The makers of Pedigree dog food are fending off continued accusations by dog lovers that their food may contain foreign objects that are harmful to dogs.
Earlier this year, Pedigree had to respond to claims by consumers that its Marrobone contained sharp, wire-like objects embedded in the treats. Complaints about Marrobone have been showing up since at least 2013, however. A typical account in the Dog Food Advisor forums from January of that year said:
I purchased a bag of the bacon/cheese flavor, and my husband noticed a fiber, like a paintbrush bristle stick out of one of the treats. Very sharp, very sturdy. I got to looking in the bag, and most of the treats had several of these fibers sticking out of them. Very sharp and so sturdy we had to pull them out with tweezers.
Such reports have continued to spread throughout communities of dog owners and into the mainstream media, but officials from Pedigree say that owners are just finding natural fibers, usually bristles from the pigs used to make the treats. In March of this year, they announced the results of testing on their Facebook Page:
As per our commitment to you and your pets, we sent these samples to the University of Guelph for third-party testing. The results have come back, and the fibres in question have been confirmed to be animal hair.
Pedigree may have hoped that would be the end of it, but anger and complaints have only increased, with many pet owners claiming that Pedigree treats have made their dogs sick. And now, it’s no longer all about Marrowbone; people have begun to report finding the wire-like materials in Pedigree’s “new formula” kibble.
Pedigree’s new kibble was launched in June of 2015. At the time, a press release touted it as “a new meatier recipe” for dogs. However, its Facebook page is now ablaze with complaints from owners alleging that the kibble is giving their dogs diarrhea or making them vomit. In addition to the claims about foreign objects embedded in the kibble, some have said that they found mold growing in the bags. The company’s response to the allegations is much the same as before:
We have reviewed product samples and have confirmed that it is natural fibers that consumers are seeing in the kibble. Because Pedigree is manufactured using meat and bone meal, it’s possible for natural fibers, like pig hair, to appear in the finished kibble. There is absolutely no quality or safety concern with the natural fibers. They are completely safe for dogs to consume. We can assure you that our Pedigree products are safe and nutritious. Quality and food safety is our top priority as we conduct over 600 quality checks each day in our plants, including metal detection. Because we take every consumer concern seriously, we encourage them to reach out to us at 1-800-525-5273.
Right now, it’s very hard to see where the truth lies. Although there are multiple reports of illness, it’s hard to establish a positive link between the food and the illnesses just by reading posts on the Internet. At the same time, there are a lot of complaints and reports over a long period of time.
Consumer columnist John Matarese leans toward believing that the objects aren’t wires, but actually hairs, just as the company says. He took some of them to a veterinarian to examine:
Dr Jordan Albrecht analyzed the fiber under a microscope. She said it was not plastic, but rather some type of animal fur.
“I think it could be consistent with pig hair, something of that nature,” Albrecht said.
Even if the reported objects are just hairs, does that leave Pedigree in the clear? Much of their defense lies in emphasizing the word “natural,” which most of us have warm and fuzzy feelings about. If something’s “natural,” we instantly assume that something’s good for you, or at least harmless. Entire fortunes have been built on exploiting that fallacy. (I live in Berkeley, so I see this at work every day.)
But things can be natural and extremely toxic at the same time. Cyanide, for instance, is not only natural but organic; you can find it in apricot and peach pits. It will still kill you. Even water in massive doses can be toxic.
Pig hairs are extremely stiff, and have been traditionally been used for making brushes. It’s easy to see how they could be mistaken for wires and how they might irritate a dog’s digestive system. Either way, it’s clear that Pedigree is going to have to address the issue more directly and clearly than they have. It’s been growing for over two years now, and it doesn’t seem to be going away.
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