Tainted Pet Food: We Could Be Next.

I am completely fascinated by the current tainted pet food scandal, not just because I have four cans of IAMS that my cat will never get to eat. What interests me is how it demonstrates the danger of concentration of production in very few hands, and b) despite all of the billions spent on advertising, there is so little "choice".

In this case, a small Canadian producer anticipates the growth of private labels in the '70's; starts buying producers in the States and builds a factory in Kansas, keeps growing until it is producing 91 different brands from the generics and house brands in Wal-mart to the expensive and supposedly better stuff from Iams and the like. It converts itself into a Canadian tax dodge called an income trust, where management has one goal- reduce costs and keep up the distributions to unitholders.

Then around March 10, something goes wrong, and animals start getting sick or dying all over North America. The company starts feeding its food to its own animals. Nine die.(a scandal in itself) It finally orders a recall of sixty million cans or pouches. According to the Globe:"One of the most surprising things to emerge was just how many customers Menu Foods served.

The recall covered 42 brands of cat food and 53 brands of dog food. And it involved products sold by some of the world's biggest companies, including Nestlé (Purina), Procter & Gamble (Iams), Colgate-Palmolive Co. (Science Diet) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (Ol'Roy and Special Kitty)."

Evidently the company had recently changed its suppliers of wheat gluten, a filler substitute for the real meat that we pay for when we buy expensive cat food, the gluten came from China, where they appear to control rodents with a rat poison called aminopterin. Next thing we know, almost every brand of wet pet food in North America is poisoned.

Now there are perhaps hundreds of dead pets and thousands of sick ones, with vet bills in the millions. Class action suits have already begun.

Is the human food system so different? Do all industrially farmed pigs or cows get some additive or drug that could come back to harm us, all over the country, all at once? Are all the tear-inducing dog food commercials complete manipulation, because it is all the same crap whatever label is on the can? Do Income Trusts lead to unitholders first/ customers and safety second? Given last year's tainted spinach scandal, is large scale industrial food production inherently dangerous?

So many questions.

UPDATE: Read Advertising Age and ::Sustainable is Good