(Meat) Pet Food Safety is As Important As Human Food Safety 

Cute Cat

Surprise! Human is not the only species on earth that consume meat. Cats and dogs we have at home consume meats as well. As raising pets in the family become more and more popular, pet food becomes a high demand in the market. Industrialization comes along and a lot of companies try to lower their price by using many different methods.


Chemical Structure of Melamine Cyanurate


One of the method was to lowering the protein content by substituting meat with wheat gluten. Wheat gluten itself does not cause any harm to animals, however, the additional of melamine and cyanuric acid does. Melamine contains 66% nitrogen and it is used for plastic production (Suchy et al., 2009). Cyanuric acid is a bleaching agent and it contains non-protein nitrogen like melamine (Suchy et al., 2009). The combination of melamine and cyanuric acid forms melamine cyanurate and it is an insoluble compound that can block renal function (Suchy et al., 2009). Eventually, it causes renal failure in animals and eventually death (Suchy et al., 2009).


At late 2006 and early 2007, gluten suppliers in China decided to add melamine and cyanuric acid into the wheat gluten to higher the nitrogen value (FDA, 2009). Most protein analyses were based on amount of nitrogen in sample so a higher nitrogen value could trick buyers by claiming a high protein value for their product (FDA, 2009). Buyers would not know that they were buying wheat gluten with non-protein nitrogen chemicals like melamine and cyanuric if the chemicals were not listed out. Pet food companies purchased the wheat gluten and added into their pet food products without knowing the danger of it (FDA, 2009).


“cut and gravy” style pet food


In many affected brands, Menu Foods Limited had the highest impact. Menu Foods Limited was a company based in Canada and it sold pet foods across Canada and United State (Smith, 2007). The company “cut and gravy” style pet food was first reported to cause renal failure and death (FDA, 2009). It was also the first company began to recall and had the largest recall in comparison with other companies (Smith, 2007).
Although there were 8500 animal deaths reported to FDA in related to this incident, there were no specific number of affected animals according to FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) because of lack of surveillance network (FDA, 2009; Heavey, 2007).


After the incident, FDA developed a network called Pet Event Tracking Network (PETNet) to improve surveillance (Dangin et al., 2015). The database allows FDA and state agencies to share information about potential outbreaks and pet-food related incidents instantaneously (Dangin et al., 2015). The system was finally finalized at 2011 (Dangin et al., 2015). You might think surveillance would improve after this tragedy, however, nothing has really changed.



Jerky Dog Treat That Required to Be Recall at 2015


In September 2015, a jerky dog treat has reportedly contaminated with amantadine and required to be recall (FDA, 2015a) . Amantadine is an antiviral drug to treat Parkinson’s disease (FDA, 2015b). Certain farms and plants used it to treat avian flu (FDA, 2015b). Although it is allowed to use as a medication for animal in certain countries, it is not approve to be in pet food in the U.S. (FDA, 2015b). This is not the first time that happen in human history. In 2014, there were more than 4800 complaints in regarded of jerky pet treats (Desk, 2014; FDA, 2015b). More than 1000 dogs were reportedly dead because of jerky pet treats from China (Desk, 2014; FDA, 2015b). Although there is no definite correlation with amantadine and the 2014 incident, it is one of the potential cause (Desk, 2014). In term of the source of illness, it is still unknown according to a report given out by FDA in February 2015 (FDA, 2015b). Moreover, complaints in regard of jerky pet treat is still continuing in 2015 (FDA, 2015b).


Dogs and cats cannot choose what they eat. Human have a great responsibility on what they provide to their pets. In 2015, nothing has really improved in term of pet food safety. In the future, we should really make sure that no more poor animals are dead because of our greediness; therefore, we should continue to improve our regulations and surveillance program to protect them.





  1. View on the incidents
  2. Do you think people are simply over reacting or should there be more regulation?
  3. Is globalization good for the food industry or not?


Here is a news report summarizing what happen at 2007:


Here is a news report about jerky pet treat:


Dangin, A., Murphy, J., & Melluso, C. (2015, October 5). PETNet: An Information Exchange for Pet Food Related Incidents. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/Products/AnimalFoodFeeds/PetFood/ucm278278.htm

Desk, N. (2014, May 20). FDA Update: 1000+ Dog Deaths Potentially Linked to Chinese Jerky Treats. Food Safety News.
FDA. (2009, October 7). Melamine Pet Food Recall – Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved December 2, 2015, from http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/RecallsWithdrawals/ucm129932.htm

FDA. (2015a, September 23). Enforcement Report – Week of September 23, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2015, from http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/enforcement/enforce_rpt-Product-Tabs.cfm?action=select&recall_number=V-261-2015&w=09232015&lang=eng

FDA. (2015b, February 19). FDA Issues Update on Jerky Pet Treat Investigation. Retrieved December 2, 2015, from http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm434865.htm
Heavey, S. (2007, May 4). U.S. petfood recall widens on cross-contamination. Thomson Reuters.
Smith, J. (2007, March 16). Huge pet food recall launched. Toronto Star.
Suchý P, Straková E, Herzig I, Staňa J, Kalusová R, Pospíchalová M. Toxicological risk of melamine and cyanuric acid in food and feed.Interdisciplinary Toxicology. 2009;2(2):55-59. doi:10.2478/v10102-009-0010-6