A Discussion Of FDA Disparity in Raw vs. Dry Pet Food Safety

This week we had to tell our customers about another voluntary recall of raw pet food. The Rad Cat Company was notified by the FDA and the Ohio Department of Agriculture after several tubs of multiple varieties of Rad Cat Raw Diet were purchased and tested. All samples tested negative for E. Coli and Salmonella but two tested positive for Listeria Monocytogenes.

Outdoor cats likely encounter Listeria frequently, as Listeria is a common presence in nature, found widely in such places as water and soil, leafy vegetables and animal products. It could however be a danger to some animals who eat it, and especially to the people that might handle the food without washing their hands or the surfaces exposed to it after feeding it.

We believe Rad Cat when they say that their third party inspections have come back clean. We’ve been in their kitchens and have never seen a facility so tightly controlled for cleanliness and safety. Their sourcing is impeccable. They use High Pressure Pasteurization to kill any bacteria that might be found on the poultry products before they are processed into their formulas, and they test the finished product with a third party lab, doing a full aerobic plate count. They then hold the food for a time before shipping it and it is tested again before releasing it to the distributor. The temperature is controlled through every step of its journey and even tested here at the store upon receipt to ensure that it was maintained as it traveled to us. More details here. If only our human foods were handled and controlled for safety as strictly as the foods made at Rad Cat! We feed it with confidence to Otis, our senior cat. If I were pressed to name my favorite of the more than 4,500 items we carry, Rad Cat would be in my top two.

It might be an opportune time to mention our frustration with the disparity between how the FDA treats raw foods vs. how they treat other pet foods like kibble.
Raw food is under intense scrutiny, but the facts point to a significant lack of scrutiny towards kibble based foods, despite the fact that in past years dry food recalls have far outpaced raw food recalls, and the most significant recalls, complaints of illnesses, and death have all resulted from contaminated dry pet foods.

A Few Examples:
Over 100 dogs died in 2005 from aflatoxin Poisoning (a very dangerous, carcinogenic grain mold, most commonly found in corn but is also possible in ingredients like peas). Surveys done in 2016 show that aflatoxin has been found in higher amounts than ever (A total of 387 corn samples and 79 distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) samples from across the U.S. were tested. Results revealed that 90 percent of corn samples and 100 percent of DDGS samples were contaminated by at least one mycotoxin, and 96 percent of the DDGS samples contained more than one), yet there have been no aflatoxin recalls since 2013. We must assume that FDA must not be testing regularly for aflatoxins.

Judging from the number of recalls for Salmonella in raw foods, it

would lead you to believe that there is a significant risk of salmonella in raw foods, and in fact the FDA even issued a warning about the risks of salmonella in raw pet food. However, from 2010 – 2015, 78 types of kibble pet food were recalled due to salmonella contamination, vs. 27 for raw foods. What this number doesn’t even capture is the sheer quantity of kibble that was recalled during this time, vs. raw foods with single lot numbers/single flavors. In the 2013 the Natura recall was massive – millions of pounds – and included all of its many formulas including treats (“All Lot Codes, All UPC’s, All package sizes, All expiration dates”). The recall for salmonella in the Diamond foods that were produced at their South Carolina Plant in 2012 resulted in the recall of all of their brands and stopped ALL production for a time. The Taste of the Wild part of this recall alone resulted in over 10 million pounds of food being pulled from store shelves.

No Warnings About Dry Foods
Neither the FDA or the AVMA has ever issued a formal warning about the risk of salmonella in all pet foods. In fact, the same week that the AVMA issued a warning to consumers about the risk of salmonella in raw pet foods, there were (according to the CDC) a total of 49 individuals (47 individuals in 20 states and two individuals in Canada) infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis related to this salmonella recall at Diamond foods. This included at least 10 people hospitalized. The FDA has announced regular testing for raw foods, but not for dry pet foods. In fact, they have not appeared to test any dry pet foods recently, as there have been no salmonella recalls for dry pet food since 2015, which is in stark contrast to many years before this time.

A class action suit was dropped against Beneful in 2016 stating, “The Court rejects Plaintiffs’ position that a reasonable jury could find Beneful unsafe based on the mere fact that 1,400 dogs ate Beneful and got sick or died thereafter. This is insufficient evidence of causation.” So many complaints of illness and death had been reported by Beneful consumers to the FDA that they did do some testing. Some samples came back positive for Melamine (the same thing found in that terrible 2007 recall that resulted in hundreds, possibly thousands of deaths), and some samples came back positive for ethoxyquin, a euthanasia drug so recently implicated in that Evanger’s recall that killed a dog. Beneful also refused access to the FDA to records and didn’t allow them to photograph their manufacturing plant. Yet the FDA did not issue any warning nor was there any sort of a recall. Can you imagine a brand of raw food with 1,400 allegations of sickness and deaths without repercussions?

We certainly do not mean to minimize the risks of any pathogen in any form of pet food, especially to the humans that handle these foods and are not as well equipped as their carnivorous pets to stay healthy when exposed. We just wish the FDA, AVMA, and Big Pet Food would hold all pet foods to the same standards of safety.

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Some tips for Chronic Yeast Overgrowth

Chronic overgrowth of yeast can result in a bad smell from a dog’s skin and chronically infected ears causing terrible discomfort and hair loss, as well as digestive issues. Unfortunately it can be very challenging to treat. Healing from yeast takes time and a whole body approach. Two key parts of the solution are to remove what’s feeding the overgrowth of yeast and to heal and support the lining of the gut, as this is where 80% of their immune system lives. Antibiotics, immunosuppressive drugs like prednisone, and anti inflammatory drugs can help some symptoms of itching temporarily, but can actually create chronic yeast overgrowth and start a vicious cycle by damaging the lining of the gut and the good flora normally found within it. Without beneficial bacteria and a healthy gut lining, the yeast can take hold and grow out of control quickly.  Here are some quick tips:

Diet Tips for Chronic Yeast

Eliminate as many carbs as possible
Yeast is fed by starchy sugars – a fresh raw diet is ideal as it doesn’t need the starchy binders that all kibbles use, and it will best support healing of the skin. Find a balanced raw food that focuses mainly on meat, bone and organs without a great deal of additional veggies and fruits (perhaps something like Vital Essentials or Answers brand) Get tips on making a safe balanced diet at home here. Starve that yeast!

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Jiminy Crickets!

As our world’s population grows, our demand for resources becomes more difficult to sustain. This especially goes for meat production, which requires significant land use, incredible amounts of water and food needed to raise the animals, creates conflict with wildlife concerns, and is responsible for so much pollution, especially surrounding large-scale Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Better known as Factory Farming, these CAFOs also force animals to live in inhumane conditions by anyone’s standards, and are also responsible for contributing to problems with antibiotic resistance for us humans.

 

Consider cutting back or eliminating meat in your own diet as “Carbon Credits for Owning Carnivores”.
We love the carnivores we’ve chosen as our cherished furry family members, and they need large quantities of high quality animal proteins to thrive, so what to do? One part of the solution, of course, is for all of us to eat less meat, and to choose to only eat meat raised in humane conditions by farms that use sustainable farming and ranching practices (especially those you might find at your local Farmer’s Market or Food Coop).

 

Another interesting part of this solution may be found in insect protein!
Before you saw EEEWWWWW! and close this page, realize that many insects such as crickets, termites and mealworms are already a staple protein in as many 80% of other countries.  (Don’t forget: Lobsters and Shrimp are some of our most cherished delicacies, but  it wasn’t until the 1880s that people thought of lobsters as anything but ugly cockroaches of the sea, good only for fertilizer and prison food.  In fact, both crickets and lobsters are from the same family, arthropods.)

Crickets are making their way into the U.S. as novelty treats. Did you catch Salt and Straw’s Halloween ice cream flavors? One of them was “Creepy Crawly Critters”, which featured chocolate covered crickets and coconut toffee-brittle covered mealworms blended into a matcha ice cream.

Funny stuff, but from both a sustainability and nutritional standpoint, insects actually make big sense! Check this out – Crickets have:

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Dr. Ian Billinghurst’s Targeted Nutritional Therapy, Which Includes a Ketogenic Diet, Can Kill Your Dog’s Cancer

 This is an important article from Dr. Karen Becker DVM

Story at-a-glance

  • World-renowned veterinarian, author and the father of raw pet food, Dr. Ian Billinghurst, has written a new book about treating cancer with nutrition
  • Dr. B’s book, “Pointing the Bone at Cancer,” lays out the science behind the use of a ketogenic diet in treating cancer in dogs, cats and humans
  • Dr. B has successfully treated dogs with many different cancers, including aggressive lymphomas and mammary tumors, and seen them live years longer, with an excellent quality of life

By Dr. Becker

I’m very excited today to be interviewing the father of raw pet food, Dr. Ian Billinghurst, or Dr. B, as he is often called. Dr. Billinghurst is a very well-known veterinarian and author who wrote the first books on raw feeding. For that, we are forever indebted to him. Today Dr. B is here to discuss his latest book, “Pointing the Bone at Cancer.” I asked him to talk about what inspired him to write a book about cancer in dogs, cats and humans.

‘Cancer Is a Problem That Has a Lot to Do With Nutrition’

“This was a book I most definitely had to write,” says Dr. B. “I had no choice. We, as veterinarians and as medical doctors, are losing this war against cancer. This is a war that we’ve been fighting for hundreds of years, but very specifically, since Richard Nixon began that first battle against cancer in the 1970s, when he initiated all that research. That research, unfortunately, has done very little to defeat cancer.”

“This whole problem became very personal to me when members of my own family developed cancer,” he continued. “I watched them pass away under the current standard of care. I knew this didn’t have to be.

As a veterinary practitioner for many years, and as someone who advocates raw feeding and evolutionary nutrition, I also watched my own patients who had developed cancer. I watched them become free of cancer. I watched my patients who didn’t eat processed food not develop cancer. If they did develop cancer, it happened later in life. I knew this was a problem that had a lot to do with nutrition.”
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Toppers Are Important Part 3 – Hearts

Hearts are high in natural taurine and make an excellent treat or topper!

Taurine  Dr Karen Becker DVM says, “Taurine, especially essential for cats, is an important amino acid for liver and gallbladder support. It’s essential for optimal blood flow, cardiovascular health, and the production of bile in both cats and dogs. Pets with less-than-optimal levels of taurine may be at greater risk of adverse effects from toxins. Although a minimal level of taurine is included in most commercial pet foods, taurine is easily depleted in stressed pets”.

Taurine can be found naturally in milk, eggs, meat, and seaweed, however, amino acids like Taurine are easily damaged by high heat cooking, which is why you’ll generally see kibbles and cans supplemented with synthetic taurine. If cats don’t get enough taurine from the foods they eat they can die, but many holistic vets believe that it’s incredibly important for dogs as well.  (more…)

A few Myths about Senior Dogs and Nutrition

We all want to make sure we’re supporting our senior pets as they get older, but there are a few myths that persist about what is nutritionally appropriate for senior dogs.

Myth #1: Seniors need lower protein diets

It’s true that we used to be instructed to lower protein when dogs get older, but current research shows that older dogs actually need significantly higher protein than their younger counterparts. Their bodies become less efficient at metabolizing proteins as they age, so increasing the amount (and the digestibility) of proteins is key to supporting them and helping to prevent muscle wasting.

Pro Tip: Raw foods have the most bioavailable proteins, but if you feed a kibble diet, mixing in a nugget or two of prepared raw diets from our freezers can be a delicious, affordable, and super nutritious way to get whole food vitamins, minerals and important amino acids that haven’t been damaged by high heat cooking. Senior dogs need these tools to thrive as they age, and this easy solution is better and cheaper than any commercial supplement or food in a can!

Myth #2: But couldn’t too much protein hurt their kidneys?

This idea was based on studies done on rats, not dogs. Rats have evolved with different nutritional requirements than dogs have, so when they did study this question in dogs, it was determined that no amount of protein can hurt a healthy kidney. Mary Straus of dogaware.com says , “In fact, senior dogs fed high protein diets live longer and are healthier than those that are fed low protein diets, even when one kidney has been removed. Studies conducted at the University of Georgia in the 1990s demonstrated that feeding protein levels of 34 percent (on a dry matter basis) to older dogs with chronic kidney failure and dogs with only one kidney caused no ill effects. The mortality rate was greater for the dogs fed 18 percent protein than for the dogs fed 34 percent protein. Another study done on dogs with only one kidney showed that protein levels up to 44 percent of the diet had no harmful effect on the remaining kidney.” For a more comprehensive discussion of protein in dog diets, see this link

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Green Tip – Why You Should Avoid Farmed Salmon

Seafood Watch Guide to Salmon

When we are evaluating a pet food or treat to sell at the store, there is an (ever-expanding) list of ingredients that we will not carry, and farmed salmon is definitely one of them. Some items we don’t like because the ingredients are harmful to the environment, some because practices are inhumane or these animals are fed things that might remain in the meat, and some because they are harmful to the animals that consume them. Farmed salmon has the special distinction as being all of these things.

Farming salmon is factory farming at its worst – it’s devastating to the environment, large overcrowded pens require massive amounts of antibiotics and pesticide usage to combat health problems, contagious diseases and escaped fish are a big risk to wild populations of fish, and the resulting product is high in PCBs and other chemicals.

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Bone Broth – Part Two in Our Toppers Are Important Series

Bone Broth

photo from https://www.canva.com/

This is the second segment in a series covering the benefits of whole food toppers.  We try to source the very best dry pet foods on the market, but the truth is that all kibble diets are highly processed foods.  Multiple heat processing steps during production damage valuable nutrients like amino acids, enzymes and vitamins, and can create chemicals like acrylamide .  Adding small amounts of  whole foods to your dry food as toppers can provide valuable nutrients that can help to support their health.  It’s amazing how often adding whole foods to processed food diets can help to clear up nagging chronic health problems like itchy skin and other irritations.  Don’t miss the introductory blog post in this series.

Chicken soup isn’t just good for the soul: slow cooked bone broths of all kinds have legitimate healing properties for our own bodies and for our pets.  These broths are staples in the traditional diets of all cultures throughout history and for good reason.  Slow cooking bones in water takes the valuable parts that can’t be directly consumed and turns them into more food.  They create an incredibly nutritious and very inexpensive elixir that can be eaten on its own or become the base for soups, stews, and sauces.  For our pets, broths can be a handy mix to any diet for hydration and appetite stimulation, as well as helping a picky animal think their food is delicious!  Many people use expensive canned foods to mix into their kibble, but broths have big advantages over this – broth is far less expensive than cans, and cans come with some downsides such as trace amounts of BPA or other hormone disrupting chemicals in their linings (regardless of what a company might claim ). It also takes a great deal of energy to create and then recycle these cans, as well as fossil fuels to transport them.

What is bone broth?
You can make broths with meat and water, but the real magic lies in the use of the bones.  Combining bones with water and ideally some veggies (avoid onions for pets and people with chronic digestive issues), and a splash of cider vinegar.  Let it all cook over low heat or in a crock pot for a long time–this extracts valuable minerals and other nutrients as well as breaking down connective tissues which releases collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, and valuable amino acids that greatly improve the health of the joints, skin, and gut lining (where the immune system lives).

Check out some of the amazing benefits of bone broths:

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Whole Food Toppers are Important

Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 11.04.27 AMWe try to carry the best dry foods on the market, but it’s important to realize that even the best ones are still a heavily processed food. Some ingredients are put through multiple layers of processing, and the whole batch is baked or more often extruded, which can damage nutrients, enzymes, and valuable amino acids that have important jobs to do in the body.

Most pet owners find one kibble that works and just stick with it, but this really limits the number of nutrients available to your pet. Some pet food companies say you should never ever  switch your dog’s food, but that doesn’t make much sense (they just don’t want you to feed someone else’s food!). Why should you sometimes switch your pet’s food? No matter what, even the best brands of kibble are highly processed foods that lack whole food nutrients and enzymes that can help their bodies thrive. Topping off their kibble diets can make a huge difference for their health! Even the nicest raw food diets can be lacking nutrient diversity – no matter how thoughtful and knowledgeable we are, we couldn’t make a single meal for ourselves that we could eat every single day of our lives and not have a deficiency or excess of something for our personal nutritional needs. We can certainly say the same for our pets! Variety over time creates nutritional balance. Adding whole food toppers are a great to help to round out their meals, especially if you rotate through different ones!   Just like for people, a diet for pets made entirely of processed foods with no fresh whole food nutrients is a recipe for chronic illness. With the rapid rise in chronic illnesses like cancer, we should (in our opinion) be doing everything we can to boost the diets of our precious, short lived pets to try to take advantage of whole food nutrients. But what to give?

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Safety First – A Reminder When it Comes to Pet Food

We really try very hard to carry products that we trust from companies who have rigorous safety protocols for their manufacturing facilities and who source good ingredients. These pet food companies are pretty big companies though, providing a lot of product nationally to a great number of pets. Problems are fairly uncommon, though they are still possible. Remember, we can’t report problems to the company unless we have the date codes and lot numbers. If your pet’s food seems to have changed, or your pet suddenly doesn’t want to eat something they usually like, or you open a new bag and your pets suddenly start having issues, here are 4 things you should do:

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