Dr. Lisa Freeman is considered expert in pet nutrition. She is a veterinarian and a Ph.D. in nutrition science. Even with all of her training, reading what Dr. Freeman was lecturing pet owners on of late left me wondering when the last time Dr. Freeman got out of the lab and looked around at the real pet food world.
The lecture “focused on exposing pet nutrition myths and educating pet owners on how to select an optimal diet for their pet.” Though I did not attend this lecture, nor did I read the entire script, from what I have read, Dr. Freeman herself continues the myths and by no means helps pet owners choose an optimal diet for their pet. What she did say seemed to be scripted…by Big Pet Food.
From TuftsDaily.com “Freeman emphasized that one pervasive myth in particular – the belief that the pet food industry is not regulated, which exploded after the 2007 pet food recall – is not true. According to Freeman, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) serves two crucial purposes: the AAFCO has pet food regulations that set the standards for individual states, and it also establishes nutrient profiles.”
The pet food industry does have regulations alright, but the significant problem for pet food consumers is they aren’t enforced. AAFCO isn’t the regulatory enforcer, the FDA and each State Department of Agriculture is. Pet foods are supposed to follow the guidelines of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; but they don’t. The FDA has skillfully developed Compliance Polices that allow pet food manufacturers loopholes to avoid federal laws. The FDA Compliance Policies relating to pet food allow diseased animal tissues, euthanized animals, rodent and bird excreta infested food ingredients to become pet food ingredients with no warning to the consumer on the label. Each State Department of Agriculture could take the high road and abide by Federal Law instead of FDA Compliance Policy, but none do. Again, there are plenty of regulations that are supposed to govern pet food, but few of those regulations are enforced.
AAFCO does develop what is known as ‘model regulations’. ‘Model’ meaning regulations that are developed, relating to all animal feeds including pet food, that are suggested to be accepted as state law in each state. However, this isn’t the case. Each year AAFCO modifies a model regulation (or two, or three) that might not become animal feed state regulations until years later if at all. One state could have accepted the model regulations from 1980, while another state accepted the model regulation updates from 2011. There is no uniformity state to state.
And AAFCO nutrient profiles…while there are minimum nutrient profile requirements established, AAFCO model regulations has never established maximum levels of protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, selenium (and more) for cat food. AAFCO model regulations has never established maximum levels of protein, fat, potassium, sodium, manganese, (and more) for dog food. What few minimum and maximum levels that are established, it appears AAFCO model regulations allow pet foods huge variations in nutrient content. As example, with dog food, minimum Vitamin D is 500 IU/kg – maximum is 5000 IU/kg. With cat food, minimum Vitamin D is 500 IU/kg – maximum is 10,000 IU/kg.
Dr. Freeman continues…she states the most important piece of information on a pet food label is “the manufacturer”. I agree, but not in the same context that Dr. Freeman is suggesting. “Freeman explained that at least one full-time qualified nutritionist, a research and development department, self-operated plants and internal quality control standards are essential for any reliable manufacturer.” I would welcome the opportunity to introduce Dr. Freeman to a few in the pet food industry without a full-time qualified nutritionist (trained by Big Pet Food), without a R & D department (with hundreds of pets that never see the light of day subjected to ridiculous experiments), that are not made in self-operated human food processing facilities with quality control standards that put most of pet food to shame. The manufacturer is significant, but not as Dr. Freeman suggests.
From PetFoodIndustry.com on the Dr. Freeman lecture, “It’s a really important issue because there is so much confusion out there. Pet owners should find out the basics, talk to their veterinarian and be careful about what they read on the Internet. There’s good and bad information, and it’s often really difficult to discern which is which.” I agree, but again probably not with what Dr. Freeman was alluding to. There is much confusion out there for petsumers, but it is not for lack of us trying. I’d suggest Dr. Freeman walk in a petsumers shoes for a day or two and try to discover country of origin of ingredients or grade of meat and vegetable ingredients from a manufacturer. Simple questions like these – to which every manufacturer knows the answer to but few are forthcoming to provide (including those with their own manufacturing facility and R & D department). And finding out ‘the basics’ from many veterinarians will be nothing more than a regurgitated message from Big Pet Food.
I appreciate the knowledge and experience that Dr. Freeman represents, but I respectfully disagree with the message she is telling pet owners. It is time…long past time…that many scientists, consultants, and experts in pet food begin to realize they too have been duped by Big Pet Food. Just because your pet food research projects are supported by major manufacturers of pet food or your consultation fees are readily paid to support major pet food manufacturer images, doesn’t mean the foods they sell are the best for our pets. Take a close look at some of the amazing products being made by some of the small companies, find research funding outside of the standard (Big Pet Food), and step forward against the regulatory loopholes that provide billions in profits to a small handful of manufacturers while pets are eating recycled garbage. If you just step away and look at a few of the facts, you might see things differently.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author, Buyer Beware
Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
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