Pet-Food Crisis a Boon to Organic Players
Companies Specializing in Natural Products Thrive as P&G, Others Scramble
P&G Rolls Out Ads to Quell Consumers' Pet-Food Fears
Launches Blitz in 59 Newspapers, Says Iams and Eukanuba Brands Are Safe
Pet-Food Saga Takes Another Turn
FDA Says Some Dry Products May Also Contain Suspect Gluten
Pet-food Industry Too Slow: Crisis-PR GurusRecall Sheds Light on Pet-Food Industry's Little Secret
But Some Say Companies Were Wise to Take Time Before Issuing a Recall
Consumers See That Premium, Private-Label Products Can Come From Same Place
Natural pet-food marketer Blue Buffalo Co. recalled one of its products yesterday after having run newspaper and online search ads earlier this month positioning its brand as an alternative to foods caught up in prior rounds of the recall.
Rice protein concentrate
Mars' Royal Canin USA also recalled all of its dry pet food made with rice protein concentrate today, the first time a U.S. unit of Mars, the last major manufacturer snared by the recall, had been affected. Previously, Royal Canin had recalled products made by contract manufacturer Menu Foods in Canada, and also reported having received tainted corn gluten in South Africa.
Mars earlier in the week had been running search ads on phrases such as "pet food recall" to reassure consumers that several of its brands -- including Cesar, Whiskas and the recently launched Goodlife Recipe -- hadn't been recalled. Those ads were no longer running as of yesterday.
At least two additional yet-unidentified pet-food manufacturers may also have received rice protein concentrate contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, which led to the Blue Buffalo and Royal Canin recalls in addition to a recall of some Natural Balance pet food products earlier this week, officials of the Food and Drug Administration said yesterday.
Melamine-tainted corn gluten
As the recall expanded to rice ingredients, Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, confirmed the discovery of melamine-tainted corn gluten in South Africa. He said the agency doesn't know if any U.S. manufacturers had imported corn gluten from China.
"The finding of the rice protein concentrate being contaminated with melamine is causing us to start looking broader at other potential sources of melamine," he said.
Pet food with melamine-tainted Chinese wheat gluten already has led to recall of more than 100 brands of dog food made by five manufacturers and reported deaths of thousands of cats and dogs from kidney failure.
Human food tainted?
And for the first time, the FDA is exploring whether some melamine-contaminated product may have reached the human food chain. Mr. Sundlof said some contaminated pet food may have ended up being used as hog feed by a company he declined to identify.
"We will be working closely with USDA to find out [about] what the disposition of those pigs who may have gotten the contaminated feed will be," he said.
He said the FDA also is looking into reports that melamine may have intentionally been added to the wheat gluten and rice concentrate to boost their protein content. A bag labeled "melamine" was found along with a shipment of the suspect rice protein concentrate, FDA officials said.
"Right now we're more concerned about making sure contaminated product is not available," Mr. Sundlof said. "Then we'll look at motive."
'Had no knowledge'
In a statement late Thursday, Blue Buffalo said it's recalling one production run of its Spa Select Dry Kitten Food that used rice protein concentrate from the same shipment that led to Natural Balance's recall earlier in the week. "This is the first and only time our manufacturing partner sourced an ingredient from Wilbur-Ellis [the importer of the ingredient]," Blue Buffalo said, "and we had no knowledge that they had imported the ingredients from China."
Earlier this week, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Iams brand launched a new web site, Iamspromise.com, along with search ads leading to the site.
"Effective immediately, we will take the added step of certifying the quality and purity of every new source of ingredients that our suppliers use in our products," Iams said in a statement on its new site. "Our specific approval will be required before any supplier can change any of our unique ingredients."
The new policy comes in addition to what the company said is "already ... one of the strictest food safety methods in the industry."
The site offered consumers coupons for a free four-pound bag of dry dog or cat food or the equivalent value off a larger bag to the first 250,000 pet owners who register.