The Honest Kitchen pet food company has won a six month lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Ohio denied Honest Kitchen a license to sell its products in the state, citing the product labels were misleading because they describe the company’s pet food as “human food grade.”
The court ruled in favor of The Honest Kitchen citing the company’s right to truthful, commercial free speech. Yippee! Ohio Department of Agriculture acknowledged that the products were human food grade, yet claimed that stating the fact on the labels “could be confusing to customers who might be unable to determine if the diets were intended for animals or humans.” Oh please! I can spot a pet food industry cover up a mile off – and besides, haven’t there been reports for years of humans eating pet food?
This is a very big first! The Honest Kitchen has managed to pry open (more like force open with a sledge hammer) a door that has been solidly closed from the beginning of commercial pet food. Just imagine…if you walked down a pet food aisle, and you see 25 products all stating those famous tag lines of ‘Premium’ or ‘Choice’ – and then you see five or six pet foods that say ‘All Human Grade Ingredients’. That would sure make a decision on which pet food to buy a little easier! It is a great beginning to what all pet owners deserve to know.
On the flip side of this – as my last email to you noted – even though this IS a tremendous step forward, next we will have to be aware if the manufacturer is being honest in their human grade claims. Eagle Pack pet food told me that their products use only US ingredients. Yet as I discovered yesterday – their website stated the opposite. However as a recent newsletter and Petsumer subscriber reminded me of in email correspondence – ‘if they put it in writing’ – human grade or all US ingredients on the label in writing – then we will have some very firm ground to stand on if their claims turn out to be false.
I’m going to remain thrilled that this step has taken place. It is HUGE. And I’m going to urge you to call your State Department of Agriculture and ask for the same changes to take place in your state. But let me give you a little more information first. To back up a little and give you a better understanding – here is exactly how pet food rules and regulations work. AAFCO – American Association of Feed Control Officials – and their advisory boards (made up mostly of representatives of the Pet Food Institute – all the big manufacturers) develop all the industry’s guidelines – nutritional guidelines, labeling requirements, ingredient definitions, and so forth. These guidelines are ONLY recommended to the Department of Agriculture of each state in the US. Most states accept their guidelines word for word and implement them as law. As with this case in Ohio. (Expressing an opinion here – this way everyone has an excuse…AAFCO isn’t held accountable because they only ‘recommend’ the guidelines’ and each state can use the excuse that ‘AAFCO told us to’.) AAFCO ‘guidelines’ do NOT allow “any reference to quality or grade of ingredients”.
If you want to bend an ear or two on this issue (please, please do!) – here’s what I suggest. For one, call your State Department of Agriculture and tell them you would like your state to amend the AFFCO guideline and allow a pet food label to provide a reference to quality or grade of ingredients. And please – also share that you would also like country of origin of ingredients posted on the label as well! I’d also suggest you call or email AAFCO (http://www.aafco.org) and share the same. And please share this issue with any media in your town. Call your local newspaper, television, talk radio – and tell them you need their help to bring this issue into the public awareness and to help to make changes in pet food labeling (don’t forget about country of origin of ingredients!). Share with media this link to the press release –
Or you can go to www.prnewswire.com – and type in the search for Honest Kitchen pet food – you’ll get to the same press release.
This is a very real opportunity for us – please help by making a few phone calls to keep the ball rolling. I would love to see the few manufacturers that do use all human grade/US only ingredients to band together and legally approach each state and make the same changes that Honest Kitchen did in Ohio. I hope they are listening!
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author, Buyer Beware
Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
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