Real Wealth Society

Saturday, March 31, 2007

I’ve been thinking about pets By Fred Cederholm

Column for on/after Mar. 25th

I’ve been thinking about pets. Actually I’ve been thinking about Menu Foods, branding, “caveat emptor,” outsourcing, symptoms, and unanswered questions. A majority of US households have at least one pet. These loveable fuzzies are more than some “animal” who happened to share our residence, they are literally esteemed and much loved members of the family! Pets, pet food, pet accessories and paraphernalia, and veterinary care are big business – pets, in many cases, are like having another child.

You see, in the past week we have witnessed the slow, unfolding drama involving the safety of the nation’s food supply for pets. Thus far, over 60 MILLION units of moist pet food products for cats and dogs have been recalled - and there may be more coming. This was already the largest such recall in US history. There appears to have been some type of “contamination” of several production batches which are causing pets to get very sick - and even die. There also appears to have been a multiple week lag between the company’s awareness of “the problem,” the publicizing of it, and the subsequent recall.

Menu Foods was a name unknown to almost all of us. We each have our own food-brand/ product preferences for our resident loveable fuzzies for any number of reasons. This Canadian-owned company had, for the most part, never surfaced on our radar. However… we have since now learned from this developing story that Menu Foods is perhaps the largest contractor/ outsourcer/ manufacturer of certain pet foods on the planet. The story of the contaminated products and their mass recall was a scary revelation in and of itself, but then we learned there are no government mandated standards for quality/ inspection/ testing of pet foods. The “industry” is basically self-regulating and self-policing. As the drama continues to unfold, we find ourselves learning a lot of things that we never expected.

One sub-story became a real eye-opener because the recall involved moist pet food products which are sold under almost thirty different brand names. These covered the full spectrum of the market. They included upscale boutique brands, major national private label brands, store (or house) brands for the largest national big-box stores (and pet food chains), and a slew of generic products to boot. These were manufactured at basically two Menu Foods facilities for all of their “contract” customers. The retail unit prices for the products covered the full range from the pricy boutique units at one end, to the economical generics at the other. Now … if these are all made/ prepared by the same company, using the same facilities and ingredients, and the recall covered the gamut of them all with no exceptions; just what, if anything, “distinguished” these products besides the packaging/ container/ (brand) name – and of course the ultimate cost to the buyer. It looks like a case of “Caveat Emptor” - let the buyer beware.

Outsourcing/ anonymous-fabrication has become much more of a fact of life in this so-called global economy – although the trend has been developing for some time now in individual countries across the world. This is true whether you are talking about pet food, clothing, consumer durables/ electronics, convenience products, customer service, appliances, what-ever. My best advice to my readers is to take nothing for granted, and do your homework regarding what you buy – and particularly what you (or your pets) consume. Despite the “brand” or any past reputation of a premium product/ company, do you know “who” is really making it now? It’s something we all need to TH*NK about.

A detail of the “brands” under contract to Menu Foods and impacted by the recall is available on-line at or by calling 1-866-895-2708. If your pet is experiencing muscle tremors (including uncontrollable shivering) or seizures, vomiting and or diarrhea (sometimes with blood), excessive salivation - drooling or foaming, redness of skin, ears, eyes, mental depression or excitement, bleeding ulceration or blisters of the mouth or skin, excessive pawing at the mouth, excessive licking, abnormal swelling, and/ or elevated or depressed body temperature, PLEASE contact your veterinarian immediately. Your furry little friend needs you to do this for them.

This story/ drama is far from over. There have been no confirmed (or validated) explanations of the real cause or reasons behind the “problem.” There has been only conjecture and speculation to date. The loveable fuzzies which are part of our households - and our families - deserve far better than this. I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2007 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved.


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