In the recent JAVMA May 2015, there was an article regarding what is listed on the pet food label and what is actually in the food when tested. I was a bit shocked by the findings, however I am not surprised that there may be some degree of cross-contamination in pet food facilities (much like the label on human foods that states “made in a facility that processes peanuts.”)
However, according to the JAVMA article, “about 40 percent of dog and cat foods tested in a recent study (Food Control 2015; 50: 9-17), may have contained meats different from those listed on the product labels.” WOW! 40 percent is a huge number! The tests conducted by this study were based on DNA results of the animal products found in the pet foods. Another reference was published by Laura Allred, PhD, who showed in her 2012 study that via ELISA testing 10 out of 21 commercial dog foods contained species that were not declared on the label or WERE MISSING SPECIES THAT WERE DECLARED! That’s right, that bag of dog food with chicken listed as the second ingredient may not even contain any chicken. To me, that is by far the worst.
What is the significance of this you may ask? Well, it may not be a huge issue if a pet gets a little bit of chicken, etc. even if it isn’t listed on the label, UNLESS that pet has a food allergy. We feed our own dogs limited ingredient diets although they don’t have food allergies, but we pay around $80 for a bag of dog food. That is a lot for a bag of food, and yes I expect what is listed on the bag to actually BE IN THE BAG! Apparently, the whole “you get what you pay for” scenario may not apply here.
The article does not list specific brands of food, and I will not go into my own opinion on food brands here, but I do hope that these findings will shed some light onto the deception that is occurring, even if it is not intentional. Better quality control should be occurring. The FDA focuses more on safety of products (don’t get me started on this either), so that while the system is supposed to ensure that the ingredients in the food are safe, the regulations of enforcing that what is actually in the food is matching the label falls to the wayside. So the food may be supposedly safe, but it is considered “food fraud,” according to John W. Spink, PhD, the director of the Food Fraud Initiative at Michigan State University.
Out of all type of food tested (dry food, treats, and wet food), wet food had the most added AND missing ingredients. It would be impossible to test DNA samples on every product, but perhaps in the future, the standards will be set higher to have better quality control.