TRACIE HOTCHNER: THE PET FOOD RECALL: HERE WE GO ALL OVER AGAIN

It’s been about a week since word began to circulate that a long list of dry pet foods are being recalled because of possible salmonella contamination. Let’s cut to the chase in all the noise and fury about the current recall on dry dog foods and yet another scare about contaminated dog kibble: this is history repeating itself and will continue to do so as long as hundreds of dry pet foods are made in one facility – on the same machines – with the ingredients all sourced by middlemen – very far from the companies who give them a recipe, have oversight over ingredients and handling, or are involved in the manufacturing process.

Let’s cut to the chase in all the noise and fury about this current recall and yet another scare about contaminated dog kibble. We each have to take more responsibility for our choices and decisions. You know the saying about people who do not learn from the mistakes in history being destined to repeat them? That is what the recent, ongoing scare about contaminated pet food seems like to me. What many of us learned when pets were sickened and died a few years ago (from what was then a long list of dry foods) was that a vast array of pet foods – from the least expensive, lower quality ones all the way to some premium brands of food – were all being manufactured in the same facility.

There were questions about cross-contamination of recipes and ingredients, about how completely the manufacturing equipment was cleaned between batches of different brand foods, and of course the sourcing of the ingredients themselves. In the previous pet food recall case, the culprit appears to have been wheat gluten imported from China, which was used in various recipes to boost the protein count. It was debatable whether wheat gluten is even a valid source of protein for digestion in dogs – and as we all remember (if we learn our history) that the wheat gluten was either contaminated or was actually not wheat gluten at all, but an entirely different toxic substance called melamine that belongs in the manufacture of plastic bowls – not IN the bowls of our pets’ dinners.

I personally have picked HALO for reasons of quality and accountability. At a time like this I rest easy knowing that it is the only brand of dry food I’ll feed my own dogs and that I recommend to my listeners and readers, whose trust in me is one I take very seriously. Of course I realize that any pet food company is susceptible to some level of risk around food contamination, including Halo, and that one could argue that a voluntary recall can be an indicator of a company that errs on the side of caution. If Halo did ever find itself choosing to recall certain food batches someday I believe it would certainly be out of love for pets and the people who care for them. HALO has a 26-year track record of never having been recalled, which speaks volumes.

It is not only the pets who are at risk, but we humans who so much as touch this potentially contaminated kibble. Salmonella is no laughing matter – it can make pets and people extremely ill, to the point of hospitalization – and beyond. Dry food has been the culprit in all the previous pet food recalls and public panic – you need to know everything you can about the company whose name is on your bags.

I want to say one thing loud and clear: you get what you pay for where pet nutrition is concerned. I believe that the quality standards and control Halo has put in place make it much less susceptible to food contamination than other brands. I made a choice years ago to feed only HALO brand of dry food to my dogs because the company’s whole philosophy is grounded on never compromising about using the highest quality of ingredients – in knowing the sources of them, and because they are a smaller, private company, in having oversight on the manufacturing process.
I also gain confidence in the fact that HALO does not disclose the company that manufactures their kibble for them – they do not want a lot of other companies trying to utilize the same high quality facility and perhaps pushing them out. The recalled foods were all made by the giant pet food manufacturer Diamond. There a couple of very well known dry foods that have some of their foods in the recall – Taste of the Wild and Solid Gold – and pet owners are expressing dismay and shock on the internet that these foods could be made in the same plant on the same machines as the foods they have chosen. It is no surprise to me. It can be more convenient and cut costs tremendously to farm out your recipe to a big facility like Diamond – but there are different costs involved, as the chickens coming home to roost are demonstrating.

There’s already enough to worry about in life that I do not want to be fearful putting my hand into the kibble container – either for myself or my pooches – and I rest easier knowing their squeaky-clean track record. I am glad to feed it to my dogs, proud to be associated with the brand, and greatly relieved that I never have to lose sleep over the kibble I recommend to my followers. And hey – if you cannot easily find HALO at your local store, you can always go to www.Petflow.com and find it there (with no shipping fees if you put DOGTALK in the code box at check out) or $10 off an order if you are a first-time Petflow.com customer (put DOGTALK10 in the codebox).

Tracie Hotchner, author of The Dog Bible and The Cat Bible, guest blogs here every Thursday on healthy, natural choices for pets.

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