Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Canadian import pet food policy critique

Well, after more than two years, the Canadian government has come out with its pet food import policy.

At first glance, it appears as if it will be harder for US companies to import pet food into Canada. There are some important questions posed to Canadian importers for permits to import commercially prepared pet food.

But what questions are NOT being asked in this document?

What influence did the corporate multinationals have in shaping this policy? It’s worth another FOI request to find out, a request I will be filing shortly.

Will this policy be applied equally to large multinational corporations as well as to small producers?

How will this affect the import of a new burgeoning industry, the raw food pet food market?

There are new regulations requiring all raw products to be endorsed by a full time, salaried veterinarian. Now this is really where the problem lies. As things currently exist, most veterinarian clinics are stocking species inappropriate kibble. Veterinarians receive very little in the way of non pet food company training and are, by and large, biased against raw food for pets. So how does this help?

In Ontario, veterinarians are not only the sellers of multinational kibble, they are the owners in the veterinarian distribution company in Ontario that distributes ALL pet food products. The Veterinary Purchasing Company Limited in St. Mary's Ontario, is owned by a large number of vets in south-eastern Ontario. The only thing that keeps this from being a monopoly is that there is a small agency in Northwestern Ontario that services that region.

Most Ontario veterarinians are shareholders and as such, they receive regular dividends from this company. This is a clear conflict of interest on the part of veterinarinans. This needs to be challenged and changed in provincial regulation. Veterinarians should not be selling pet food or profiting from the distribution of these products.

No where in this document did I see the term “species appropriate” as a criteria for ingredients for pet food. That’s a vital link that needs to be among criteria for ANY pet food product. We have seen the negative health impact of high carbohydrate laden products and how detrimental they are to pet health, especially cats.

The main concern on the part of the feds appears to be BSE. Well, despite the best efforts at enforcement, BSE has been in the food system in North America for years and continues to be.

As for cleaning, storage and processing at individual plants, we saw clearly from the Maple Leaf listeria scandal, that despite there being a CFIA inspector at the plant, there was still contamination that occurred. How will things be different with more inspectors?

In Canada, unlike the US in which there was a recent change to FDA regulations, product recalls are still VOLUNTARY on the part of industry. The Canadian government has no authority under which to issue product recalls. This fact alone should be of concern to every Canadian when it concerns the safety of our food supply system.

Although there are questions and regulations in this document that need to be asked, it certainly falls short of what is really required to reign in the multinationals that make such excessive profits from pet food. Or the veterinarians that profit from the sale of species inappropriate kibble.

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