How Do You Know if a Pet Food Manufacturing Facility is Safe and Clean?

Because of so many “voluntary” recalls by pet food manufacturing companies, several people have asked me to write about the conditions in those facilities. I admit I’ve avoided the subject until now, because I suspect it isn’t going to be the most positive story.

I have not seen the inside of those manufacturing plants first-hand, so it would really not be fair for me to make negative remarks about them. That said, I will make a few educated guesses that I believe would be factual. Common sense applies.

I cannot even imagine the overall condition of Chinese manufacturing facilities. They won’t allow U.S. agencies to inspect their plants. One example of this occurred when the FDA wanted to inspect Chinese plants that made chicken jerky treats. The Chinese government refused access. Given the many illnesses and deaths of dogs attributed to those jerky treats, I would doubt those Chinese plants would meet our expectations of cleanliness.

When you read about a large pet food plant that is a subsidiary of a human food production facility, the first thought is that they must practice first-class cleanliness standards if the parent company is affiliated with human food production. Well, that may or may not be the case. We have seen far too many of those dog and/or cat food brands being recalled for various problems.

One example is Nestle-Purina, maker of such popular cat and dog food products as Fancy Feast, Beneful, Alpo, Friskies, Purina One, Waggin Train, and more.  Waggin Train was one of the voluntarily recalled treats in the Chinese Jerky Treat scandal.  Perhaps the manufacturing facilities for those products are clean as the proverbial whistle; perhaps not.

But I would put my money on the health and safety records of companies that advertise and follow through with human-grade ingredients sourced in the United States on organic farms.  Fromm’s Family Foods comes to mind.  Orijen, which is made in Canada (and will soon have a plant in Kentucky) is another. Orijen sources their ingredients from farms near their production facilities.

When it comes to pet treats, I’d trust Clear Conscience Pets.  Their products are grain-free, gluten-free, have no glycerin, no artificial preservatives or colors, and no genetically modified ingredients are used. As their website says, “You won’t need a dictionary or an advanced degree to understand the ingredients in Clear Conscience Pets® Clean Label™ products. You’ll recognize them because they are real foods, not ‘engineered’ ingredients that you’ve never heard of that don’t belong in a healthy pet food or treat.”  I’ll bet this company runs a very clean manufacturing facility.

Cleanliness isn’t the only factor to consider. Storage of the products and ingredients is just as important. Molds, aflatoxins and mycotoxins in pet food grains are becoming more and more of an issue. Those molds flourish in drought conditions and the American Midwest, where many grains are grown, has suffered from such conditions in recent years. Molds such as aflatoxins and mycotoxins attack internal organs in animals, causing kidney and liver damage and immune system malfunction.

I don’t want my pets eating foods that could possibly contain molds and the only way to prevent this is to avoid grains in pet foods. By feeding my pets foods and treats without grains, mold contamination isn’t likely to occur.

Much has been written about the problems with corn in pet foods, and the potential for mold contamination is one more reason to avoid it.

Unless you visit the pet food manufacturers unannounced and are allowed to tour the facility, you can only use common sense in deciding if a particular company’s products are likely to be safe for your pet. For me, that means a manufacturer that uses only high-quality, natural ingredients and seldom if ever  has a recall for any reason.


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