I recently had a friend post on Facebook that her cute little Chihuahua needed serious dental help. She posted a picture of his plaque ridden teeth and asked for advise. I found it very interesting that many people were
recommending Greenies or even a “natural” version of a Greenies, but no one suggested the most natural form of teeth cleaning… raw chicken necks.
Of course I felt obligated to post the recommendation of one raw chicken neck per week for onemonth. Understandably so this disgusted some people that have no idea that “raw dog food” even exists, but lucky my friend took the advise. They are on a path to cleaner teeth and have avoided the costly doctors visit for the anesthetic induced cleaning.
Why do dog on a raw food diet have cleaner teeth?
It all has do to with the fact that they do not produce Amylase like us humans. We start the digestive process in our mouth with saliva which contains amylase. This enzyme starts to break down food without even having to chew. Since dogs do not have this, they need to get it from the food they eat. The cooking process destroys enzymes and this is why when a dog is on a cooked, canned or kibble diet they will quickly build up plaque and tarter. Taking your dog off cooked food and giving them a chicken or turkey neck will; first, stop the build up and then help to clean the teeth as they grind away at the bones.
A word of caution… 20% of raw poultry at your grocery store has salmonella. Give your dog the bones outside or keep them contained so you can clean the area they are in when they are done.
Coconut oil is now in our raw dog food!
Steve’s Real Food recently made a major re-formulation to our raw dog food. We removed all our synthetic vitamins and added some really exciting ingredients such as coconut oil. We love coconut oil for its multitudes of health benefits. It is known to be:
- Anti-Viral – helps balance the immune system
- Anti-Fungal – good for dogs with yeast problems
- Anti-Bacterial – helps manage the bacteria in raw food and in the gut flora
The primary thing that makes coconut oil such a powerful ingredient in raw dog food is that it is one of the richest sources for a fat that is rarely found in nature, lauric acid. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which can destroy lipid coated viruses. Its medium chain fatty acids are easily digestible and it is one of the only fats that does not cause an insulin spike in your blood stream so it is great for diabetic dogs.
Check out Dr. Becker’s (the raw dog food expert) video on coconut oil:
A while back a friend and I were having a healthy argument about salt and sea salt. My friend is the nutritionally versed but not neurotic type of person. He believes that there is a lot of hype out there and people are getting duped into spending more money on products because they are “Natural”. I do not disagree with this. The term natural is not regulated and can is now being put on just about every product. I even saw an “All Natural” raw chicken breast at the grocery store that was clearly a cage raised bird dripping with hormones and antibiotics, but because they did not add any synthetic chemicals to it, it was “All Natural”. Long store short… when my friend made fun of me for using sea salt vs. iodized table salt we got into it. He insisted there was no difference in the two and was even able to pull up a website that even stated there was no difference.
I knew there was a difference in the two because we use it in our raw dog food formulas and since dogs have no need for salt, it had to be in there for a nutritional reason. At the time of the argument I was in the middle of cooking dinner and did not have the means or time to argue any further so I dropped it and quickly forgot about it until recently when I was at the store buying more salt and saw the sea salt right next to the table salt. Like a flood the memory the argument came rushing back along with the answer…
Table salt is mined and processed to give it its fine texture and bright white color. Sea salt is created through evaporation of salt water or salt deposits. It contains more minerals then table salt and helps balance electrolytes. It is also important to know that its not what is in sea salt that makes it better; its what is not in it. Under US law, up to 2% of salt can have additives. These are ingredients listed on the box and are usually for anti-clumping or whitening.
There is a minimal amount of sea salt in our raw dog food formulas and we use it for the minerals it provides.
The Number of Recalls is Growing Rapidly. Here is Why.
In 2011 the Food Safety Modernization Act was put into action. This changed the roll of the FDA from a reactive organization whose job it was to pull product after an illness was reported to a proactive organization who is allowed to pull product off shelves, test and recall if there are positive results. The amount of salmonella is not increasing in pet food, it is just the amount of testing that is increasing.
What Can the FDA do When if Finds Salmonella in Pet Food?
Depending on whom you ask you may get different answers. Here is what the process was for us.
On March 5th we received a phone call from the MN department of agriculture notifying us that they pulled product from a retail location and tested it to ensure that the food was nutritionally adequate, at the same time they did a test for Salmonella which came back positive. Since the food that was tested met the nutritional adequacy statement that is on the label, the MN Department of Agriculture was done with their job and let us know that we should contact the FDA since they passed their test results onto them.
The MN Dept. of Ag faxed us their lab report for our records. At that time we found out that the product was pulled on 12/19/12 and it was not reported until 3/5/13.
March 6th – We referenced our shipping records to identify which distributors we shipped the food and notified them of the recall, advising them to pull any product they had and to notify their customers who received the product. After this initial investigation we discovered that we shipped 970 pounds of product, 120 pounds was still at the distribution level, 90 was at the retail level and the rest was sold to consumers. After the official announcement we only received 20lbs of food back from consumers, which leads us to believe that the rest had been fed, with no reported cases of illness.
March 7th – We started working with our FDA coordinator who outlined the paperwork we needed to fill out and the steps we needed to take. There was a 10 page questionnaire, online forms for registering the recall, a press release and a notice to retailers and customers that had to be created. The coordinator provided templates for the press release and consumer notification. We cooperated with our coordinator and notified the public as required. The recall procedures were very structured and seemed well practiced by our helpful coordinator.
March 11th – The FDA agents and the Oregon Department of Agriculture showed up at the plant to swab everything in the plant. They took samples from forklift tires, raw material, inside the machinery, walls, drains and even equipment in storage. Of the 64 samples taken only 1 came back positive and this was on the piece of equipment not in use.
March 12th – A FDA agent calls the plant manager and interrogates him about processes, paperwork and production history. After the plant manager informs the agent that there was only one positive out of 64 tests (pretty good for a plant that deals with only raw meat products) the agent replays with, “If it was me, I would have done 164 samples”. This is where it starts to feel like a witch hunt.
March 13th – The FDA agent that spoke to the plant manager came to the plant to get copies of paperwork and do more investigating. No results are given at this time and the agent told us that we can’t give information on the next steps but we will let you know when the investigation is over.
March 14th – The FDA is back at the plant testing equipment, puling product and asking more questions.
March 20th – We receive test results back showing that of the 360lbs of finished product (180 of it being chicken) all of it came back with a negative result for salmonella… investigation over.
UPDATE: 5/17/2013 – An FDA representative is still “working” on tracking down the recalled product. They are calling retailers that received the product and us to verify where it went and if it was destroyed.
What to do: Kill Steps & Product Testing
During the recall investigation we started looking at kill steps, additional testing and changes we could make. Each change we could make costs more money which would force us into a price increase.
There are several levels of kill steps you can do. First there is acid sprays of baths that kill 80%-99% of bacteria. This is effective, but adding an unnecessary ingredient to the food.
The most effective method is High Pressure Pasteurization. Unfortunately this is the most costly and the most destructive to the food. By implementing this method not only are we destroying enzymes, which are why we feed raw, but it would result in a 15% price increase at the retail level. We believe this method is what has kept Nature’s Variety and Primal away from additional recalls. Both manufactures implemented HPP within of month of their recalls and had drastic price increase follow shortly after.
The next safety measure that we could implement would be test and hold. The problem with this it gives you a false sense of security. Test and hold is not 100% effective which can be illustrated by Bravo’s last two recalls. Both lots that were recalled by the FDA had a negative result when the product was tested at the plant but positive when tested by the FDA. You can test 10 samples of one lot of food and get 9 negative results and 1 positive. This has shown to be ineffective and not a reasonable step.
These “protective measures” that the FDA is taking to ensure that you do not come in contact with bacteria (that are likely in your fridge right now) is increasing your cost of food and denaturing your foods.
I want to clear the air… the FDA did not at any point say that we have to implement a kill step and when asked about the best methods they did not favor one over the other.
Let’s not forget, there are no reported cases of human or pet illness as a result of feeding raw pet food; however, the FDA has received 100’s of reports of sick dogs related to eating chicken jerky treats from China, yet it took them two years to issue a “Health Alert”.
Why did we recall product?
FDA regulations do not allow the presence of salmonella in cooked pet foods (canned, kibble, freeze dried or dehydrated). Even though we produce and distribute raw meat products, we must abide by the same standards as a cooked product. It is in our best interest to comply with the FDA and “voluntarily” recall our products even though there are no reported cases of sickness in pets or humans.
Will salmonella hurt my dog?
Salmonella infections are rarely found in pets since salmonella is naturally occurring in their gut and their bodies have the tools to process it. Most pets will consume salmonella and will show no signs of harboring it and the FDA acknowledges that the consumption of raw pet food that has salmonella is a human risk issue, not a major concern for the pet.
Am I or my human family at risk if my dog consumes salmonella?
A study conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada states “Raw food diets for companion animals is another potential pet-associated source of Salmonella organisms; however, no conﬁrmed cases of human salmonellosis have been associated with these diets.”[i] By practicing common, good hygiene and washing hands after handling raw food or your pets fecal matter you are protecting yourself from cross contamination. Some studies show that there can be salmonella in your pet’s mouth, but contact with your dog’s saliva has not shown to cause Salmonellosis in humans.
How does food become contaminated with salmonella?
Depending on the study you site, it is known that 18%-30% of raw chicken in your grocery store has Salmonella. It is the nature of raw meat products to have bacteria and since we are buying the same high quality meats that you find on store shelves it will naturally be in the food. The reason the FDA is not recalling your grocery store chicken is because raw meat for human consumption is regulated by the USDA who allows “tolerable levels” of salmonella. In early 2011 Steve’s Real Food joined the raw pet food coalition and lobbied the FDA to not include raw pet foodin the same category as cooked and suggested that we be governed by the USDA since we are a raw product and consumers will inherently treat our food the same as they do raw meat. Our efforts were fruitless.
Why Don’t You Kill Bacteria Like Other Manufactures?
Some raw pet food manufactures have implemented kill steps such as High Pressure Pasteurization. We have chosen to not use this process because it denatures the meat, killing enzymes and changing the taste, texture and color of the food.
Here is a great video from Dr. Karen Becker who talks about the benefits and negatives of HPP:
How Can I Avoid Tainted Pet Food?
The truth is that you can’t avoid tainted pet food. There were 20 recalls last year due to Salmonella in all pet foods, most of which were kibble and canned foods or cooked treats. These are the foods that go through a heat process which is supposed to kill pathogens; however, they are still being tested positive for salmonella. In 2013 there have been 12 recalls as of 3/31/13. That means we can estimate that there will be 48 recalls by the end of the year. Keep in mind, we are not recalling becuase of reports of sick dogs or humans. If you have a dog with a compromised immune system we suggest to buy proteins that are less likely to have salmonella such as beef and stick to foods from companies you trust are buying quality raw ingredients.
Why is the Number of Recalls Growing?
In 2011 the Food Safety Modernization Act was put into action. This changed the roll of the FDA from a reactive organization whose job it was to pull product after a report of an illness was reported to a proactive organization who is allowed to pull product off shelves, test and recall if there are positive results. The amount of salmonella is not increasing in pet food, it is just the amount of testing.