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Donna Solomon, DVM Headshot

Pet Food Labels

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Yesterday I was discussing with a conscientious dog owner her pet's diet. It instantly became clear to me that food labeling on pet's food can be confusing and potentially misleading. She told me that she feeds her dog "human-grade" dog food. But here's the problem: it is impossible to buy "human-grade" dog food. It just doesn't exist for any mass-manufactured pet food. Even if a pet food company buys meat from a slaughterhouse that was intended for human consumption, once the meat leaves the slaughterhouse in a truck bound for pet food production, it immediately becomes "inedible" for human consumption. The reason for this switch in classification is that the authority regulating the safety of the food changes from the USDA to the FDA. The USDA does NOT inspect pet food manufacturing plants and their procedures and therefore cannot guarantee that the processing of the food meets human ingestion standards once the meat leaves the USDA-inspected slaughterhouse. Since "human-grade" implies a government-stamped approval from the USDA, it is misleading for pet food manufacturing plants to bear the "human grade" label.

If you're surprised by this, just wait -- there's more. The terms "holistic," "premium," and "natural" have become extremely popular marketing vernacular in the pet food industry, but you might be disappointed to learn that there is no legal definition of these terms in pet food production. These descriptors were created solely to inflate the value of the pet product for marketing purposes. And while I'm on a roll, here's another pet peeve of mine; labeling of dog food intended for one specific breed -- like "Bull Dog" food versus "Labrador" food." Really?? I'm American but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy an Italian gelato. Well maybe I shouldn't -- but that's another topic altogether.

Personally, I find it disturbing that the FDA has not disallowed these false or intentionally misleading labels to be placed on our pet food labels. It is unfortunate that well-intentioned pet owners are falsely paying more for pet food with the hope that they're providing the best food possible to their pets, when in reality they're just feeding another industry's insatiable appetite for dollars.

I invite you to email me your questions. I know there is a lot of information on the Internet, and it can be overwhelming to navigate the truth from the down-right crazy. I'd like to help you out.

Please email me your questions to AskDrDS@gmail.com.