Be very wary of misleading papers and articles about “trendy” pet food diets

Dog waiting for dinner

WHAg Window – giving a view from our perspective…..

A new study on the changing pattern of diets fed to cats and dogs in English speaking countries has just been published in the Veterinary Record.

Although the vast majority of diets are still conventional, processed, bought in foods, the study shows a significant increase in the use of “unconventional” – homemade (HM) and/or raw animal products (RAP) and vegetarian ingredients.

Many people would think this is a good thing but in their summary of conclusions, the authors – who all have links to pet food manufactures or ingredient suppliers – highlight that “an increased risk of nutrient insufficiency and associated conditions have been attributed to unconventional feeding practices”.

However, the literature they cite is far from convincing and fails to show any evidence that the health of animals is actually being adversely affected any more than is the case with feeding conventional diets. The discussion of whether “unconventional” diets improve health is, predictably, thin.

Needless to say, media coverage of the study has focussed on the potential risks and not potential benefits and delights in knocking copy. “Trendy raw and vegan diets may cause health problems for cats and dog” is the Daily Telegraph headline.

The actual study deserves better treatment than this and a more intelligent, impartial summary conclusion than its authors give it. For example, the paper points out that:

  • “Trends in animal nutrition shadow trends in human nutrition, with increasing consumer interest in ‘natural’ and ‘holistic’ foods demonstrated in both human and pet feeding practices.” 

  • People who feed HM diets “may perceive these diets to be more palatable, or they may consider them to be healthier than processed commercial diets.”

  • “Feeders of RAP have been reported to have significantly different perceptions of the pet food industry, as well as animal health and nutrition than feeders of conventional diets.” 

  • “In particular, people who feed RAP to their pets had lower confidence in the advice of veterinarians, especially with respect to companion animal nutrition. They also reported concerns regarding the safety, quality and nutritional value of conventional foods, and perceived RAP as being more natural and healthier than conventional diets.”

  • “Promoters of HM diets and RAP claim that these foods will improve health, increase energy and even reverse chronic diseases such as cancer; however, there is currently a lack of peer-reviewed research to support these claims.”

All of which is familiar to those of us concerned about Whole Health.

 

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Organic Forum (EOF) has expressed concern that organic options are being side-lined by Defra

As the UK Government steers its proposed ‘public money for public goods’ farming system through parliament, the English Organic Forum (EOF) has expressed concern that organic options are being side-lined by Defra.

The EOF – which represents organic organizations and businesses – says that while the proposed policy has a number of good points, it hasn’t specifically recognized the vital role organic farming plays in delivering public goods or the vital importance of whole farming systems.

EOF references a recent farm health check report from The National Trust which highlights the success of organic farming, using as an example Wimple Estate Home Farm – the only farm the trust directly manages.

Full article: https://www.naturalproductsonline.co.uk/news/eof-fears-government-may-overlook-organic-farming-in-public-goods-policy/

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Boris Johnson’s US trade deal will make Britain a paradise for disaster capitalists

The Conservative manifesto made a clear promise. It pledged that in the government’s trade talks, “we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards”. Just six months after the election, the promise has been ditched. Our government is now proposing that chlorine-washed chicken, beef treated with growth hormones, pork from animals injected with a drug that makes their meat leaner, called ractopamine, and scores of other foods produced in the United States by dangerous, cruel and disgusting means will be allowed into this country, as long as higher trade taxes (tariffs) are applied to them.

 The trade secretary, Liz Truss, has made it clear that any such tariffs would be removed within 10 years. It’s impossible to see the American trade negotiators allowing them to pass in the first place. The US intends to secure “comprehensive” access to our food markets, while “reducing or eliminating tariffs”. This nonsense about higher tariffs is a blatant attempt to soften us up, to sugar the toxic pill of US imports that don’t meet our standards. When I say sugar, I mean high-fructose corn syrup.

Full report: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/09/boris-johnson-trade-deal-us-chlorinated-chicken?

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Brexit guru: if you want high food standards “you should never have left the EU”

The man once known in Westminster as the ‘Brexiteers’ brain’ has told the Financial Times that if we are going to insist on stringent animal welfare and environmental standards for imported food, we “should never have left the EU.” 

This will come as a surprise to many farmers who voted to leave but didn’t expect to find themselves competing with low-cost imports produced to a lower standard.

The FT’s report has charts that show only the Americans spend less of their income on food than we do. In addition, UK farmers make less that 1 per cent return on capital employed, compared to between 6 and 12 per cent for all the other links in the food chain. To reduce this further would put many out of business.

A no deal exit would be extremely damaging to the farming sector, but even if an FTA is struck, Britain faces a crucial decision about its food supply outside the EU. The terms agreed with other countries will determine the level of competition farmers will be faced with from foreign suppliers.

Read full report by Yorkshire Bylines: Brexit guru: if you want high food standards you should never have left the EU

Read full FT report (subscription required): Coronavirus: UK farmers face brutal test ahead of Brexit

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Full list of MPs who voted to lower our food standards during the Covid pandemic

Under cover of the Coronavirus pandemic and headlines over the Government’s handling of the crisis which has seen Britain suffer more deaths than any other European country, another major public health story has slipped through barely noticed, and has rarely been mentioned in the weekly PMQs.

The most important farming legislation in generations passed its third reading in parliament despite warnings that in a bid to make the UK market pliable for a post-Brexit US trade deal, protections of minimum food safety standards have evaporated, as have safeguards for Britain’s farmers.

With most MPs still socially distanced at home, MPs passed the legislation’s third reading in a virtual vote – 360 – 211 despite guarantees of a minimum standard to protect British food – and therefor British farming – being absent from the overhaul of UK agriculture. A full list of how they voted in this crucial legislation is in the report (link below).

As the bill moves to the Lords for a second reading amid outrage from UK farmers, this weekend former Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson expressed his disbelief that all eight DUP MPs had voted with Conservative colleagues for a bill he said has “the potential to be the last nail in the coffin for agriculture in Northern Ireland.”

He warned: “the Bill opens the flood gates to cheap food imports into the UK from around the world. This food will not have been produced to the same standards achieved consistently by farmers in Northern Ireland. These imports will serve to drive markets down at a time when local farmers are under tremendous pressure.”

Full report: https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/full-list-of-mps-who-voted-to-lower-our-food-standards-during-the-covid-pandemic/26/05/

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Some British supermarkets are still allowing suppliers to use routine antibiotics

Three British supermarkets are still allowing their suppliers to use antibiotics routinely in animal feed and drinking water, according to a new report by the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics [1]. The continued misuse of antibiotics in some supermarket supply chains is occurring despite calls from the United Nations and the World Health Organization to end the overuse of antibiotics in farming [2][3].

The Alliance assessed the publicly available antibiotics policies of the 10 leading British supermarkets and found that Aldi, Asda and Iceland have no restrictions on their meat, dairy and egg suppliers using antibiotics routinely, other than minimum legal requirements. In contrast, the Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose prohibit routine antibiotic use, whereas Morrisons has a ban for some species and not for others.

In the UK, the Brexit process involves, amongst other things, the transfer of European legislation into UK law – a process which has followed a stop-start pattern for most of this year.

For further information……click on full article link. 

Credit: Alliance to Save our Antibiotics (Image: WHO)

Full article: http://www.saveourantibiotics.org/news/press-release/some-british-supermarkets-still-allow-routine-farm-antibiotic-use/

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