Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Where are all the reassuring messages from pet food brands?

The Menu Foods story just gets worse. Doesn't it seem like information has been slow in coming and thoroughly confusing? Part of the problem: the food "was sold under 88 brands, including popular labels Iams and Eukanuba and private-label brands sold at large retail chains. Nestle Purina PetCare Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. and Nutro Products Inc. also recalled some products made by Menu Foods."

That's 88 brands. Has any one of them stepped forward to communicate directly with consumers? I'm asking because I haven't seen anything. Only press releases. It's early I know but if someone's visiting a pet food web site today, there's only one reason. Why isn't a substantial recall message on everyone's home page? At this moment, no word of any recall at all on a Purina site.

Is it because no one wants to address the startling fact that 88 brands -- everything from cheap Ol' Roy to Eukanuba -- come out of the same 2 plants? How do you explain that? Can you? It's a situation that baffles even pet experts: "How can a more expensive and theoretically higher quality food be made side-by-side with lesser products?...where is the quality control or oversight by the companies whose names are on the cans?....If each brand was actually being made according to a separate recipe, then what need would there be to recall every can made for every company during a three month period - unless they all shared common ingredients before being labeled and priced differently?"

Exactly. It's one thing to accept that all sneakers are made in the same factory in China, or that all shampoos are mixed in one facility -- I think we eagerly embrace the fantasy offered up by fashion and beauty advertising -- but pet food nutritional claims are different. Brands know that. For God's sake, PetSmart's advertising actually encourages people to refer to themselves as pet parents. So where's the emotional support now? Where's the openness and accountability? Will anyone change their manufacturing process? Is there a JetBlue in this crowd?

ADDED: Steve Portigal's theory: no one wants to talk about product-testing either. Yes, the common brand message -- "we love pets as much as you do" -- is going to be awfully difficult to maintain now.


James-H said...

Great question. Here's another one: when will there be dog food again? I'm feeding my dog rice, hotdogs and bourbon - and she's going to start to get used to that kind of a diet. I certainly have. And then what? She gets finicky and won't go back to her own damn food? Over my dead liver.

Irene Done said...

Rice, hot dogs and bourbon? Mmm. Breakfast.

Make the logo bigger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Make the logo bigger said...

Rice, hot dogs and bourbon.

Man’s best friends.

Anonymous said...

I also fail to understand how all these different dog foods can be made at the same place.I use Hills because I assumed that they knew what goes in there food and it was better quality but now I am not sure.Hills and Ol Roy made in the same place! Makes you think doesn't it.I am just curious as to how they are going to talk there way out of this one.

Irene Done said...

Anon -That's why none of them are talking now. They can't talk their way out of it. They don't want to admit they use a third-party manufacturer. They don't want to admit this manufacturer tests on animals. No one will name the wheat gluten supplier possibly because no one is sure it's really the wheat gluten. And if it IS the wheat gluten, no one can say with complete certainty that it's been supplied solely to these 2 plants. For that matter, no one wants to talk about wheat gluten at all because then they have to admit it's not really a protein source. A lot of carefully crafted illusions have been wrecked -- which is not nearly as important as the actual pet deaths -- and given the odd information vacuum, it's easy to understand how pet owners would question entire product lines of all the involved brands. As you say: "it makes you think."