The M&M Guys Killed My Dogs
Polo and Nikko
The following article serves as a memorial to my two dogs that I lost at the beginning of July but also as a warning to all other pet owners that they must be very cautious when it comes to the food they are feeding their dogs. As you may have already read on the internet, dog food and treats from China have caused the death of several thousand beloved pets in America. The number is probably far greater but so many mysterious deaths are never investigated because we are usually too busy blaming ourselves for somehow allowing their deaths to occur. It's a normal reaction. We blame ourselves for not watching better, not ensuring that our home is pet safe, etc., etc. but we usually overlook the food we feed on a routine basis. Living in China, I made it a priority to feed only commercial dog food from what I considered reputable companies. The fact that a couple of companies are responsible for the manufacturing of all the different dog foods never occurred to me. I made the assumption that Western companies meant Western rules of quality, but what is most unforgiveable is that I am both a veterinarian and a quality auditor, and the reason I work in China is because quality is a constant concern and issue. Therefore, the fact that these major pet food companies are manufacturing in China should have rung alarm bells for me right away. But it didn't, and now I have to deal with the loss of my two beloved companions. What's their story? Read further and you'll be able to share the living horror of having your dogs die in your arms as they went into seizure and finally cardiac and respiratory arrest on two separate occasions, three days apart. It wasn't until the second death that I was able to put it all together. That's what I do. I deal with Quality breakdowns here in China and Investigative Auditing. What I experienced may lead you to never want to buy another M&M again if they manufacture their candy with the same attitude as their dog food.
PLEASE FORWARD TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW
The following is the transcript of the letter that I have just sent to the Quality Manager of Effem Foods in Beijing, aka. Waltham, aka, MARS pet food and a variety of other names that they use. Copies have been sent to relevant FDA offices and other regulatory agencies but I ask if you can help the memories of Polo and Nikko by sending this letter to as many people, as many government agencies, and so on that you can think of. I want M&M - MARS, to know that they cannot manufacture in China because it is cheaper to do so without ensuring that quality is given even more consideration than they would in the West. This is not about the bottom line. This is not about profits and increasing their investment portfolio. This is about our pets, our loved ones, our furry children and they mean far more to us than their shareholders' dividends at the end of each fiscal year due to their cost cutting efforts by moving manufacturing to China!
THE LETTER TO THE BEIJING MANUFACTURER
To Sun, Chenxing Manager,
Mars Pet Foods, Effem foods
T. 0086 010 61667410
M.0086 186 01372700
F. 0086 010 61667844
Sorry about my delay in responding but I had to go to Europe on some matters of urgency concerning a Quality Audit. Now that I have the opportunity to respond, I wish to say a few things regarding this matter. Firstly, I just lost my two dogs due to toxicity problems, the trail leading back to your company, so telling me to Have A Nice Day is one of the most insensitive statements I could ever imagine. The facts are the facts and in all likelihood, the M&M guys killed my dogs!
Secondly, let's not overlook my qualifications. It is Dr. Goldenthal, or Dr. Allen, to you but never just Goldenthal. Doctor as in emeritus veterinarian with the College of Veterinarians of Ontario, Doctor as in 30 years with the AVMA, doctor as in recognized preclinical toxicologist internationally, doctor as in former Director at IVABS at Massey University, doctor as in post graduate degree in medical technology, doctor as in the author of the 1981 report on Acute Acetominophen Nitrate Toxicosis in Cats, which was breaking news that common pain relievers such as Panadol will kill most cats in a very short time, doctor as in ETRS Certified Quality Assurance Auditor, So expecting me to accept the results of your testing blindly is definitely not going to happen. I am not a member of the lay public that you can so easily dupe with a smile and a wave of the hand, accompanied by 'Have a Nice Day.' Perhaps you get away with that with most but not with me! Telling me that Quality is a primary focus of your company does not inspire confidence because in case you can not appreciate why I work in China, it is because quality is a major concern, or should I say, 'lack of it' in China. And I've been working with companies over the past four years in this country that are larger than even yours, and they would never be so presumptuous to assume that their quality levels are equivalent to the West. They know they have a long way to go to ensure that but most of all to sustain it.
I should also mention that this letter is being sent out simultaneously to numerous groups that are concerned about the quality of Chinese pet products that are entering the market and causing the death of thousands of animals, including regulatory authorities such as the FDA, and colleagues of mine with connections into the various regulatory agencies. Over the years working with regulatory inspectors, I've had the opportunity to make acquaintances with many of them. I want them to be able to contact you directly and your company with their concerns because there certainly are issues that you casually overlooked and gleaned over in an effort to dismiss this case. You claim your company stands for Quality but in reality is stands for profits and the irony is that a chocolate company, a substance toxic to dogs, controls most of the pet food industry.
Now let's discuss the issue scientifically without letting emotions cloud the issues. Both Polo and Nikko suffered from tremorogenic toxicity resulting in cardiac and respiratory arrest in a matter of a couple of hours and on two separate occasions, three days apart after consuming your dog food approximately 2 to 3 hours prior to the start of the seizures. It is common knowledge that tremorogenic toxicity is a finding in acute mycotoxin poisoning. The contents of your product, Chappie, were still in Nikko's stomach several hours after consumption even though emptying of dense stomach contents should have normally taken place in 45 minutes following consumption. This is evidence of deoxynivolenol, or vomitoxin as your product analysis calls it. It matters little that you respond with the "Present within Acceptable Levels" because the levels were arbitrarily assigned by AAFCO and are known to serve as guidelines, having little application to individual sensitivities, and as more research is being performed, it is being identified that the permissible levels in pet food may be far too high. The reality is that it was confirmed to be there, along with other mycotoxins and the clinical effects of the vomitoxin were evident. So in fact, whether in 'acceptable limits' or not, they were causing significant, identifiable, and discernable clinical signs which means they were definitely not acceptable.
Being a toxicologist and medical technologist, I know how much of a sample is required to run HPLC or MassSpec. The quantity required is milligrams, sometimes even only nanograms, so when you sent your man back a week later to pick up the entire remaining bag of ten kilograms, I found that very suspicious and incongruent with normal testing procedures. I suspect that you did so because you wanted to make that bag and its contents disappear as quickly as possible. What was even more unusual was that your company didn't even attempt to compensate for the value of the food that you took. As I said, your entire focus appeared to be on making it disappear rather than concern yourself that a customer had actually paid a considerable amount of money for that food even if it was found to pass your tests and you made no attempt to replace its value. Your focus was not customer oriented which if you truly were a TQM company, it would have been.
I have no doubt that your lab can spin out test results but the fact is that you do not appear to be qualified in analyzing them. Let me assist with that, considering my role in China is Quality Management Systems specialist, working with some of the major biological companies in this country. I will point out the value of trend analysis which has not been taken into consideration. You don't seem to have noticed that one mycotoxin in particular, Fumonisins was <200ppb on your retention sample from the original manufacturing process. Yet, several months later, the level had risen to 1281 ppb in the sample taken from my home. That is at minimum over a 600% increase and this is despite all the preservatives and anti-fungal agents that you treat your dog food with. That is taking into consideration that your LOD was probably 200ppb and in reality the actual original level of fumonisin when you manufactured your food was probably closer to 0 and this is in reality indicating a very 'hot process' taking place within that bag. Not to mention that the vomitoxin, a common toxin associated with fumonisins had an increase of more than 10% from its manufacturing date. As a secondary toxin produced during fungal generation, that in itself is significant. What this indicates is that there was active fungal/mold generation taking place within that bag and sampling from the top, where the initial sample I provided to you was taken from, would be like sampling from the tip of an iceberg. The site of active generation wouldn't have even been touched and its levels were likely spiking far beyond these measurements. This as a very simple trend analysis should have been obvious to your analysts.
I'm not claiming that Fumonisins were responsible for the death of my two dogs because we know so little regarding their effects and it would appear that no studies have been performed in dogs according to the literature but a study in primates, in which Fumonisin verticilioides, a culture was fed to baboons, resulted in acute death as a result of congestive heart failure (Kriek et al., 1981). An acute cardiac arrest similar to what Polo and Nikko experienced. And since only a small subset of the myriad of fungal toxins were measured in your tests, who knows what other toxins could have been present in lethal combination.
But since you are focused on acceptable limits, let me also remind you of the Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 of 19 December 2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs for humans by the European Union (EU). Recognizing that previous acceptable limits were too high for human consumption, they reset maximum levels for certain contaminants with a view to reducing their presence in foodstuffs to the lowest levels reasonably achievable by means of good manufacturing or agricultural practices. The objective is to achieve a high level of public health protection, especially for sensitive population groups, such as children or people with allergies. These rules should have been no different for my dogs since they were in effect, 'my children'. Are you aware of those levels that were set for total daily intake. For vomitoxin, it was no more than 1 microgram/kg of body weight or 1ppb. For fumonisins it was no more than 2 microgram/kg of body weight or 2 ppb. So for Polo whom was the larger of my two dogs, weighing in at 25 kg. , his maximum exposure should have been no more 25 ppb a day for vomitoxin and 50 ppb a day for fumonisins. Your measurements were 382 and 1281ppb respectively for these two toxins. How can you even suggest to me that your product didn't have a problem because clearly if this had been a human preparation, the regulatory authorities would be shutting down your processes immediately?
You are already aware that I have taken exception to the Zinc levels in your food as well since both my tests and your tests show levels close to the 300mg/kg level in the food and it is known that the daily requirement for a 25 kg dog is only about 21 mg zinc/day and consumption of 225 mg of zinc at a single bolus will induce sickness in dogs. Though zinc was not the primary cause of death, it certainly may have been a contributor to what happened. Let me remind you, that these were my companions, in a sense my children, my responsibility and as their caregiver, I am certainly not going to dismiss their untimely deaths as due to non-identified causes when the clinical symptoms, the history and the results of even what you call 'satisfactory' tests suggest there most definitely was a problem with your food. The reputation of Chinese prepared pet products is far from reputable around the world. Your approach, response and lack of adherence to scientific principles has done little to dispel this perception. I want the rest of the world to appreciate that MARS company, Waltham, Effem or whatever other names you wish to go by in China is not better than these others that have already been stained by the deaths of thousands of pets as a result of this lack of Quality. You will likely continue to believe that your products are without blemish but I think Polo and Nikko will disagree with you. I hope that others around the world will take the opportunity to inundate your email and your phone lines with similar disagreement to your contentions of Quality. All I want is for my two dogs to know that I did not accept their deaths lightly and that if others can save their pets from a similar fate by boycotting your feed and letting Mars company know that pet owners worldwide will not accept anything less than 100% safety, even if that means ensuring that what they buy never comes from your production plant, then there will be some justice.
So now it's my turn to say, "Have a Nice Day."
Dr. Allen Goldenthal
PhD,MBA,DVM,BScSHBC Quality Operations Manager
WHAT YOU CAN DO
First, I would recommend you check the bag of dog food in your home and see where it was manufactured.
Second, I would suggest that you stay away from these mass producers of dog food, as they are more concerned with the profit line than the safety of your pets.
Third, spread this letter around to everyone you can think of. At some point these companies must be held responsible for the pain and suffering they have caused thousands of pet owners.
And lastly, you have the email, phone numbers, fax numbers of this so-called Quality Manager. Let him know that we as the pet-loving public will not accept anything less than 100% safe products. That means not adhering to 'acceptable limits' but actually striving towards 'zero tolerance.' We don't want maybe's, could be's, or should be's when it comes to the health and safety of our pets. If they don't understand that, then they can eat their products themselves, because we won't buy it.
For the sake of Nikko and Polo, I ask that you do this for their memory.