Poisoning cats and babies

WA Today: “Cat deaths linked to pet food“:

Unexplained chronic illness and death among Sydney cats has been linked to a gourmet imported pet food withdrawn from stores over the past three weeks.

A cat neurologist, Georgina Child, has put down five cats over the past week and treated or consulted with other vets about more than a dozen others suffering from paralysis.

Dr Child, who is based at the University of Sydney’s veterinary hospital and the Small Animal Specialist Hospital in North Ryde, said the only factor that linked all the cats was a specialist pet food called Orijen, which is imported through a Canadian company, Champion Petfoods.

No word yet on what the contaminant or issue might be. The company’s opening gambit was to lay the blame on irradiation of the food on its entry to Australia. Wut?

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In other poisonous-food news, US food testing has shown “trace” amounts of melamine in one US infant formula – but they’re not telling us which. Yahoo News reports that the levels 137-140 parts per billion, are considered to be below the “trace” threshold. However, this threshold is set by the FDA for foods in general, not specifically for infant formula. The situation with formula can be different because small, vulnerable infants swallow up to a litre of exactly the same food every single day for many months on end. No other commercial food is eaten in that way.

[FDA spokesperson Judy] Leon said the FDA was in the process of determining what amounts of melamine pose a risk to infants and would release a public advisory later. In the meantime, parents should not change their babies’ feeding habits, she said.

I imagine this is intended to warn parents off feeding home-concocted “formulas”, but it might have been nice to see someone recognising that relactation (or, for prospective mothers, seeking breastfeeding support) would be a perfectly reasonable and healthy way for parents to “change their babies’ feeding habits”. In the USA? Ha! I’m dreaming.



Categories: health

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11 replies

  1. Poor kitties. I was looking at the ingredients on cans of pet food in the supermarket the other day, and noted that something labelled “all-natural chicken and rice” said on the back “70% chicken and rice” and didn’t say what the other 30% was.
    Also, can I just say wft to importing pet food??
    I think there’s a larger issue here, with feeding anything stuff that comes in a container and doesn’t have identifiable antecedents.

  2. I think there’s a larger issue here, with feeding anything stuff that comes in a container and doesn’t have identifiable antecedents.

    I think there’s a slightly more nuanced point I’d like to make, which is that feeding a dependent being exclusively on a single processed container food for long periods of time leaves them uniquely vulnerable to contaminations as well as deficiencies. There were also the babies in Israel who died from the soy formula lacking a single vitamin; and a somewhat different issue, the prem babies killed by Enterobacter sakazakii-contaminated powdered formulas.
    We grown-ups, most of us, can diversify our diets, making the inclusion of various container foods largely a non-issue. Babies, not so much.
    One of the risks in putting about these danger stories without contextualising them (not that you’re doing this, I’m speaking more generally now) and without societal support for breastfeeding is the risk of turning parents toward home-made formulas instead of toward breastfeeding/donor human milk. So you end up with babies being fed on dangerous, imbalanced diets containing things like raw liver and eggs (note: I do NOT endorse the information at this link). Brrrrrrr.
    The WHO guidelines of formula being the fourth choice (after mother’s milk from the breast, expressed mother’s milk, donor human milk) stand, even with these reports of contaminations here and there.

  3. And people wonder why I rotate my pets’ food from a limited pool of foods made with human-grade ingredients and all of the ingredients coming from North America… I keep contemplating the switch to raw but it looks dauntingly complicated, so I settle for feeding a wide range of healthy bits of my food instead.
    My Mom breastfed me because the trailer she was living in when I was born didn’t have water she trusted to be clean enough to make my formula, and by the time we moved out of there she said it was way easier in the middle of the night to slap me on the boob and go back to sleep than it would have been to get up and fix a bottle.

  4. small, vulnerable infants swallow up to a litre of exactly the same food every single day for many months on end. No other commercial food is eaten in that way.
    Depends. Do soda, tea or whiskey count as commercial foods?

  5. Lauredhel, agree absolutely with your more nuanced point. But I still think there’s a larger point about eating artificial foods generally. And that Weston Price link was nutty.
    slave2tehtink – “And people wonder why I rotate my pets’ food from a limited pool of foods made with human-grade ingredients and all of the ingredients coming from North America… I keep contemplating the switch to raw but it looks dauntingly complicated, so I settle for feeding a wide range of healthy bits of my food instead.”
    Our dog gets human-grade meat, chicken, rice and vegetables, offal once a week, and raw chicken wings/necks in between. The vet said this was a good approach. I’d feed the cat a raw diet only she goes on a hunger strike until she gets nasty crunchy pellets (I only got her when she was ten, so can’t be blamed for this!) And the bunnies get a diet entirely consisting of grass and raw fruit and veg. Commercial pet food is the nasty.

  6. Notgruntled:

    ”Depends. Do soda, tea or whiskey count as commercial foods?”

    Do they make up >99% of your diet?
    S2TT:

    I keep contemplating the switch to raw but it looks dauntingly complicated,

    For dogs, it’s not even slightly complicated (though some people try to make it so!) I gather it can be a bit more complicated for cats, though. If you’re already feeding a variety of stuff from your diet, you’re, well, pretty much doing something just as complicated at typical raw. We give a pre-made BARF pattie in the morning (cheaters!), and in the evening usually some sort of RMB – chicken quarters or turkey drums a staple, sometimes other items like a piece of beef heart, or a marrowbone, or lamb flaps (ribs) or necks. For treats, he gets a raw egg in shell, or some raw sweet potato scraps or apple peelings, that sort of thing. A handful of fish oil capsules every couple of days.

  7. I do get confused about infant formula. When I was born (1950s) breastfeeding in NZ was at an all-time low due to scientism and Truby King, who founded the Plunket Society, then the major voice in infant care. As I was adopted there wasn’t any reasonable choice: I was bottle-fed whole cows milk, diluted and with sugar added. No, really, that was the standard substitute for breastmilk. When my daughter was born in the 1970s I breastfed her, but the recipes for using cows milk were still being supplied to mothers by the Plunket Society, although there was by then powdered formula available. (They used to market a book called The New Zealand Child and His (sic) Family which had everything from how to make up a bassinet to how to make baby nighties out of viyella – stretch’n’gros had only just arrived in NZ and were hideously expensive – to how to fold nappies – which I don’t think anyone does any more as even the cloth ones seem to be pre-folded when you buy them.)
    Now. of course, no-one would dream of using diluted sweetened cows milk in the West, and breastfeeding has become much more common, but the number of children with allergies has skyrocketed. I guess this is just a coincidence.

  8. M-H: The reason for the increase in allergies is complicated and controversial, but it seems to have little to do with breastfeeding. Some studies show slight changes either way with duration of breastfeeding (these are of course potentially confounded in ways that may be very difficult to control for), but most show fairly close to no difference.
    The Hygiene Hypothesis seems to be quite strong and to be lasting the test of time: it seems that the most effective way to prevent allergies may be to let kids have intestinal worms and other infections, and don’t ever treat them. This might not necessarily be the best or lowest-risk way, however, depending on how you look at things. But avoiding household antibacterial agents might be a good start. Other things that could (somewhat supported, but unproven) make a difference in terms of colonisation with good gut flora are more normal births with no routine antibiotics or antibacterials, and early and completely exclusive breastfeeding -most studies do not measure truly exclusive breastfeeding.
    (p.s. – some of us can still fold a cloth square.)

  9. My workmate is into using cloth and reusable nappies in a big way. She tells me that she will use old fashioned cloth for her new baby due in a couple of weeks because the shaped nappies available are all too big, or too expensive. You can fold a cloth nappy to pretty much any small size, and that’s what she plans to do.

  10. As a vegetarian, it was probably a mistake buying three carnivores. But since they’re here, and in my care, I give them the best I can find (alas, imported, but I search in vain for a local brand half as good) and supplement heavily with kangaroo, fresh sardines and chicken wings, when my freezer isn’t frosted shut. And little Roast Beef loves peanut butter and lettuce, for some reason.
    An American came into my office today, and expressed his view on federal politics. “A year ago I said that Rudd would have us in recession,” he said, “it’s because they place too many restrictions on business. Government shouldn’t be involved in business at all.”
    If I were allowen an opinion between 9-5, I would have argued the points in this very post. I would have also asked whether he voted in either country.

  11. Kim, my mother is feeding her dogs some apparently awesome raw mix from a woman up in QLD somewhere. If you want, I can get the details to you – mum says she’s found it heaps easier than what she was doing previously (and she doesn’t mind handling raw meat).
    Formula stuff terrifies me – I’m two and a half months pregnant and there’s a chance I won’t be able to breast feed (nerve/ligament damage already). So my poor (hippie, greenie, no antibiotics unless needed, exclusive BF until 3 years or self-weaned, no meds birthing) mother is freaking out with a lot of the news. I’m going to try as hard as I can though. But the fear is still there. Mitigated by the fact I’ve been told by every gyno I’ve ever gone to that I either can’t get pregnant, or will find it very difficult. Here I am less than a year off hormonal BC (six years on Implanon, 5 with the pill) and less than four months of trying and pregnant. Kinda screwed up our plans (since we were settled in for a long wait) but makes me wonder if the breast specialists screwed up too.
    Mostly, I think it’s obscene that they won’t release the names of the formulas involved – talk about liability! And the danger it represents. But hey, it’s not like they need protecting from the big bad chemicals once they’re out of the womb…

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