Last month, Animal Wellness Magazine released a blog on Susan Thixton’s plan to confront congress in Washington, DC. Supported by Dr. Karen Becker and a lawyer, Thixton set out on June 21st with one overarching goal – to demand more transparency in pet food. And their mission was successful.
Their first meeting was with the Senator of Illinois, Richard Durbin and his legislative advisor. “We shared consumers concerns of pet food – starting with laws written (in part) by Senator Durbin back in 2007 (after the 2007 recall) requiring FDA to update pet food ingredients and labels,” writes Susan. “We told him FDA is almost 8 years past deadline.” Susan and her determined team addressed their concern that most pet foods are ‘feed’ – containing feed-quality ingredients – and yet they’re marketed to pet parents as ‘food’. They explained that the FDA and each State Department of Agriculture openly ignores laws outlined by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. And, finally, they discussed the fact that consumers are left in the dark, and that they have the right to know exactly what ingredients go into making the food that they’re feeding their pets.
At this point of their journey, no solution was offered. Thixton’s team met with more Senators and pet health professionals who responded to their concerns with thoughtful consideration. Thixton requested for pet food to be labeled as feed and was politely told to take up her concerns with the FDA and to have more consumers write to their Representatives in Congress. Again they left, deflated.
The following day, Thixton and her team met with the FDA. “We were taken to a conference room and were promptly joined by Dr. Dan McChesney, Charlotte Conway, LeeAnne Palmer, and a couple more FDA representatives,” writes Thixton. “Arrangements had been made in advance for Nikki – the owner of the pug Talula that died from eating pentobarbital contaminated Evanger’s Pet Food – to be on a conference call for the meeting.” Their intention was to use Nikki’s heartbreaking story to prevent more pets, like Talula, from dying.
After hearing Nikki’s story, the FDA asked Thixton what they were hoping to achieve from the meeting. The team told the FDA that they were tired from worrying about the safety of pet food. “We told them we cannot fathom how FDA can enable industry to profit from selling adulterated, illegal pet foods – misleading consumers,” Thixton writes. Once again, they expressed their ultimate goal: to achieve transparency in pet food by labeling all pet foods that do not meet food law as “feed”.
The FDA was open to this suggestion, as well as Becker’s request to implement a grading system for pet food similar to the system used to grade human meat in the U.S. While there are still plenty of details to be worked out, the FDA agreed to introduce the ideas to AAFCO at their next meeting in August. In the meantime, Thixton and her team will submit their requests in writing to the agency. “Law is on our side,” writes Susan. “FDA felt these were good changes – we will continue to work with FDA to keep this on track.”