More Peanut Corp. of America recalls: 3 Flavors of Alaska Canine Cookies

March 13, 2009

peanut-corp_logoThe peanut butter, “power-bone” and carrot cake flavors of Alaska Canine Cookies are among the latest dog treats being recalled due to possible Salmonella Typhimurium  contamination. Source.

They were all manufactured with re-called batches of peanuts processed at the Blakely, Georgia processing facility of the now bankrupt Peanut Corporation of America. This plant, operating since 2005 had never been licensed and was never inspected. Yet is was contributing to America’s food supply.

It is alleged that PCA plant managers shipped peanuts that tested positive for salmonella a dozen times in 2007 and 2008. Inspectors also found unsanitary conditions: mold, roaches, a leaking roof, dead rodents, rodent excrement, and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area. And it was contributing to America’s food supply. Source.

In Bankcruptcy court in Lynchburg, VA owner Stewart Parnell and family members put on a dumb show. He plead the Fifth, his right not to give self-incriminating evidence, when asked if he knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted peanut products from his plants in Blakely, Georgia and Plainview, Texas.

He answered, “I don’t know” to routine business questions and left most of the talking to his daughter, Grey Adams, the firm’s bookkeeper, claiming that “she knows more than I do” about the plant’s operation.

On the stand Ms. Adams was unable to tell the court the salary her mother was paid as office manager. When asked if the  company paid dividends to its stockholder from their $20 million in sales in 2008, she replied, “What’s a dividend?” Source. Does it seem like the extended Parnell family suddenly came down with a severe case of the Stupids?

The numbers: Since Jan. 12th  2009, 3,420 products containing peanut ingredients processed by Peanut Corporation of America have been recalled. They include snacks, peanut butter, brownies, cakes, pies, ice cream, candy, cereal, cookies, crackers, donuts, and pet food and treats. 683 people in 46 states have been sickened, a quarter of them requiring hospitalization and 9 have died — although these deaths have not yet been linked definitively to the salmonella outbreak. Source.

Another number: Total cost of this outbreak? In excess of $1 billion, said Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission while speaking before a House small business subcommittee. Source.

The big question: how are we going to secure the safety of the American food supply chain in the 21st century?


Pet Food – Nutrition & Contamination: Educate Yourself

March 11, 2009

food_pets_die_forWant to understand the issues surrounding pet food nutrition and contamination? Read these two books.

Ann Martin and Marion Nestle have done the research and pulled together the facts to make their books essential reading for everyone who cares about what they feed their dog or cat.

Martin’s book gives you the sordid truth behind the ingredients in many pet foods while Nestle recounts in great detail the Menu Foods recall and settlement of 2007, dealing with the failure of regulatory oversight.

In the current economy paying more for dog food is, I realize, a hard sell but when you consider the true cost (including veterinary bills) of the cheapest brands you might be willing to cut back elsewhere on your budget.

Food Pets Die For

Pet Food Politicspet-food-politics

Purina Alpo Ad Campaign: Corn for the Real Meat Lover in the Family

March 1, 2009

alpo_prime_cutsPurina Alpo dog food has a new campaign running that gets to the “meat of the problem” with the line, “Quick, get that dog some Alpo!”

OK, if the choice is between no food at all and Alpo, the Prime Cuts with Gravy wins that challenge every time. The only point in favor of Alpo’s dog food is the price. . .however, considering what you’re getting, is there any price that can make this food a bargain?

Note that they go to some effort to make the product visually appealing to the human consumer, when visual appeal is the last thing a dog considers when eating. They eat the inedible, remember? Their tag line is that their Prime Cuts Meaty Shapes are “for the real meat lover in the family.” But Alpo must have  a loose definition of the “real meat lover” because the top ingredient isn’t even close to meat, it’s ground yellow corn.

Why? Corn is cheap. Corn is also largely indigestible by dogs. This makes their stools larger with no nutritional benefit. So that’s actually the top ingredient in Alpo that you’re picking up in your yard and on all your walks.

Next up is beef and bone meal. This is a byproduct unfit for human consumption that is an inexpensive, low quality ingredient used to boost the protein percentage in the food. According to its definition by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, beef and bone meal is “the rendered product from beef tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, hide, horn, trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amount as may unavoidably occur in good processing practices.”

Then there’s soybean meal. This is one of the lowest quality proteins available to dog food makers. Some people make the case that most allergy problems in today’s dogs stem from the unnatural amounts of corn and soybean in their diet.

Beef tallow is fat, processed from suet. If you rendered it from a pig, it would be lard.

Animal digest is a concentrated soup which can be made from the “unspecified parts of unspecified animals.” This includes the so-called 4-D animals (dead, diseased, disabled or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, dogs and cats euthanized at animal shelters, roadkill, restaurant and supermarket refuse. There is no control for quality or any check for possible contamination.

This is how barbiturates like pentobarbital (delivered by an intravenous or intracardiac injection) and used to euthanize pets can get back into the dog population, via their food. How much of this contamination do you need to rise to the level of harm? I don’t have the answer to that.

Though it’s helpful to remember that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy — a fatal, neurodegenerative disease that causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord — is passed on by feeding infected, ground up dead cows to living cows. (BSE is commonly known as Mad Cow Disease and Soylent Green is PEOPLE!)  Cows are herbivores, not carnivores or cannibals so it’s strange on more than one level.

But including the carcasses of poisoned dogs back in their food supply (even a little bit) can’t be a good thing, can it?

The next most prevalent ingredient is salt. So beef and bone meal and animal digest are as close as this product gets to real meat. You couldn’t do worse if you were  buying your meat from a NYC street vendor offering Roasted Substance on a Stick.”

Here’s the full list of ingredients in Alpo Prime Cuts Meaty Shapes Dog Food (below). They are listed according to weight from most to least (it’s usually enough to look at the top three to six ingredients to get a good sense of the quality of the food). Note that Alpo has to add back in vitamins and supplements that are lost even from their substandard filler due to processing.

Interestingly enough, this list is NOT from the web site. Remember that they’re selling food, right? I searched for but could not find any list of ingredients for any of their products on their web site. They don’t want to boast about what you’re actually buying in their dog food. And they have absolutely no reason to boast.

  • Ground Yellow Corn
  • Beef And Bone Meal
  • Soybean Meal
  • Beef Tallow Preserved With BHA
  • Animal Digest
  • Salt
  • Choline Chloride
  • Zinc Sulfate
  • Vitamin E Supplement
  • Ferrous Sulfate
  • Added Color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2)
  • Manganese Sulfate
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin A Supplement
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Brewers Dried Yeast
  • Copper Sulfate
  • Calcium Pantothenate
  • Natural Flavor
  • Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
  • Vitamin B12 Supplement
  • Thiamine Mononitrate
  • Vitamin D3 Supplement
  • Riboflavin Supplement
  • Calcium Iodate
  • Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source Of Vitamin K Activity)
  • Folic Acid
  • Biotin
  • Sodium Selenite

Bottom line, the safest and healthiest thing you can feed your dogs is a home-cooked diet. Add supplements and vitamins if you need them. Yes, it takes more time and planning, but you’ll find a routine that works once you make the switch. Switching to a home-cooked diet can even be cheaper, provided that you are already overpaying for “premium” brands that charge $50 for a 25lb bag of food and not feeding cheap filth like Alpo.

Peanut Dogs for those with Severe Allergies

February 26, 2009

We’ve all read about the rise of severe peanut allergies over the past 25 years. Lots of jokes are made about this by those who don’t suffer from it. I’ve made a few myself.

But if you’re as allergic as eight year old Riley Mers — who has a scar on her foot from the time a peanut shell slipped into her sandal and burned her like an acid — you wouldn’t make jokes about it. Riley has also struggled to breath from inhaling peanut reside too faint for a human to smell.

But not too faint for a dog to smell.

Add another category of the amazing things are canine pals can do for us and meet the Peanut Detection Dogs.



Riley’s dog, a Portuguese water dog named Rock’O was trained by Bill Whitstine, a Certified Master Trainer at Florida Canine Academy in Safety Harbor, Florida. Whitstine usually trains detection dogs for the threat of bombs, drugs, flammable materials and bed bugs.”This really is a bomb dog for this child,” said Whitstine, “because the peanut is a bomb for her.”

For more on Riley’s story go here.

Increased Penalties for Pet ‘lemon laws’ Debated

February 16, 2009


The Connecticut legislature is discussing a significant increase in the penalties against  pet shops who sell diseased  or defective dogs and cats. The current law calls for reimbursement up to $200 for veterinary care, clearly an inadequate figure given the typical costs of a visit to the vet in this state.

The Westport Coalition Against Puppy Mills is calling for a penalty that would be twice the purchase price of the animal. Since purchasers spend from $1,000 to $3,000 for ‘purebred’ dogs that come from these mills, the dealers that act as middle-men or the pet stores and chains that sell them directly this penalty would have a real impact on their profits.

Typical problems associated with dogs from Pennsylvania puppy mills sold in CT include the mild, kennel cough and intestinal ailments to the chronic and genetic, pneumonia and hip dysplasia. 

The WCAPM site is packed with solid information and resources to learn more about this issue. Please check them out to educate yourself and help stop this awful ‘industry.’

3,000 Free Pet Adoptions — Jan. 24, 2009 sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition

January 16, 2009

Save money. Save a life. Bring Home your New Best Friend for Free!

If you’re considering bringing a dog or a cat into your home this year, you probably already know that I’m going to urge you to check out your local animal shelter first.

Now there’s even more incentive: next week Hill’s Pet Nutrition will cover all adoption costs (which can range from $25 to $300) at participating shelters. The 3,000 free animal adoptions represent the first 10 animals adopted at each of the 300 locations on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009. 

Get involved in CHANGE A PET’S LIFE DAY and open your home to a pet. The first ten adoptions at participating Hill’s partner shelters are free on January 24, 2009. New pet owners will also receive a starter kit that includes free Hill’s® Science Diet® pet food and tips to give their adopted cat or dog the best start in their new life. (from their website).

Pet Animal Welfare Society
504 Main Ave
Norwalk, CT 06851-1038

For a complete list of participating shelters, go here.

Supplements Glucosamine/Chondroitin Don’t Work Any Better than a Sugar Pill

January 14, 2009

Dr. Donna Raditic’s column (“Nutraceutical News”) in the  Jan./Feb. 2009  of The Bark should be praised for emphasizing the point that “natural”is not always harmless. But I have to take issue with her very first recommendation: glucasamine and chondroitin supplements for ‘joint health.’


As the owner/guardian of two Labs and the spouse of an individual who suffered from hip dysplasia for 15 years and has had two hip replacements, I’ve learned a couple of things about these two supplements: they are enormously profitable for their distributors and their effectiveness is open to serious doubt.

The largest controlled clinical trial of glucasamine and chondroitin by the National Institutes of Health concluded that they don’t work any better than a sugar pill at halting the destruction of cartilage. The full report is available online from Arthritis & Rheumatism, the official monthly journal of the American College of Rheumatology, Sept. 29, 2008.


Dr. Ali Askari, chief of rheumatology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, put it this way in discussing the study, “The bottom line is that there is no specific difference between the placebo and the glucosamine/chondroitin mix.”

The bottom line for concerned dog owners? Research your supplements carefully.

Melamine-tainted Milk Kills 1,500 dogs in China

October 22, 2008

You may remember that melamine was part of the massive Menu Foods recall story from 2007. It was used then, as it is now, to make a product falsely test higher for protein. Manufacturers use it because it’s significantly cheaper than adding a real source of nitrogen protein. This allows their products to pass inspection, be certified by the Chinese Health Ministry’s inspectors and reach the consumer market.

Four infants have died in this latest scandal, along with the 1,500 dogs, raising concerns about the safety of the entire Chinese food supply chain. Additionally, tens of thousands of Chinese children have developed kidney stones from dairy products contaminated by melamine. The Associated Press has the entire story here.

A further sad note in this story is that these ‘raccoon’ dogs were being bred and raised for their fur, just like minks. Though I have strong reservations about PETA this is one issue we can agree on, fur is murder. Given that no one owns a fur coat out of necessity, eliminating this long-standing fashion statement would mean that one less animal breed would be needlessly exploited.

Disclaimer: I’m wearing leather shoes and a leather belt. It is hard for me to accept absolutes in this particular debate.


Pet Owners: Live Longer & Healthier?

October 22, 2008

How Stuff Works weighs in on the subject of the health benefits of pet ownership, here. We’ve written about this topic before and there are dissenting opinions of precisely how much of a benefit there may be.

When looking at this I think it is wise to always remember these words of Bertrand Russell from 1959:

“When you are studying any matter never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficial social effects if it were believed. Look only and solely at what are the facts.”


Foie Gras Dog Biscuits – More Proof Americans are Insane

October 8, 2008

 “Some people wish for their pets to take as much pleasure in food as they themselves do. For these guests we offer a selection of Bouchon Bakery pet treats. These biscuits, enriched with foie gras, chicken stock and diced bacon, are decadent and delicious.”

It’s so easy to ridicule this given the current economic melt down, you can just make up your own snarky comment. Could I just add that DOGS are not PEOPLE? Does everyone get that? Do I need to repeat it?





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