Some Recalled Pet Foods Still Not Back in Stores

More than a year after the biggest pet-food recall began, sales of wet pet food continue to struggle, and many products still are missing from store shelves.

About 20% of recalled products, mostly wet foods, have yet to return, and 10% of recalled products have been discontinued, says PetSmart, the nation’s No.1 pet-food chain.

While sales of dry food grow, sales of wet are still off about 25% from pre-recall levels, says Dave Bolen, chief merchandising officer at Petco, the No.2 chain. 

Both chains say sales of dry pet food have fared much better, especially premium and natural brands, and both chains are devoting more floor space to the more expensive foods.

Menu Foods, a contract manufacturer that made most of the recalled products, launched the recall a year ago after cats and dogs were sickened or died after eating food containing contaminated ingredients imported from China.

The recall affected hundreds of products, including high- and low-end brands. It was the first recall in a series involving imported products that focused attention on the safety of the U.S. food supply and how vigorously U.S. companies check suppliers, especially those from China.

Pet-food makers of all sizes say they’ve since tightened safeguards.

No.1 Nestle Purina PetCare, for instance, no longer imports Chinese wheat gluten, the tainted ingredient in many of the recalled foods. Like many, it also tests wheat gluten for the industrial chemical melamine, which sickened the animals. Melamine was added to wheat flour in China to make it appear to be the more valuable wheat gluten or rice protein concentrate.

Premium maker Natural Balance not only tests finished products for melamine and other contaminants, but also publishes results on a website.

Companies also say they’ve stepped up audits of suppliers or even stationed quality-control workers in foreign plants. The industry was “already pretty safe … and it’s safer now than it was,” says Greg Aldrich, a pet-food-ingredient consultant. He says the most important change is that pet-food makers are more likely to know their suppliers, rather than rely on due diligence done by distributors or importers.

“It doesn’t mean something couldn’t slip through in the future, but it’s a lot less likely,” Aldrich says.

Some consumers still aren’t sure.

A recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 574 dog or cat owners showed that 30% had less confidence in the safety of pet food than before the recall; 46% had more confidence; and 17% had the same level of confidence.

“We still have some work to do to win back some of the sales from the pet-food recall,” PetSmart CEO Philip Francis told industry analysts this month.

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Posted: 03/26/2008 at 04:58 PM
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Posted: 03/26/2008 at 04:58 PM
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