Dog jerky treats from China are all over the news. Over 1000 pets have died in the US and Canada from unknown causes that are suspected to be linked to jerky treats sold in major stores such as Costco. But the danger isn’t strictly jerky treats. In recent years, ingredients from China have been turning up in countless food recalls and lax quality standards and safety regulations are thought to be the cause.
So how do you protect your dog (and yourself!) from ingredients sourced from China? Truthfully, it takes a bit of digging. There are quality, locally-sourced dog treats out there, you just have to know how to find them. And how to avoid poor quality dog food and treats.
What’s the deal with China?
We’re not just being exclusive. The truth is that manufacturing standards in locations such as China are not the same as in Canada. Standards for cleanliness and quality are not measured the same in China as they would be in Canada, which means risk factors go up. Though some products may claim to be checked for quality in government-certified laboratories, what exactly is being checked? How extensively is each product examined? Instead of relying solely on a laboratory’s work or random checks, opt for products with ingredients from places with higher production standards to begin with.
6 tips on how to avoid dog food and treats from China
1. Look Beyond Made in Canada
“Made in Canada” can mean a quality product, but often it's a deceiving marketing ploy. When “Made in Canada” or “Formulated in Canada” is on a product, it means that the finished product was made in a facility within Canada. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, “when a food undergoes processing which changes its nature and becomes a new product bearing a new name commonly understood by the consumer”, it may include the label “Made in Canada”. Unfortunately, what this often means is that ingredients from questionable locations such as China could be in the product. The product doesn’t have to have any Canadian-sourced ingredients at all.
2. Choose Locally-Sourced Ingredients
Those products with 98% or more of their ingredients from within Canada can be labelled as a ”Product of Canada”. Since many ingredients are simply not available in Canada, this designation cannot be found on every type of product, but most meat sources, like those used in dog jerky treats, are available for purchase in Canada.
Locally sourced ingredients are favourable for a number of reasons. In some countries, like China, the pressure to produce large quantities of materials for a very cheap price results in many manufacturers cutting corners. Chinese producers have gotten into trouble lately for repackaging stale product, including banned and harmful ingredients, concocting fake ingredients, and using dated inspection techniques.
Also, locally-sourced ingredients travel less, so they are more likely to be fresh and require less preservatives. If you are buying Canadian products with Canadian ingredients, they are also more likely to have a smaller carbon footprint.
3. Look for Transparency
Many companies don’t want to make the source of their ingredients known, and those are generally the types of companies you want to stay away from. In Canada, pet foods are not required to put the source of their ingredients on packaging. But one must ask: why not include this information? Savvy Canadian consumers want to know where their ingredients and products are coming from, so smart companies with nothing to hide freely display this information on their packages.
Look for those product packages which boast where their ingredients come from. These manufacturers care about more about quality, safety, and their concerns than those just searching for the cheapest ingredients.
4. Contact the Manufacturer
If you are concerned about where any ingredients in your pet food or treats are sourced, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer. All manufacturers list their contact information directly on the package. Whether by phone, website contact form, or email, you should be able to get the information you need. If a manufacturer still doesn’t want to tell you the details of where they get their ingredients after you contact them directly, choose a different product. Transparency is always the safer choice.
5. Be Wary of Deep Discounts
We all love a good deal and a cheap price. While not a direct representation of where ingredients are from or even the quality of the product, the price of a product does matter. There are many factors that go into a product’s price, but the cheapest products will almost always contain the very cheapest ingredients. And the cheapest ingredients are inevitably from those manufacturers who cut corners somewhere. What corners are you willing to risk: quality control? cleanliness? safety? The money you save on the cheapest dog treats could cost you big time some day.
6. Shop Specialty
Specialty pet retailers often carry different dog treats that your big box retail stores, such as Wal-Mart, Costco, and major grocery chains. These specialty dog treat brands are usually smaller and more concerned with pet health and safety than more well-known brands. Choosing trusted brands is important, but don’t base your faith off of the pet company with the most convincing TV commercial.
Ask your pet specialty retailer whether they avoid stocking dog treats with ingredients from China or other countries with questionable production practices. While you should always be armed with your own knowledge of ingredients and how to read product packages, choosing pet retailers who share your values and concerns can go a big way toward improving product standards for everyone. Choosing to spend money in one place over another is voting with your dollar.
No one wants their dog to get sick. But not every product manufacturer is as concerned as you are. Dog treats and food are big business, and some people are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they get as much of the market as possible. But you don’t have to be in the dark. Know how to choose safe and healthy dog food by reading your pet food labels carefully. Look for all Canadian dog treats that include only Canadian ingredients. And, please, avoid dog treats from China for safer, healthier treating for your dog.
Are you careful about where your pet treats come from?