A recent lawsuit filed on January 11th against Milo’s Kitchen Manufacturers Big Heart Pet Brands and Smuckers, claims that dog and cat treats are not made entirely in the US, even though they have the “Made in USA” label. They are accused of label misrepresentation, but they are claiming this is false and they will fight the lawsuit.
If you go to Milo’s Kitchen official website, regarding what Made in USA means, it says:
“All major ingredients, including meats, proteins, grains and vegetables, come from the USA. Although we source a limited amount of minor ingredients, such as preservatives, from other countries due to limited availability in the U.S. or to U.S. suppliers, we’ve listened to our consumers and do not source any of our ingredients from China”
So this brings to the question of what the label Made in USA actually means and why it is so important.
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Let’s go back to 2007… Maybe you remember the huge pet food recall due to many deaths of dogs and cats across the US. This happened because pet food contained melamine, an ingredient originated in China, to make their wheat gluten look purer. Melamine contains a lot of nitrogen and it created something that looked like a high protein product. It caused severe kidney problems in many dogs and cats which lead to their death.
After that, pet guardians became more aware of the food they buy for their animals and this put more pressure on the pet food companies. The lack of trust of Chinese ingredients led to many companies to put the “Made in USA” label in their products and even the American Flag, since this positively influences the buyer to choose their brand.
The Made in the USA label for pet food requires that it is made with 100% US ingredients, the packaging, and the production of the food or that it should have a disclaimer on the package if there is a product sourced from another country. All of this in theory…
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The Association of American Feed Control Officials, AAFCO, established some regulations:
“The rule states that: “all or virtually all” means that all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of US origin. That is, the product should contain no – or negligible – foreign content. So just putting together ingredients inside the US is not enough. Additionally, just getting ingredients from a broker within the US is not enough. If ingredients are imported, then it is very difficult to justify the use of the phrase “Made in the USA”.”
All or virtually all means all significant parts. It actually doesn’t mean 100%. What determines which content is negligible?
The melamine that was added to the pet food, was not added directly into the food but it was found in the premix. Here are some facts: Most premixes are manufactured overseas because the costs and standards are low. Some of them could be made in China but that won’t be easy to tell since where the premix was made doesn’t have to be listed on the label.
The individual synthetic vitamins and minerals are almost all manufactured in India or China. Even for the manufactures it may be hard to tell where each individual ingredient of the premixes came from, or through what kind of quality control it went through.
A way to keep quality of the ingredients and safety of the food if the origin of the food cannot be tested, could be to test every batch of food. But here’s a shocking fact: it is cheaper for the pet food companies to pay the lawsuit for your dead pet, than to test their product.
So it seems it’s not 100% safe after all to see the Made in USA label in the pet food we buy for our animals.
What options do we have then? Feed our animals a home-made diet? A raw diet? Maybe. Or maybe just try to find food that is premix free. Seek out companies that are transparent about testing for toxins, read the ingredients and spot the chemicals if you want synthetic ingredients free food. Feel free to ask the pet companies where their ingredients come from or what testing do they do. They should be willing to answer all of your questions if they are transparent.
So, beyond the lawsuit Milo’s Kitchen Manufacturers are dealing with, it actually brought a deeper issue here. What does the Made in USA label actually mean and what should we know about it to get inside the pet food world.