Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pet Food Politics. The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine.

After being up for half the night dealing with sick Chihuahuas I decided I would spend the afternoon snoozing on the couch. However, I made the terrible mistake of starting to read a book sent to me by my friend Matt (who runs a brilliant organic chocolate company called Organic Meltdown that plants a tree for every bar of chocolate sold) and it was so gripping I ended up not sleeping after all.

Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine describes the 2007 USA recall of pet food involving 200 different brands containing (or suspected of containing) ingredients responsible for killing an estimated 4,000+ dogs and cats. It reveals how, in an effort to cut costs and boost profits, manufacturers started to buy ingredients of dubious provenance and quality from - amongst other places - China. The Chinese, it transpired, had been lacing these ingredients with (of all things) melamine.

The author, Professor Nestle, isn't really interested in dog welfare per se. To her the key point is that: 'Pet foods are just one part of an inextricably linked system of food production, distribution and consumption.' She views the recall (the largest consumer recall of all time) as a warning about the globalisation of the food industry viz. we can no longer be certain where ingredients really come from or whether they meet appropriate safety standards.

She is doubtful about whether manufacturers, government or consumers have learned from the experience and predicts that it is all likely to happen again hinting darkly that next time it may be humans who die. A chilling book, then, but fascinating for all that.


  1. Very interesting post. I remember this recall back in 2007 and I was really afraid for my chihuahua's well being.

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