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ConsumerWatch: How To Pick A Pet Food

(KPIX 5) - The F.D.A. has been looking into scores of complaints from dog owners who say their animals got sick after eating Beneful dog food. The agency said, while it generally does not comment on an open investigation, it has seen a spike in complaints since January after several media reports about the dog food.

Purina, the maker of Beneful, said the food is safe. It also said "false, unsupported and misleading allegations," are causing undue concern and confusion for Beneful consumers.

San Francisco veterinarian Leah Del Rosso said she has not seen any dogs who've gotten sick from Beneful. But she said she does see a lot of animals suffering from digestive problems.

"We do see a lot of upset stomach cases in dogs and cats, and sometimes we don't know what causes it."

Possibilities can include tainted food, as well as switching to a new brand of food too quickly, or parasites from food eaten off the ground.

Dr. Del Rosso biggest concern is pet food recalls.

"I'm so frustrated, so frustrated. Every time I turn around there is another recall," Del Rosso told ConsumerWatch.

According to the F.D.A.'s website, there were hundreds of pet food recalls in 2012. Purina's Beneful has never been recalled, according to a Purina spokesman.

So, what can a pet owner do insure their animals food is safe and healthy? Dr. Del Rosso advises pet owners shop at smaller pet food stores where owners "vet" the products they sell, and stay up-to-date on recalls. Jonathan Truong, owner of Pet's Corner in San Francisco does just that.

"We do a lot of research outside of what the vendors tell us because all they're going to do is tell you the positive," Trong told ConsumerWatch.

Several Independent websites, like, rate dog food with a one-to-five star rating system. The site also thooughly explains the ingredients in about 900 commercially sold dog food recipes.

Do-It-Yourself pet food is also an option. A growing number of pet owners are now making their animal's food to save money and make sure they contain quality ingredients. But Dr. Del Rosso warned anyone doing that should consult their vet first. She said each pet has different nutritional requirements and it's likely the pet will need a supplement to get a complete diet.

FDA's Response:

The Food and Drug Administration cares about the well-being of both people and animals, and strives to ensure that the food Americans eat and feed their pets is safe, wholesome and properly stored and labeled. FDA is currently investigating complaints about Beneful. While we generally do not comment on an open investigation, our normal practice is to follow up on every complaint to try to determine whether an illness or other adverse event can be conclusively linked to a cause. FDA is also aware of press coverage surrounding this product, which have triggered reports of new complaints to FDA. It is common for us to see a spike in complaints after publicity such as this. Not all of these were linked to illnesses or adverse events. It is very important to note that the existence of a complaint does not mean that the outcome was caused by the suspected product.

Purina's Response:

At Purina, we're pet owners and pet lovers, and the foods we make for pets are the same foods we feed to our pets. The quality and safety of our products is our top priority and nothing is more important to us. Beneful is a 100 percent complete and balanced, high quality, nutritious food that is fed in more than 15 million U.S. households every year. We carefully monitor and review all information provided to us by consumers and are confident there are no product quality or safety issues with Beneful.

Any consumer product, including commercial pet foods, can be the subject of social media misinformation, and false rumors about pet foods can lead people to inaccurate conclusions about their pets' health. It's important to consider the source, and to rely on factual information from credible sources.

Purina's quality control procedures are among the strictest – if not the strictest – in the industry, and our products are formulated by professional pet nutritionists and veterinarians. To that point, suppliers of ingredients for Purina products must meet our stringent standards for ingredient specifications, product safety, sanitation and manufacturing practices. We closely monitor each step of the pet food production process, from raw ingredients through finished goods. And we have a comprehensive food safety program, which is specifically designed to prevent food quality or safety issues from occurring in the first place.

There are many high quality pet food choices that will keep pets healthy and happy, and the key to finding the right food for a consumer's pet is to look for a 100% complete and balanced diet for the pet's life-stage, and to look for high quality ingredients like those found in Beneful and all other Purina pet foods. Consumers should also make sure their pet food's manufacturer has a comprehensive food safety program and rigorous quality controls, as is true with all Purina pet foods. Purina has been helping pets live long, healthy lives through high-quality, nutritious products for more than 85 years.

We take all comments from consumers seriously. We encourage any consumer with a question or comment about one of our products to call and speak with us directly at the toll free number on every package.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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