GMO-free – as in ”GMO-free produce”

The really good news is that certified organic pet food claims are as heavily regulated and enforced as those for certified organic foods for human consumption.

The bad news is that many consumers aren’t aware that ‘organic’ pet food claims are different from ‘certified organic’ pet food claims. ”Organic’ pet food claims are simply not regulated or enforced by the US government, only ‘certified organic’ ones are.

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.” (*NOP stands for National Organic Program, the standards which certified organic products have to follow).

I am disappointed that the government doesn’t correct the problem although they are aware of it. However, I am confident that this will change eventually which will protect both the consumer from deceptive claims and support the true organic movement.

The beauty of organic certification is its quality, transparency, and verifiable truthfulness in marketing and disclosure.

Additionally it is, according to Green Seal and common sense, “the most credible label for human and pet foods, also in respect to any green claims”.

So, here you have it: If you want a pet food product that is what the manufacturer claims it to be, and one that is also ‘green,’ you are best off choosing a certified organic product. A ”conventional” (non-certified organic) pet food product in an ”environmentally-friendly” packaging, which most likely was imported from China, simply doesn”t cut it…

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

01st Aug 2009

Which Pet Food Claims are Verified by an Independent Third-Party?

An USDA-accredited organic certification agency (i.e., the independent third-party) verifies the following claims (none of these claims can be verified for non-certified organic pet food products):

1. Organic status of ingredients
2. Sourcing of ingredients (e.g., countries of origin, human-grade vs. feed-grade quality)
3. Qualities of ingredients (e.g., antibiotic-free, hormone-free, GMO-free)
4. Omission of toxic synthetics during growing and handling of ingredients (e.g., no use of synthetic pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics, or hormones)
5. Omission of toxic synthetics during the manufacture and storage of pet food product (e.g., sanitizers, pesticides)
6. Processing details (e.g., what temperatures are used during dehydration)

The organic certifier has access to all of the records of the manufacturing facility and of every single production batch. These records have to be available for re-inspection if necessary for 5 years.

Nobody can guarantee any of the claims listed above for non-certified organic pet food products, because records do not have to be disclosed to anybody who is not associated with the pet food company.

You may see that organic certification of pet food products substantiates a manufacturer’s claims by demanding full disclosure of all records. Organic certification agencies also inspect a certified organic pet food manufacturer’s marketing materials and product packaging information to ensure that the manufacturer’s product descriptions are truthful.

From my experience as a certified organic pet food manufacturer who routinely compares pet food products and claims, I can attest to the fact that organic certification provides the tightest regulatory oversight in the pet food industry. I am sure every manufacturer of certified organic pet food products will agree with me.

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