Truth About Pet Food with Susan Thixton
Recently I did a podcast with Susan Thixton, Pet Food Consumer Advocate and Founder of TruthAboutPetFood.com and the Association for Truth in Pet Food. Susan is an expert in pet food safety regulations, and is the person who is advocating for your pet against the pet food industry, every day. Today, pet parents around the world can visit her website to research their pet’s food, learn about ingredients, be alerted to recalls, as well as accessing Susan’s annual list of trusted pet food brands for the year. She’s on the show to discuss what the heck is in the bag of pet food you’re feeding your beloved pet, and what you can do to become an advocate for your pet.
Listen in to the whole episode:
Susan’s Journey to Advocacy
Susan Thixton began TruthAboutPetFood.com in 2004, after her beloved dog Sam passed away suddenly from Bone Cancer. Susan thought she was giving Sam the best dog food available, as it was the number one pet food in the country at the time. She sadly learned from her veterinarian that a chemical preservative in that pet food was the cause of her beloved pet’s cancer.
This prompted Susan to make her very first call to a pet food manufacturer. The company proudly shared that those preservatives allow the pet food to stay fresh for 25 years. Susan, as most pet parents would be, was horrified to hear those words from the company manufacturing her dog’s food. Something that can be preserved for 25 years is no longer a food, it has become a manufactured product masquerading as food.
Toxins in The Pet Food Industry
The level of toxicity that we’re experiencing today is unlike anything we’ve experienced before. There’s over 85,000 new synthetic toxins that have been introduced into our environment, just since World War Two.
The FDA cannot keep up with the chemicals being put into our products today. By the time a single chemical is tested and discovered to be toxic or dangerous, it has already been replaced by another that’s untested.
AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials. They are a private organization, whose membership consists of regulatory authorities at both a state and federal level. These members write the laws that regulate both pet food and animal feed. This may lead you to assume that most members would have pet and animal health as their main mission. Yet most of AAFCO’s members are from departments of agriculture, which creates a conflict of interest, when they’re promoting chemicals used in agriculture, rather than protecting animals from these chemicals.
“At an AAFCO meeting, up for discussion was this supplement, and it’s mostly used in livestock feed, zinc hydroxychloride. And in the definition of this ingredient, it was allowed to contain like 90 parts per billion lead. And three veterinarians stood up and went, ‘No, you can’t allow this much lead in this one supplement because then you add the cumulative effect of another supplement with lead and 10 more supplements with lead. That’s a lot of lead that this animal is ingesting every single day.’
..I shared a scientist told me that zinc hydroxychloride is an ingredient that they use to clean the mold and algae off of roofs in Florida. And I shared that with these ag. people who are making the decision. Even though the three vets said no to it, they passed it anyway.” – Susan Thixton
Pet Food & Feed Safety Regulations
Another important issue is that pet food is regulated as a feed, rather than a food. Why does this distinction matter? Because when pet food is classified as “feed” rather than a food consumed by humans and animals, it does not receive the same legal protection as a food. Feed grade pet foods are not required to abide by U.S. Federal food safety laws. Feed grade pet foods are not labeled with any disclosure to pet owners of the potential use of illegal and/or inferior ingredients or inferior manufacturing conditions.
“The FDA directly allows feed products to violate federal law, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the FDA allows feed pet feed products, with no disclosure to the consumer to contain diseased animals and animals that have died other than by slaughter.” – Susan Thixton
The FDA has refused to require disclosure to consumers on pet food labels, despite many pet advocates’ repeated requests, including Susan Thixton. So despite there being some good pet food companies who choose to only use USDA inspected and passed meat, there are many more using diseased, decaying, and euthanized animals. And the FDA says they don’t have to tell you about it.
In April of 2019, the FDA stated: “We do not believe that the use of diseased animals or animals that died otherwise than by slaughter to make animal food poses a safety concern and we intend to continue to exercise enforcement discretion.”
The FDA also allows for manufacturers to submit their own safety data, to meet GRAS designation (Generally Recognized As Safe). So long as the company provides their own testing to prove their claims, the FDA generally accepts this without any verification of the data by a third party or the FDA themselves.
What Should I Feed My Dog Instead of Kibble?
So how can you make sure what you’re feeding your pets is safe? Become your pet’s advocate. We used to believe we could go to the grocery store and buy food for our pets right off the shelf, and feel safe knowing we’re giving our pet something good for them. Now we know better, and here we believe that when you know better, you do better.
We recommend a fresh, freeze-dried or raw, species-appropriate diet. That can also be supplemented with a natural source of probiotics to support gut health. A great way to start is by adding fresh foods to your pet’s current diet, as a way to begin the transition to a healthier diet. Your pets can even share some of the same ingredients or meals you prepare for yourself. A holistic or integrative veterinarian, or a nutritionist, can also help you choose what kind of protein or supplements are best for your pet.
Susan Thixton’s List of Trusted Pet Foods
Transitioning from kibble can be intimidating for any pet parent. Thankfully there are great resources like Susan Thixton’s Truth About Pet Food. She puts in the work and does the research, so you don’t have to. Susan contacts each company every year, with her list of questions aimed at ensuring each company meets her standards. Questions about the quality and sourcing of ingredients, frequency of testing, and other important factors. The sourcing of any ingredient will significantly impact the nutritional content of that specific food. We want all animals to be humanely raised, free of fear and pain, and living in their natural habitats.
Using this research, Susan releases her annual list of pet foods that she trusts to give to her own pets. All of the pet foods on the list are verified. They all use human grade food ingredients, proper testing for safety and nutrition, and meat from humanely raised animals.
The list is regularly updated and released annually, every December. As companies can change their practices, can be bought and sold, or go through other changes that affect their inclusion in the list. This was recently the case with a brand that we trusted and recommended. Answers Pet Food, who underwent some recent changes as a company. Will these changes affect the company’s manufacturer relationships or ingredient sourcing? Time will tell, and in the meantime, there are many other companies on Susan’s list.
Susan Thixton’s site and annual list are 100% supported by pet food consumers. Pet parents can access the list for just a $10 contribution. Proceeds of the list support pet food consumer advocacy. So that Susan and the Association for Truth in Pet Food can continue battling with the FDA, AAFCO, and State pet food regulatory authorities on behalf of pet parents like you.
About Angela Ardolino
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years. She operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. She is also the owner of Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and shop. Angela got her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine. She then founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets.
Angela has seven dogs. Odie a 12-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina an 8-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 7-year-old mutt, Maza a 7-year-old mutt, Rhemi an 8-year-old poodle. Potato a 15-year-old shih-tzu, and Miss Daisie a 15-year-old black lab. Plus 4-10 more at any time she is fostering or boarding. Additionally, she uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day since 2016. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians and the Veterinary Cannabis Association. In fact, Angela has educated hundreds of medical doctors and veterinarians on the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals. Visit www.angelaardolino.com for more information.
About Susan Thixton
Susan Thixton, founder of the Association for Truth in Pet Food. She is a consumer advocate fighting to hold the pet food industry accountable to existing food safety regulations. Susan Thixton, TruthaboutPetFood.com and AssociationforTruthinPetFood.com. They have been battling with the FDA, AAFCO and State pet food regulatory authorities. Fighting on behalf of pet food consumers for more than 10 years. Just like so many pet owners, Susan learned the ‘truth’ about pet foods the hard way. Her four legged best friend, Sam, died from bone cancer. From that day forward, Susan studied the pet food industry. She now provides pet food consumers with a voice at pet food regulatory meetings. TruthaboutPetFood.com began in 2004. Pet food consumers can visit and access thousands of free educational articles. Including resources on pet food safety and regulations, ingredients, testing, recalls, laws, and more.