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Futher thoughts re: pet food recall

March 28th, 2007, 01:52 PM
Found this article thought it was very interesting (long but worth reading!).

Further Food For Thought On The Food Recall
by Tracie Hotchner
First, my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a dog or cat in the past few months due to kidney failure or other organ failure that may be linked to the toxic foods made and distributed by Menu Foods. And my heart goes out to those of you whose animals have suffered and survived, because the emotional and financial cost of that is horrible, too.

It's been 10 days since the news of the poisonous food made at Menu Foods plant first leaked to the press and to those of us with our noses to the ground about any issues affecting dogs and cats. That was Friday March 16th - however, the press release which acknowledged a possible problem was immediately yanked off the wires. It had said something along the lines of, "For Business Editors Only - Not for release in the United States." Apparently they had no idea how many of us there are on this side of the border who view our pets as our family members, not as recipients of "a problem" viewed as a business/financial issue.

But the proverbial cat was out of the bag, so Menu Foods had no choice but to post a note on their website declaring that at 6 AM Saturday morning, march 17th, they would be publishing a list of affected foods. This was an especially weird time to release this news, unless you know how the media functions and how it is utilized by the business community and the government. The facts you want to bury - stories you do not want covered - are released on the weekend, when fewer journalists are available and things might get glossed over or missed entirely. But they didn't success in doing that with this story because they didn't anticipate the power of the internet and the passion of people in the pet world - both providers of information and advice and those whose animals are their closest companions (I happen to be in both camps). We all made sure the word got out fast. We were all emailing and calling each other - panicked, furious, suspicious and frightened. But there was nowhere to go for reliable verification and nowhere to go to declare what we were discovering or had to report.

I waited what seemed like a decent amount of time to try to make sense of a situation that appeared to me to be filled with falsehoods, cover-ups, red-herrings, and a deafening silence from the guilty parties, well-hidden behind unmanned phone lines and non-responsive email sites. I had immediately conferred with the Official Vet of my show Cat Chat(tm), Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins in California, with the Official Vet of Dog Talk(r), Dr. Phillip Padrid in Chicago, with Dr. Jean Hofve in Colorado - and it was chilling to discover that they were being told nothing more than the public at large about this looming health hazard (at that point it was not clear that it was a health crisis and had been going on for a long time). The illness and death apparently caused by a food company were a medical disaster for any animal it affected, but their silence - and that of Iams, Eukanuba and the other brands for which this food was canned - was even more horrible because the vets were not being given information they could use to remedy some of the situations still under their care. It wasn't just the public being kept in the dark - it was those entrusted to protect and treat our four-legged family members who were being denied facts that might have saved pet lives not already ended by this "well-managed" and suppressed tragedy.

By Tuesday March 20th I felt I had to write something to my listeners and others who have come to view me as an unbiased, straight-talking source of information and guidance. But the problem was that I still didn't feel I could offer anything of definite value to you. My goal - in everything I do in this field as an advocate for pets and their people - is to gather all the information I can, sift out the baloney, get to the bottom of the murky waters, flush out those who are self-serving, call it like I see it from an objective position, separate emotion and personal bias from facts, and generally offer a well-researched and carefully considered bottom line that can serve a greater good. But I could not in all honesty do that by Tuesday. Things still didn't add up for me. So instead, I sent out and posted a "treatise" of some thoughts I had been mulling over regarding the inconsistencies, the illogic, the suspicious contradictions, the bizarre silences, and the horrible sense that the bull**** we were being fed - which the mainstream media was a partner in perpetuating, by the way - was destined to emerge as a much more insidious, infuriating and morally deplorable situation.

Unfortunately some people misread my intention in that "treatise" and misunderstood my suspicion and doubts as being directed at the heartbroken people who were learning their pets were in jeopardy right then, or whose recent unexplained deaths suddenly had an explanation. I apologize for that misunderstanding, it could not have been further from my actual intention, which was to point out that my suspicions and doubts were about Menu Foods and the companies for which they produced product: these people had been changing their facts on an hourly basis about when a problem as discovered - when and why they had been testing food - when and how test animals had died - whether they knew what the toxin was - what consumers could do.

I was particularly disturbed and distrustful of my fellow journalists, who were silent across-the-board on this story - and apparently lacking any interest in doing investigating into what was really going on. The blatant muddling of facts, switch-and-bait excuses and stories, and lack of logic about many aspects of the situation should have had all of their ears perked up to get to the bottom of it.

And then I figured it out: Procter and Gamble OWNS both Iams and Eukanuba. P&G spends an awful lot of money advertising all of its products on television and in the print media. We'd like to think that their financial support of the media empires would not put a sort of gag order on the editors and writers -we'd like to believe we have a free press, not influenced by advertising dollars. It would be so reassuring to be able to think that is the case.
Oh - and did anyone catch that annual report that was yanked from the Menu Foods website - proudly proclaiming that Iams has a 10 year contract for Menu Foods to make 100% of all their canned foods? No? I missed it too, but one of my colleagues has it saved on her computer. So when the press reports play down the Iams/Eukanuba/Menu Foods relationship as being at arms-length, it's just the opposite. This isn't about pet deaths and peoples' heartbreak and fear - it is about billions of dollars at stake, make no mistake.

There are still many more questions than answers in this debacle but some things seem sure. It is not just those styles of foods made on those dates that pose risk. If wheat and/or wheat gluten entered the food chain at Menu Foods, then it makes more sense to assume that any of their foods - dry or wet - could have been tainted. Especially given the resounding silence and refusal to step up and take responsibility and be pro-active, you can safely bet that the cover-up, keep-your-cards-close-to-the-vest mentality is still functioning. However, now they have finally told the public to avoid all of the "cuts and slices in nasty gravy" (my addition of "nasty," sorry, I couldn't resist) no matter when it was made. That was the kind of thing I was trying to point out last week - it made no sense, it was a damage control idea that the dates were the only issue. Was there really anyone who thought the company suspected they had poison in the machinery or ingredients - had stopped all production, thrown away all the possible toxins and then disinfected all the machinery and went right on to produce worry-free safe food.

Right, I didn't think so.

I said before and I'll say it again: question authority. Do not take anything at face value in this mess. Do not expect that we have heard the truth yet - it's ten days since that weekend news leak and I will still say to you that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. These multi-billion dollars companies have the power of their big bucks - the government has never done a proper job in keeping any tabs on the pet food industry and they certainly aren't jumping in to say the, too, had better shape up as a regulatory agency.

Why aren't more people asking questions like:

How can it be that we were subjected to more press about Anna Nicole Smith than the death of any head of state - but the media machine does not think that 90 million cat owners and 68 million dog families need to know about this?Members of the press have yet to reach out and find the story just lying here, waiting to be dug up and shared with all of us. It's practically waiting on a silver platter - but the press mentions have been few and small and just parroted whatever the companies put out there.
Why haven't real numbers of the losses been ferreted out and published? Why has the press swallowed this magic "only 13 animals" number - which is the test animals who died within days? Why did the media single out only one afflicted cat, belonging to a woman who was suing the food companies with a case that sounded shaky - she had a 9 year old cat who had never been to the vet and she waited through four days of dire illness resulting in the cat's blindness and then death. Why has the media only shown a few Yorkies feeling poorly instead of what has got to be the thousands of aggrieved and enraged citizens whose animal family members suffered fast or slow deaths that might even have been avoided?
If you look at the very early information that trickled out, Menu knew they had an ingredient problem perhaps as far back as December, when word has it that many Canadian pets fell ill. Our early press reports switched around dates of March 20th and February 27th tests for sickness - and then said the food tests were for taste testing - and then mention of testing on animals that killed them disappeared from the news stories entirely. We were clearly not getting anything like The Truth.How can it be that NONE of the companies involved have yet to take responsibility... say they are sorry... explain how much we and our pets matter to them (oh yeah)... and how they will be looking at compensating losses?
How is it conceivable that the companies involved have made no attempt to even try to reassure us that they want to revamp their system of food production to avoid such a horrific tragedy in the future?
But wait - they hadn't yet even acknowledged there was a tragedy, had they?

Who would believe that a week later there was still no way or place for anyone to report their personal losses and get information to allay their fears about the food still circulating? If a tree falls in the forest....?
By not supplying a place to report facts and questions, these companies and our government agencies were keeping a lock-down on information. Without a clearing house for reporting and disseminating information, the press could proceed as if "no news was good news." Not the stuff of which great journalism is made.
There is now a place where pet owners can go to register information if they believe their animals have been affected. Go to the Food and Drug Administration from this link. Up until now, a number of pet websites and communities have been trying to function as clearing houses but ultimately there will not be much credibility for locations in which people "self-report" incidents. We hope this will provide some impact. But I wouldn't hold my breath - we're all waiting to exhale here.

March 28th, 2007, 02:52 PM
wow. very well written and a very interesting read.

March 28th, 2007, 03:05 PM
most excellent post - I'm going to bookmark this one :thumbs up

March 28th, 2007, 04:45 PM
I agree.....thanks for sharing, Teri. :thumbs up

March 28th, 2007, 05:55 PM
Was there really anyone who thought the company suspected they had poison in the machinery or ingredients - had stopped all production, thrown away all the possible toxins and then disinfected all the machinery and went right on to produce worry-free safe food.

I'll have to remember this next time someone says "Oh but this isnt the recalled food" when I wonder why they are still feeding their pet that garbage even after all this.

Great article, thanks for sharing!!

March 28th, 2007, 09:06 PM
Yeah, I'd be pretty wary of feeding anything they produced :sad: .

March 28th, 2007, 11:00 PM
Very good article.
Disturbing on how the media is influenced by money.