What caused the major pet food recall in 2007?
Wheat gluten is an ingredient often found in pet foods. It acts as a binder and increases the protein content—and it is very inexpensive. One of the companies involved in the recalls of 2007 imported their wheat gluten from China and, when that company went out of business, it was necessary for them to quickly find another source. The new source did meet the deadline, but not by exporting wheat gluten. The product was actually wheat flour–and the flour was treated with melamine as an “extender.”
That resulted in canine (and feline) deaths, most notably, “Pebbles,” the Yorkshire terrier who was believed to be the first to become ill.
It was also found that a portion of the tainted pet food was used to produce farm animal and fish feed, and officials from FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture soon discovered that some of the feed that the animals ate had been processed into human food. While government scientists had determined that this presents a very low risk, all tainted pet food, animal and fish feed, and vegetable proteins continue to be recalled and destroyed.
Toxicity in flours used for dog food is not a new phenomenon. During the first half of the 20th century, pet-food flours were treated with a chemical called agene. Agene reduced the prolonged storage period required to make freshly milled flour appropriate for use in then-modern baking equipment. According to Radomski, Woodard and Lehmanogs in “The Toxicity of Flours Treated With Various ‘Improving’ Agents, dogs poisoned by agene-treated foods experienced “running fits” in which the dog behaved “in a thoroughly panic-stricken manner, howling and clawing the air.
Severe poisoning resulted in convulsions and death.
How to Prevent Poisoning
Although the melamine scare is largely considered over, dog food and dog treats from China are best avoided. Balanced homemade diets may be suitable as well for some dogs. As an herbicide, corn gluten meal is considered completely safe.