by Marion Nestle

Search results: USDA meat

May 25 2010

The Slaughterhouse Problem: is a resolution in sight?

After years of hearing sad tales about the slaughterhouse problem, it looks like many people are trying to get it resolved.  A fix no longer seems impossible.

The slaughterhouse problem is what small, local meat producers have to contend with when their animals are ready to be killed. The USDA licenses so few slaughterhouses, and the rules for establishing them are so onerous, that humanely raised (if that is the correct term) animals have to be trucked hundreds of miles to considerably less humane commercial facilities to be killed (see added note below).  Furthermore, appointments for slaughter must be made many months or years in advance — whether the animals are ready or not.

Perhaps because the USDA has just announced guidelines for mobile slaughter units, lots of people are writing about this problem. Here, for example, is what I ran across just last week:

  • Joe Cloud, who works with Joel Salatin, writes about the need for small-scale slaughterhouses in The Atlantic.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle reports Joe Cloud’s concerns that USDA regulations will put small slaughterhouses out of business.
  • Carolyn Lockwood has a front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle about the worries of operators of small slaughterhouses about safety requirements for microbial testing.
  • Christine Muhlke writes in the New York Times magazine about her experience observing a mobile slaughterhouse developed by Glynwood’s Mobile Harvest System.
  • Marissa Guggiana, president of Sonoma Direct Meats in Petaluma, CA, says in Edible Marin & Wine Country that “in Northern California, the lack of local slaughtering options is at a crisis point.”

If enough people complain about this problem, the USDA might get moving on it.  The guidelines are a good first step.

The guidelines, by the way, are up for public comment.  For comments (or attached files with lengthier comments), go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal.   Be sure to include the agency’s name, USDA, and docket number FSIS-2010-0004.  Comments must be filed within 60 days.

Added note: the USDA has a new study of “Slaughter availability to small livestock and poultry producers — maps” that tells the story at a glance.  Many large regions of the country have limited or no access to slaughterhouses small enough to handle animals from small producers.

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Apr 23 2010

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines: some hints at what they might say

By congressional fiat, federal agencies must revise the Dietary Guidelines every five years. This is one of those years.   The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has been meeting for a couple of years and is now nearly done.

Some unnamed person from the American Society of Nutrition must be attending meetings.  The society’s Health and Nutrition Policy Newsletter (April 22) provides a report.

From the sound of it, this committee is doing some tough thinking about how to deal with “overarching issues” that affect dietary advice:

  • The high prevalence of overweight and obesity among all Americans
  • The need to focus recommendations on added sugar, fats, refined carbohydrates, and sodium (rather than the obscure concept of “discretionary calories” used in the 2005 guidelines)
  • The benefits of shifting to plant-based, rather than meat-based, diets
  • The need to help individuals achieve physical activity guidelines
  • The need to change the food environment to help individuals meet the Dietary Guidelines

Applause, please, for this last one.  It recognizes that individuals can’t do it alone.

The committee’s key findings and recommendations:

  • Vegetable protein and soy protein: little evidence for unique health benefits, but there are benefits, such as added dietary fiber intake, from diets high in vegetable and soy proteins.
  • Carbohydrates: a consistent relationship between soft drink intake and weight gain. Overweight and obese children should reduce overall energy intake, especially from added sugars (and especially in the form of soft drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages).
  • Fats: mono and polyunsaturated fats, when replacing saturated fats, decrease the risks of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes in healthy adults. No benefit from increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids above 250-300 mg a day.  Adults should eat two servings of fish per week to obtain omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Sodium: decrease sodium intake to 2,300 mg sodium per 2,000 calorie diet to lower blood pressure in adults and children. Since 70 percent of the population is hypertensive, the goal for most individuals should be 1,500 mg per 2,000 calorie diet.
  • Potassium: because higher intakes of potassium are associated with lower blood pressure, adults should increase intake to 4,700 mg daily.

Translation: more fruits and vegetables, fewer processed foods, and changes in the food environment to make it easier for everyone to follow this advice.

Next steps: the committee is supposed to complete its report by May 12 and send it to USDA and DHHS. The agencies post the report in June for public comment. Then, agency staff write the guidelines and publish them by the end of the year.

Historical note: prior to 2005, the committee wrote the guidelines.  I was on the 1995 committee and we drafted guidelines that the agencies hardly touched (except to tinker with the alcohol guideline, as I discussed in Food Politics and What to Eat).  The guidelines have always been subject to political pressures, but with the agencies writing them, expect even more.

Let’s hope the committee’s sensible ideas will survive the process.  I will be paying close attention to how the 2010 guidelines progress.  Stay tuned.

Dec 30 2009

The latest recall: mechanically tenderized beef

I am, as always, indebted to Bill Marler for his ongoing commentary – often with slide shows – on recalls of foods contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and other nasty bugs.  He offers ongoing comments about the Christmas eve recall of 248,000 pounds of needle-tenderized steaks.

He points out that the recall now affects people in several states and that the meat was intended for several chain restaurants.   The contaminated meat, produced in Oklahoma, has sickened at least 19 people in 16 states.

Mechanically tenderized “non-intact” beef?  Uh oh.  The great thing about intact steak is that harmful contaminants are on the outside surface; the bacteria get killed by the high heat of searing the outside surface.  You don’t have to worry about the safety of intact steak because its insides are relatively sterile.  But if the steak is pre-treated to tenderize it, watch out!  Tenderizing can drive harmful bacteria right into the interior where they won’t get killed unless the steak is thoroughly cooked.

To explain the problem, Marler posts a slide show from Dave Boxrud.  Here is one of Boxrud’s illustrations:

Photo from David Boxrud's slide show on the Marler Blog site

Marler provides links to documents showing that the USDA has received plenty of recent warnings about the dangers of undercooked non-intact beef.  This is no surprise.  In my 2003 book, Safe Food (coming out in a new edition in 2010), I discuss the USDA’s “testing gap” with respect to nonintact beef.  In 1999, the USDA said that it wanted to extend its testing requirements for ground beef to mechanically tenderized beef that might be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

In Safe Food, I explain how the beef industry reacted with “shock, disbelief, and anger” to the USDA’s safety proposal.  One industry representative accused the USDA of taking “another step in this administration’s obfuscation of the impeachment activities.” Those activities, of course, referred to the scandal then involving President Clinton and the White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

Then, the meat industry’s position was that pathogens were inherent in raw meat, cooking kills them, and testing would put the industry out of business. Ten years later, the industry position hasn’t budged. The Washington Post (December 30) quotes beef industry representatives arguing that mechanical tenderizing poses no particular health problems.

According to Food Chemical News (September 28), Congressional representative Rosa DeLauro (Dem-CT), who chairs the House appropriations agriculture subcommittee, has called on USDA to take immediate action to require labeling of meat that has been mechanically tenderized.

And USA Today (December 30) has produced another long investigative report on the safety of school meals, this one citing plenty of examples of companies that successfully produce or serve safe meat and of countries that do food safety better than we do.  In the meantime, the food safety bill is still stuck in Congress.  Let’s hope that it gets moving early in 2010.

Addendum: The New York Times (online December 30) also is interested in beef produced for the school lunch program.  Its reporters investigated safety problems with beef trimmings that had been injected with ammonia to kill bacteria.    Two things about the beef trimmings are especially interesting.  One person is quoted in the article referring to them as “pink slime.”  And they used to be used for pet foods until meat packers figured out that selling them to USDA for school lunches was more profitable.

As for the ammonia treatment: surely this is not the same stuff used to clean bathrooms?  Apparently so.  But using it is tricky.  You have to inject enough ammonia to kill bacteria but if you do the meat smells like an ammonia-treated bathroom.  If you don’t want the meat to smell, you can’t use as much.  But if you don’t use as much, you get Salmonella. This, alas, is another example of regulations not working.

Congress: pass the food safety bill and then start working on a single food safety agency!

Update January 7: The CDC has posted information on its investigation of this outbreak on its website.

Dec 8 2009

The latest food safety measure: vaccinate cows?

What is to be done about E. coli O157:H7?  In the last two years, the USDA reports an astonishing 52 recalls of meat contaminated with these toxic bacteria compared to only 20 in the three years before that.

Apparently, the cattle and beef packing industries are unwilling or unable to produce safe meat, even though they could be doing much, much more to reduce bacterial infections: follow a decent HACCP plan and test-and-hold, for example.

The alternatives?  Late-stage techno fixes.  First, we had irradiation. Now we have vaccination!    Or so said the New York Times last week in a front-page story on two new anti-E. coli vaccines, one actually in use and one still under study.

The vaccines have been in development for a long time but were held up because they aren’t as effective as one would like, to say the least.  They are said to reduce the number of animals carrying toxic E. coli by 65% to 75%.  That should help, but will it solve the problem?

Doesn’t this argue for more efforts on prevention?  Or am I missing something here too?

Nov 16 2009

Uh oh. Industry forces FDA to drop oyster safety plan

On November 13, the FDA announced indefinite postponement of rules requiring raw oysters from the Gulf of Mexico to undergo postharvest processing to destroy their content of Vibrio vulnificus, a particularly nasty “flesh-eating” bacterium.  According to accounts in the New York Times and in industry newsletters,  the FDA caved under pressure from the oyster industry and members of Congress representing oyster-harvesting regions in the Gulf.

The FDA has been trying for years to get the oyster industry to clean up its act and use post-harvest technologies to sterilize oysters in order to prevent the 15 or so deaths they cause every year.  The technologies include quick freezing, frozen storage, high hydrostatic pressure, mild heat, and low dose gamma irradiation.  When used, the methods reduce bacteria to undectable levels and deaths from Vibrio vulnificus infections to zero.  As the FDA puts it, “seldom is the evidence on a food safety problem and solution so unambiguous.”

The FDA took action on October 16.  It wrote a letter to the industry announcing the new rules.  It would expect oyster producers to use the techniques, especially on oysters harvested in summer months when bacteria levels are higher.  It also issued a background paper on why the techniques are needed, a fact sheet on oyster hazards, and a Q and A on the new policy.

On October 17, FDA official Michael Taylor gave a speech to the oyster industry outlining the policy.

Oops.  The oyster industry did not take well to the idea and went into organized action.

Now, the proposed rules are history.  As the FDA explains:

Since making its initial announcement, the FDA has heard from Gulf Coast oyster harvesters, state officials, and elected representatives from across the region about the feasibility of implementing post-harvest processing or other equivalent controls by the summer of 2011.  These are legitimate concerns.

It is clear to the FDA from our discussions to date that there is a need to further examine both the process and timing for large and small oyster harvesters to gain access to processing facilities or equivalent controls in order to address this important public health goal.  Therefore, before proceeding, we will conduct an independent study to assess how post-harvest processing or other equivalent controls can be feasibly implemented in the Gulf Coast in the fastest, safest and most economical way.

My interpretation: 15 or more preventable deaths a year, every year, from oyster Vibrio must not be enough to elicit industry responsibility or FDA action.  That the FDA was forced to back down so quickly is not reassuring about this administration’s commitment to food safety.  Make no mistake.  This is a major setback to developing a strong food safety system.

One of the ironies here is that the FDA’s approach to oyster safety mirrored the approach taken by the very same Michael Taylor when he worked for the USDA in the mid-1990s.  Then, the administration backed him up on requiring science-based food safety procedures for meat and poulty producers.  This time, it looks like the administration pulled the rug out from under him and forced the FDA to back down.

Note: Thanks to Mike Taylor, safety rules are in place for meat and poultry.  Unfortunately, the current USDA isn’t enforcing them.  I will have more to say on that point in tomorrow’s post.

Another note: Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has been pushing for oyster safety for years, has organized a protest campaign.  Sign up here.

Oct 13 2009

School food makes news, endlessly

I can think of many reasons why school food is such a hot topic these days: kids eat a significant portion of their daily calories in schools, schools set an example for what is appropriate for kids to eat, and schools are a learning environment.  Here’s the latest on what’s happening on the school food scene:

1.  The New York City Education Department announces new rules for school vending machines, as part of its new school wellness policies.  According to the account in the New York Times, the vending machines have been empty since the Snapple contract ended in August (Really?  That’s not what I observed a couple of weeks ago).  The new standards will exclude the worst of the products but the lesser evils will still be competing for students’ food dollars, thereby continuing to undermine the solvency and integrity of the school meal programs.

2. The CDC reports (MMWR, October 5)  that junk food is rampant in schools, but the percentage of schools in which children are not permitted to buy junk food or sodas is increasing in at least 37 states.

3.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) takes the USDA to task for not alerting schools when foods in the school meals programs – meat or peanut butter, for example – have been recalled because they are contaminated with dangerous bacteria.  Usually, the GAO talks straight to government.  I don’t know what happened in this case but here is its first, rather incoherent, recommendation to USDA regarding the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS):

To better ensure the safety of foods provided to children through the school meal programs, and to make improvements in three areas related to recalls affecting schools: interagency coordination; notification and instructions to states and schools; and monitoring effectiveness, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct FNS and that the Secretary of HHS should direct FDA to jointly establish a time frame for completing a memorandum of understanding on how FNS and FDA will communicate during FDA investigations and recalls that may involve USDA commodities for the school meal programs, which should specifically address how FDA will include FNS in its prerecall deliberations.

The other recommendations make somewhat more sense.  They begin by repeating the first part up through “the Secretary of USDA should direct FNS to”:

  • develop guidelines, in consultations with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), to be used for determining whether or not to institute an administrative hold on suspect commodities for school meal programs.
  • work with states to explore ways for states to speed notification to schools.
  • improve the timeliness and completeness of direct communication between FNS and schools about holds and recalls, such as through the commodity alert system.
  • take the lead among USDA agencies to establish a time frame in which it will improve the USDA commodity hold and recall procedures to address the role of processors and determine distributors’ involvement with processed products, which may contain recalled ingredients, to facilitate providing more timely and complete information to schools.

This needs an editor, but you get the idea.

4.  The GAO has produced yet another report, this one devoted to getting states to comply with federal rules about meal counting and claims.  These are measures designed to make sure that ineligible kids don’t get fed.  I wish I knew how much money such measures cost.  They are a tragic waste.  We need universal school meals.  Period.

5.  And then there is Jamie Oliver, who has transformed the British school meals system and is now attempting to bring his school food revolution to the United States (see the food issue of the New York Times magazine).  One can only wish him luck.

Oct 6 2009

The high human cost of unsafe food

I think we need a whole lot more public outrage about unsafe food.  Maybe the recent front-page articles in the Washington Post and New York Times will do the trick.

Both tell tragic stories of women who developed hemolytic uremia syndrome in response to eating a food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.  Both reveal the appalling physical and monetary cost of these illnesses.  Recall: we also do not have an effective and affordable health care system.

To me, the most chilling part of the Times investigation had to do with the lack of testing for dangerous pathogens.  No meat packing company wants to test.  Why not?  They know the animals coming into the plant are contaminated.  They know that tests would come up positive.  They know that if they find pathogens, they have to recall the meat.

It’s obvious why meat is contaminated.  The making of hamburger is enough to put anyone off, as the letters to today’s Times attest.  In my book, Safe Food, I discuss a study demonstrating that one pound of commercial hamburger could contain meat from more than 400 cattle.  The Times’ article takes such facts to a personal level.  The 22-year-old woman who ate the tainted hamburger is paralyzed from the waist down and likely never to walk again.

Read these articles and you will understand that meat companies will not do what is needed to produce safe food unless they are forced to.

And it’s not just hamburger that causes problems.  Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has a new report out on the ten foods that cause the most cases of foodborne illness in America.  Hamburger isn’t even on the list.  Instead, it’s leafy greens, eggs, tuna, oysters, potatoes, cheese, ice cream, tomatoes, sprouts, and berries.  [Addendum October 9: for a critical analysis, see the Perishable Pundit’s comments on the study].

So how come Congress isn’t forcing all food producers to produce safe food?  Could it be because there isn’t enough public outrage to counteract industry pressures and make Congress act?

Put me out of business big box WebBill Marler, who represents both of the victims profiled in those articles, is begging Congress to put him out of business.

His message is clear: get busy and pass meaningful food safety legislation, right now, before it is too late.

I’m hoping these articles and the CSPI report will be seen by senatorial staff who will urge their bosses to support the House bill passed last spring.

Maybe we need hundreds of thousands of people to deluge Congress with appeals to act on food safety, now.

You would like to do this but don’t know how?  Easy.  Find your own representatives online on the House site and your Senator just as easily.  The e-mail addresses are right there waiting to be used.

Addendum: Here’s one rep who is on the job: Rosa de Lauro (Dem-CT).  Take a look at her statement about the Times article.  Where, she wonders, was the USDA while all this was going on?   Doing lots of good things, according to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack:

No priority is greater to me than food safety and I am firmly committed to taking the steps necessary to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness and protect the American people from preventable illnesses. We will continue to make improvements to reduce the presence of E. coli 0157:H7.

Suggestion: enforce HACCP!

Sep 20 2009

Feed Your Pet Right

This book has its own Facebook Page (Feed Your Pet Right) on which Mal Nesheim and I deal with current issues about pet food, answer questions, and respond to comments.

Photo by Samantha Heller

Order from your local independent bookstore or Free Press/Simon and Schuster or Amazon or Borders or Barnes & Noble or IndieBound.

Omnivore Books, 5-22-10 (by Christie Keith)

Media Interviews and book reviews [scroll all the way down to read review examples]

September/October 2010 Review in The Bark magazine

September 2010 Pet Food Industry review by Packaged Facts

August 18, 2010 Jill Richardson reviews the book on AlterNet

August 18, 2010 Jill Richardson blogs about the book

July 28, 2010 Interview with Amy Lieberman on

July 17, 2010 Radio interview with Evan Kleinman on Good Food

June 28, 2010 Podcast interview with Tracie Hotchner’s “Authors on Animals”June 25, 2010 review by Vicky Hagmeister.

June 23, 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Q and A with Meridith May.  Great photos!

June 10, 2010 Corby Kummer comments on the book on the Atlantic Food Channel.

June 8, 2010 Christie Keith’s review for the San Francisco Chronicle online

June 5, 2010 The San Francisco Chronicle online Tails of the City reviews the book

June 1, 2010 Jane Brody writes about the book in her Personal Health column

May 22, 2010 Live blogging from Omnivore Books on PetConnection by Christie Keith

May 20, 2010 Interview with Joyce Slayton on

May 14, 2010 Good Morning America with JuJu Chang

May 13, 2010 Interview with Kerry Trueman, Eating Liberally, Mudroom

May 13, 2010 Brian Lehrer NPR radio

May 13, 2010 St Louis Post-Dispatch review

May 12, 2010: Diane Rehm Show , NPR radio

May 11, 2010: Q and A (print)

From the San Francisco Chronicle, June 23, 2010


Feed Your Pet Right is an entertaining and informative examination of the booming pet food industry—its history, constituent companies, products, and marketing practices—written by two experts who took an objective look at the science behind pet food industry practices and claims. The book should be of interest to anyone who cares about how businesses function in today’s market economy but it especially aims to give pet owners the facts they need to decide for themselves how best to feed their cats or dogs.

The result of extensive research by experts in animal and human nutrition, the book covers the range of pet food products available, analyzes the ingredients in those products, reveals how and why pet food labels look the way they do, and explains how to read and decode the information and health claims on those labels. With this information, pet owners can better evaluate the quality and safety of what they are buying for their cats and dogs.

The authors make no attempt to dictate how pet owners should feed their cats and dogs. Instead, Feed Your Pet Right provides a roadmap to providing healthful diets for cats and dogs in ways that fit the great range of pet owners’ personal beliefs, value systems, and lifestyle choices.

The book also explains how pet foods are and are not regulated, how pet food companies influence government oversight and veterinary training and research, and how ethical considerations affect pet food research and product development. The book concludes with specific recommendations not only for pet owners, but also for the pet food industry, government regulators, and veterinarians.

Co-author: Dr. Malden Nesheim:

Malden Nesheim was born in Rochelle, Illinois. He earned a BS degree in Agricultural Science (1953) and an MS degree in Animal Nutrition (1954) from the University of Illinois and the Ph.D. degree in Nutrition (1959) from Cornell University.

Nesheim joined the Cornell faculty in 1959. In 1974 he was named Professor of Nutrition and Director of the newly formed Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell, a post which he held until the summer of 1987 when he was appointed Vice President for Planning and Budgeting. In 1989 he was appointed Provost of Cornell University. In that position, he was the chief academic officer of Cornell University responsible for oversight of all programs on the Ithaca campus. In 1995, he was named Provost Emeritus and became professor of Nutrition Emeritus in 1997.

Nesheim received the American Institute of Nutrition’s Conrad A. Elvehjem Award for public service, was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Fellow of the American Society of Nutritional Sciences. He has served as President of the American Institute of Nutrition and on several review panels for the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Agriculture. He chaired the NIH Nutrition Study Section from 1983-1986, and was a member of the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine for nine years. He chaired the 1990 joint USDA/HHS Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. In 1995 he was appointed Chair of a Presidential Commission on Dietary Supplement Labels. He finished his term as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Pan American Health and Education Foundation in 2008.

How we came to write this book:

The idea for this book originated as an extension of Marion Nestle’s book, What to Eat, which addressed common questions about human food choices using supermarkets as an organizing principle. The book did not cover the pet food aisle, which in most supermarkets is extensive and loaded with products whose labels differ greatly from those on foods for humans and are indecipherable to most people. We were curious to know what those products were and what their labels meant. What to Eat is a guide to how to think about human food choices. Feed Your Pet Right is a guide to how to think about food choices for cats and dogs.

Early comments

From Dr. David Fraser, former dean of the Veterinary College at the University of Sydney:

I have at last finished reading the manuscript of your book…Your book is mind blowingly excellent!! It is brilliant in every way. It is comprehensive in scope. It is so clearly impartial – free of any hidden influence on the writers. The style of writing is extremely attractive and should make this book accessible to any reader regardless of their knowledge level…The book of course is written for the USA. Nevertheless, I shall be recommending that my veterinary students read it…I am amazed at the range of issues that you covered. Together they give the most complete understanding of commercial pet foods that could possibly be created…your recommendations and criticisms are all highly relevant to the Australian situation.

Reviews in print

Library Journal, April 1, 2010:

Nestle, Marion & Malden C. Nesheim. Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. Free Pr: S. & S. May 2010. c.320p. illus. index. ISBN 978-1-4391-6642-0. pap. $18. PETS

Dog and cat owners encounter a dizzying array of choices and confusing labels when shopping for pet foods in supermarkets. They will welcome the information Nestle (nutrition, New York Univ.; Pet Food Politics) and Nesheim (nutrition, emeritus, Cornell Univ.) obtained from their research and firsthand experience. Readers learn what pets are supposed to eat (dogs are omnivores; cats are carnivores) and the scientific standards and government regulations that led to the development of commercial pet food. Owners are guided through the many food choices, including dry, canned, wet, and semimoist foods; products called “premium,” “all natural,” “prescription diet,” and “hairball control”; and more unconventional diets, like raw, vegetarian, and home cooked. After discussing various foods and nutrients, they conclude with specific and sensible recommendations for pet owners, the industry, and the government. VERDICT Filled with useful information, this well-written guide is the pet nutrition counterpart to Nestle’s human nutrition guide, What To Eat. Recommended for all pet owners.—Eva Lautemann, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston

Tulsa World, May 9, 2010

Surprising bits about kibble, by Kim Brown, World Scene Writer

We’re a culture obsessed with food, so why not be that way about pet food?

The answer is what authors Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim search for in their new book, “Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat,” (Simon & Schuster, $16.99).

From breaking down pet food labels to detailing the many nutrition plans for your dog or cat, the authors dig deep into the $40 billion a year pet industry and learn that there are no definitive answers.

But they first take us through history to learn what our domestic animals used to eat, and how it compares with the foods we feed them today.

Not only do they tackle the commercial pet food industry, but the authors also look inside the natural and organic product claims on some specialty, or more expensive, pet food products.

Some of Nestle and Nesheim’s research surprised them, particularly that they found was no single diet to be superior.

“The books that are out there tend to cite every bit of research or experience they can muster to argue that you must feed your pet only one kind of diet — only commercial pet food, only one or another alternative pet food, only meat, only grains and vegetables, only raw foods, or only home-cooked foods. Humans don’t eat only one way. Pets don’t need to either. Any or all of those methods, singly or together, can promote excellent health in a dog or cat,” they write.

In fact, they find that commercial pet food is “adequate and appropriate” for many pets.

“We found no evidence that these foods routinely cause nutrient deficiencies or other health problems or shorten pets’ lives ” they write.

However, they also lament that there is no “real research” to tell if pets are living longer lives now than before.

Cape Cod Times, May 9, 2010, Bookshelf, by Melanie Lauwers

One of the hottest topics going is how we feed ourselves in the modern world — where our food comes from, how it’s processed and whether we get the best possible nutrition from our diet. But what about our pets? We spend millions of dollars each year on wet and dry food, treats and supplements, and truthfully, how much do we know about those products? And how do we know they’re right for our pets?

Expert nutritionist Marion Nestle of New York University and Cornell University professor emeritus Malden Nesheim explain what pets used to eat, what they eat now and what they actually need in their diet to stay healthy and happy. Included are analyses of pet food products and recommendations for owners, the pet food industry and regulators. There’s more than plain old kibble in this pet food encyclopedia.

SF Medical Society Journal