Is it Safe For People to Eat Pet Food?

Ferndale, WA: Recent internet searches reveal this question and it’s a very interesting one and in a funny sort of way rather relevant because so many people are talking about raw food diets and vegetables are edible and nutritious right? So bottom line strange is in the eye of the beholder. This article will examine the different nutritional needs of dogs, cats and humans.
District 9
The first thing that comes to mind about the safety of eating pet food is the scene from the Hollywood Blockbuster film, District 9, where the stranded aliens buy and eat cat food from food stalls scattered throughout their refugee camp. Villers, the main protagonist in the story, about one third of the way into the film, gets transformed into an alien and begins to crave cat food. Its awful as he takes great handfuls of tinned cat food and eats it. Is it possible for humans to eat cat food safely?
The answer is its not recommended, animal and human nutritional requirements are very different (which this article explores) especially those of an obligate carnivore like a cat. We’ll get to the safety thing in a minute.
Obligate Carnivore
An obligate carnivore is described as an animal that can only sustain itself buy eating the flesh of other animals. Your cat was built by Mother Nature to get her nutritional needs met by the consumption of a large amount of animal-based proteins (meat/organs) and derives much less nutritional support from plant-based proteins (grains/vegetables). It means that cats lack specific metabolic (enzymatic) pathways and cannot utilize plant proteins as efficiently as animal proteins. On the other hand, dogs and humans can get nutrition from plants and thus live on a vegetarian diet but cats cannot.
The safety question. The answer is it depends on the pet food. I can’t see it in my mind eating kibble nor tinned cat food, but if one did I believe a persons stomach would probably reject it but as far as I’ve been able to research, a person can’t die from ingesting dog kibble or wet pet food. One reason is that most foods are made from scraps and leftover foods that humans wont eat and also, many dry and wet dog foods also contain rice, wheat and other plants, not to mention added vitamins and minerals.
What’s rather unsavory about this whole discussion from the 50,000 foot level looking down, is that what goes into pet food falls between the regulatory cracks between the FDA and AFFCOA� (Association Of American Feed Control Officials), so even though its commercial grade pet food you buy from a store, the labels (and the ingredients) are less stringent so anything can be used. If you look carefully or test commercial foods you find they contain high percentages of cooked starches and things like re-processed human made restaurant waste, slaughterhouse scraps and other fun stuff. Yuck!
What about the Recall?
One important point to make lest we forget is the major U.S. pet food recall in March of 2006, in which the FDA issued a recall on some “cuts and gravy” style of canned pet food that evidently caused rapid kidney failure and death in hundreds of animals. The FDA later recalled more animal edibles, tracing the problem back to wheat gluten, a component used to thicken. The scientists who tested the pet meals in question say an ingredient called melamine (a fire retardant and plastic-producing chemical) was to blame for the deaths, and further investigation found that the melamine came from a Chinese manufacturer of wheat gluten. Because melamine “looks” like protein when tested, adding it to pet food could deceptively boost protein levels-a major selling point for consumers. This, some allege, may be why it ended up in pet food.
Is Pet Food Safe?
So coming full circle, if people do eat pet food these days, is it really safe? The jury is out in light of the pet food crisis, but sticking to food intended for humans would be a wise choice.A�
On the other hand, there are bright manufacturers out there and some of the modern pet foods these days do have food grade ingredients and are probably very nutritious. Some people do eat some of the food grade rawA� (usually they do cook them for human consumption which we would definitely recommend) and cooked dog foods that are available and claim to enjoy them greatly!
I think in this article we’ve covered a lot of ground but I think the take away for everyone is two-fold. Yes its possible for something quite toxic to happen if you eat pet food since the ingredients are not known and perhaps something strange has been included. But for the most part the jury seems to suggest that eating pet food will not be great for your body but you can do it. But don’t. Its not the right nutritional mix.
by William Greenbaum
1. AFFCO regulates the quality of animal feed such as grains for livestock not commercial pet food ingredients.
2. : Life’s Little Mysteries
3. Interview with Dr. Anna Maria Gardner, M.A. Vet. MB MRCVS
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