Compared to other consumer-directed books on the topic, 'Feed Your Pet Right' is refreshingly candid but strives to be balanced and fair.
met Drs. Marion Nestle and Malden C. Nesheim, the authors of Feed Your Pet Right (Free Press, 2010),
at Petfood Forum 2010. Admittedly, prior to their presentation, I was quite
skeptical about what I was going to hear, as both authors were self-proclaimed outsiders
to the petfood arena. However, upon hearing their views, I became interested in
their perspectives on the many issues facing consumers, the industry and
regulators today, which prompted me to buy the book to learn more.
me, the title of the book does very little to explain its contents. There are a
number of similarly named books on the market that promise health, vitality and
longevity of dogs and cats through nutritional means. Most of these condemn
commercial petfoods as inadequate, if not dangerous.
books make it a point to disparage many of the commonly used petfood
ingredients while espousing the virtues of alternative feeding systems and/or
specified ingredients (many of which are atypical, if not unapproved for use in
commercial petfood). Only through strict adherence to the recommendations of
the authors can your pet’s health be assured.
book, on the other hand, makes only a few, rather general, recommendations. It
concludes that commercial petfoods and their ingredients are generally adequate
and appropriate but that no one type of food is best for all animals. To that
end, it also finds raw, homemade and other alternative feeding systems
acceptable, so in conclusion, “It’s OK to do what works best for you.” I do not
necessarily disagree with that advice, but to me it hardly reflects the
impression given by the book’s title.
not specific advice, what does the book cover, then? Basically, it’s an
explanation of petfoods from the authors’ perspective. It is not their intent
to tell consumers what they must feed but rather to provide sufficient
information so pet owners may form their own opinions about what they should be
feeding their dogs and cats. Topics include:
to other books I’ve seen over the years, Feed
Your Pet Right is refreshingly candid but strives to be balanced and fair. Much
of the information from the reportedly “consumer advocate” viewpoint that I’ve
read in books on websites and elsewhere is considerably biased, often grossly
disparaging the nutritive value and safety of commercial petfoods. These
sources usually consider the petfood industry to be corrupt and uncaring, if
not downright evil, while its regulators are either apathetic about the
consumer’s plight or wholly inept in correcting the wrongs perpetrated by the
book takes a decidedly different turn from the usual fodder. For example, it by
and large supports the use of by-products and rendered meals in commercial
petfoods, if for no other reason than as a safe, ecologically sound and
efficient means to utilize these materials that would otherwise go to waste. Grains
are also OK for pets, the authors say.
is not to say this book has no criticism of the industry and regulatory bodies.
Rather, it sees need for improvement on many fronts. However, I would
characterize these concerns as mainly constructive rather than inflammatory.
am in wholehearted agreement with some of the book’s conclusions and
recommendations, rather tepid about others and flatly disagree with even more. After
spending 20-plus years involved in petfood regulation, I respect that the
authors’ perspective is going to be different from my own. However, there are a number of statements
where I thought the research was lacking.
example, the claim that “the FDA [US Food and Drug Administration] does not bother to do anything about
[feline urinary tract health]” statements is factually inaccurate. In fact,
companies that wish to make such a claim must submit the results of rigorous
studies to show safety and utility prior to marketing or face high risk of
enforcement action as an adulterated drug (see Guidance for Industry #55).
the specifics in the guidance protocol are not legally binding, in practice it
would be extremely difficult for the submitter to stray from these data
requirements. As a result, only a handful of companies have ever been granted
permission to make “reduces urinary pH” claims on cat food labels. Granted, I’m
sure these claims are out there on many non-label materials, but that’s an
issue of the government’s inability to effectively monitor these venues rather
than enforcement discretion per se.
conclusion, I would recommend that people in the petfood industry read this
book. While you may not agree with it all it says, it provides fresh insight
that may be helpful to many in the industry, hopefully without provoking the
knee-jerk defensive posture common with many consumer-directed reading
materials on the topic.
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Committees discussed key proposals such as a possible shift in the oversight of animal feeds
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