Saturday, February 7, 2009

New dog biscuit recall, Feb 7, 2009

Happy Tails And Shoppers Valu Brand Multi-Flavored Dog Biscuits Recalled As Part Of Nationwide Peanut Corporation Of America Recall
SUPERVALU is Recalling Happy Tails and Shoppers Valu Brand Assorted Dog Biscuits Sold at ACME, Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, and Shaw’s/Star Market

Susie Bell

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Minneapolis, MN (January 23, 2009) –SUPERVALU is voluntarily recalling Happy Tails and Shoppers Valu multi-flavored dog biscuit products because they may contain peanut butter that has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. The precautionary move follows a nationwide recall issued by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) of peanut butter and peanut paste produced in its Blakely, Georgia processing facility.

According to the FDA, pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Well animals can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

The products were sold at some SUPERVALU banner stores including ACME, Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, and Shaw’s/Star Market. The identified items have not been directly linked to the salmonella outbreak. However, because the safety of customers, and in this case their pets, is a top priority and out of an abundance of caution, SUPERVALU has voluntarily recalled the products.

This product recall includes all:

Product Name and Description: Happy Tails Multi-Flavored Dog Biscuits, 26 oz
UPC#: 41163-42406
Sold at ACME, Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, and Shaw’s/Star Market

Product Name and Description: Happy Tails Multi-Flavored Dog Biscuits, 4 lb
UPC#: 41163-42403
Sold at ACME, Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, and Shaw’s/Star Market

Product Name and Description: Shoppers Valu Multi-Flavored Dog Biscuits, 4 lb
UPC#: 41130-30507
Sold at ACME and Shaw’s/Star Market

Customers who purchased the recalled dog biscuit products can bring the product back to their store location for a full refund or exchange.

No other products are currently included in this recall. Based on information from the FDA at this time, the peanut butter for sale in SUPERVALU banner stores is not affected by the recall issued by Peanut Corporation of America.

Customers with questions can contact SUPERVALU Inc. at 877.932.7948. Customers can visit the FDA Web page at for more information and updates on the situation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Fatty Acid Primer

“EFAs” and “Omega -3 fatty acids” are very often recommended for a variety of inflammatory disorders. Not all fatty acids are created equal.

Fatty acids are required for normal cellular function. The essential fatty acids (or EFAs - those that must be provided in the diet to prevent nutritional deficiency) are linoleic acid and alpha linolenic acid for dogs. Cats require linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid and arachadonic acid.

Essential fatty acids come from plant and animal fats. The types most usable for animals are described as omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids, when incorporated into the cells of the body, tend to influence cells to make less inflammatory responses. When omega-6 fatty acids accumulate in cells, the responses they make to threats are more inflammatory. When an animal has a chronic, abnormal inflammatory condition such as allergies or autoimmune diseases, the better scenario is to have the cells full of omega-3 fatty acids for less inflammation and better comfort.

The most anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid is EPA (eicosapentanoic acid), contained in fish, krill and algae oils. DHA (docosahexanoic acid) is also contained in fish oil, and we tend think of it therapeutically for its effects in the nervous system - studies have shown that it helps puppies learn better and may improve cognitive dysfunction as well. Flax seed oil contains ALA (alpha linolenic acid), which is not nearly as potent as EPA. A single exception to the omega-6 fatty acid rule is GLA (gamma linolenic acid), which is an ANTI-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid.

We use fish oil for high EPA content. Flaxseed oil contains 55% ALA but unfortunately, it is converted inefficiently to EPA by its enzyme, delta 6-desaturase, and is not a strong anti-inflammatory fatty acid. And cats don't have much delta 6-desaturase compared to dogs and people.

GLA is contained in evening primrose oil at 8-10% concentration, in black currant seed oil at 17%, and in borage oil at 23%.

So - can we use flax seed oil for inflammatory disorders like arthritis, cancer, or allergies? Yes - in dogs - but it won't work as well as fish oil with its preformed EPA. Can we use the high GLA oils for inflammatory disorders? Yes, but the study results seem inconsistent so far as to whether they work. My preference is fish oil.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Factoid: Distillers Dried Grains with Solubles (DGGS)

Ethanol has become an increasingly common alternative fuel, corn formerly fed to animals has been diverted to ethanol production, and the cost of corn has gone up due to higher demand. Many of you have felt this in recent price increases in your pet foods.

DGGS are a by-product of the ethanol industry. The wet mash that is left over after distillation of the ethanol contains the remains of those grains, but the starch has been fermented so the leftover mash is actually low in starch. It is high in protein, partially because of the yeast that was added to start fermentation.

So DGGS is already used in some lower end pet foods, and you may start seeing more of it across the board. The quality of the protein is apparently better than that of corn gluten meal because of the additional yeast protein, but the digestibility is comparable to corn gluten meal (i.e., pretty low). In the article I read, the nutritionist states that the single drawback is the potential presence of fungal and mold toxins. Since the ethanol industry is not regulated as stringently as the feed industry, this is a major concern.

Scorecard: DGGS is a plant protein that can be used to lower the cost of pet foods. If the pet feed industry takes up use of DGGS, it will just encourage more mass, unsustainable corn planting and divert resources needed to find a better answer for energy production. Oh, and it's another 'processed food product' that maybe our pets don't need, unless it's the best the owner can afford. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Local labels and lies

I'm into supporting local farmers, but I've learned that it helps to buy direct. If you are following the FDA News feed on my website (, you might have noticed this morning that some of the recalled Salmonella-tainted peanuts from the Georgia plant made their way into a product labeled....Virginia Roasted Peanuts. Sigh.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Have I mentioned that I support sustainable agriculture and local farms?

This article is from Farm and Ranch Guide:
The article suggests that the industrial meat industry has no need for veterinarians - their system that pushes gigantic numbers of confined animals through a chemical-laden system quickly requires no medical expertise. we all need to eat that much meat?

What's behind the vet shortage

By CAROL RYAN DUMAS, For Farm & Ranch Guide
Saturday, January 31, 2009 3:38 PM CST

The shortage of food supply veterinarians facing animal agriculture and endangering public health is being fueled by several factors.

“One of the big reasons is there is a growing disconnect” with farming, said David Kirkpatrick, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medicine Association. “Fewer farm kids are pursuing a field of their upbringing.”

Another big part of the problem is that veterinary schools in the United States have not grown in size in two decades. There are 2,500 veterinary graduates each year, and colleges just aren't able to accommodate any more. One reason for that is that the federal government hasn't increased funding to those colleges for 30 years.

“Many were founded by the states they're in, and there's not enough state support to maintain growth,” he said.

That doesn't mean the overall number of veterinarians is down. In 1980, U.S. veterinarians numbered 32,037; in 2007, that number grew to 83,730, according to AVMA.

But there is a huge disparity in large animal and small animal practices. In 1980, farm animal veterinarians, excluding equine practitioners, numbered 5,554; by 2007, that number had dropped to 5,090. In comparison, companion animal veterinarians numbered 15,808 in 1980; by 2007, that number had grown to 44,785.

“At the turn of the 20th century, virtually all veterinarians were farm animal veterinarians,” Kirkpatrick said. “With social changes, the pet area exploded.”

Another reason for the looming shortage is natural attrition of older veterinarians retiring from large animal practices, with fewer graduates wanting to take their place, he said.

Long-time veterinarian and R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry sees things differently, saying a vertically integrated industry is pushing food supply veterinarians out of business.

Thornsberry has practiced in central Missouri since graduating veterinary college about 30 years ago, and he's seen the swine industry there change drastically.

Large confined feeding operations took over the independent swine operations and brought in their own veterinarians to mass treat the animals. Independent veterinary practices had to go to primarily treating companion animals or go by the wayside.

“Thirty years ago, you could set up in any town and make a living; you can't do it anymore” without a small animal practice, he said.

With the ability of packers today to completely own supply and hold the animals captive, they never enter the market, and the services of private practitioners is no longer needed, he explained.

“They don't buy anything from anybody locally,” except electricity and hiring a few people, he said,

Years ago, Thornsberry used to have 100 producers with 20 sows each who called him every week. Now Cargill employs one veterinarian for the whole state and operates with service technicians instead.

“I'm completely shut out of the system. It's completely contained so I can't access it,” he said. “I haven't sold a vial of swine vaccine in 20 years.

“The industry no longer uses practitioners. You can't make a living doctoring emergency farm calls,” he added.

The same thing happened in the poultry industry, and the cattle industry now runs the same risk with three major packers controlling most of the supply, he said.

“Swine is gone, poultry is gone, and cattle is rapidly going that route,” he said. “The shortage of veterinarians is a way for someone to make a living when they get out of veterinary school. It's supply and demand.”

And there's more at stake than jobs for veterinarians.

“Not only can we not access the market but if they (packers) collapse, we lose the infrastructure,” Thornsberry said.

“I don't think there's anything that can be done to correct the problem until we correct the way agriculture is going - if we don't make a change and put a stop to this integrated system in the cattle industry” he added.

Kirkpatrick said AVMA acknowledges that certain regions of the country don't suffer a shortage of food supply veterinarians.

“One size doesn't fit all,” he said. “There are areas of the country where it's just fine and other areas where there are shortages, and it's going to get worse.”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Quality of taurine and carnitine supplements

New (ish) from: Bragg RR, Freeman LM, Fascetti AJ, Yu Z, 2009. Composition, disintegrative properties and labeling compliance of commercially available taurine and carnitine dietary supplements. JAVMA 234:209-213

Dietary supplements still have a bad rap with nutritionists, who worry about whether they will be effective or harmful. Quality control is the major sticking point, as dietary supplements - especially for animals - lack consistent regulatory oversight to ensure the companies are putting what they say they do in the bottles. Some frightening papers about probiotics come to mind - one published in 2002 showed that NO veterinary products had labels that accurately reflected their contents. One of those products was a very popular probiotic product used by most professional dog handlers and breeders.

So one of the authors of this paper is a nutritionist married to a cardiologist, and her interest was in 2 nutraceuticals used in certain forms of heart disease - carnitine and taurine.

To give you the punchline, 10 of 11 taurine products contained within 10% of the taurine contents claimed on their labels, while 3 of 11 were within 5% of the label claim. For carnitine products, 6/10 were within 5% of the label claim and all fell within 10% of the label claim. So the only product that was significantly different from what the label claimed was Jarrow Formulas Taurine 1000.

Could have been a bad lot, a bad day or an inaccurate analysis, but it DOES serve as a heads up - that's a veteran company that many trust, and it would serve us well to stay in touch with the companies we trust, showing concern about results like this.

These were all products for human consumption, as most of the veterinary companies concentrate on making formulas. I wonder if the result would have been different had these companies been members of the National Animal Supplement Council?

Factoid: Carrageenan

Carrageenan is a polysaccharide (a linear galactan sugar with alternative 1-3 and 1-4 linkages, to be exact), that is extracted from several species of red seaweed. In pet foods, it is used to make canned foods hold together and come out of the can nicely.

Polysaccharides like this can serve as 'food' for intestinal bacteria, which ferment it to produce short chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are good in that they create an optimal environment for good bacteria in the gut and can help suppress the "bad" ones, and these fatty acids can also be used as fuel by the cells that line the gut.

These bacteria also degrade taurine, which is secreted into the gut as part of bile, and re-absorbed from the gut further down the line. But if these bacteria are extremely active, it's possible that they can degrade too much taurine. This is one theory to explain why cats need more taurine when they eat canned food.

Anantharaman-Barr et al. Fecal Bile Acid Excretion and Taurine Status in Cats Fed
Canned and Dry Diets. J. Nutr. 124: 2546S-2551S, 1994.