Author: James St.Clair, DVM (Director of Veterinary Medicine, TopDog Health & Rehabilitation)
How important is the statement “Made in the USA” to YOU?
Does it have the same meaning or significance that it once did? When it comes to nutritional supplements, foods, and/or treats for both you and your dog, my feeling is that “Made in the USA” is extremely important. Yet this statement in reality is only half of the story.
Why do I say this? The vast majority of companies in the USA who are manufacturing animal supplements, human health supplements, or even human and dog foods for that matter, maybe put all the ingredients together and manufacture the finished product in the USA, but the real question is where are the ingredients coming from?
As consumers, should it be our right to be informed on the packaging, as to the origin or source of the ingredients that are being used to make these products?
If you ask me, then I would say YES!
Fact: China is still the leading supplier of nutritional raw materials in the world
Still to this day, fresh in the minds of most pet owners was the Pet Food Recall of 2007 where hundreds of products were recalled when the FDA found contaminants in vegetable proteins imported into the United States from China and used as ingredients in pet food. These import products indicated to be wheat gluten were contaminated with melamine, a very toxic substance found in many plastics. Even now it is speculated that this contamination resulted in thousands of deaths of pets all across the world.
It is well documented that China is a major producer and exporter of FDA-regulated products and therefore presents a range of issues for concern. As evidenced in many past instances, the FDA has encountered compliance problems with other imported items from China, such as cough syrup, toothpaste (contaminated with diethylene glycol – a poisonous ingredient used in antifreeze), pet food (melamine), lead and cadmium in ceramic ware used to store and ship food, staphylococcal contamination of canned mushrooms, and more recently, residential drywall and high cadmium (in place of lead) concentrations found in children’s jewelry, both reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, as documented examples. While improvements have been made in oversight procedures and enforcement by Chinese authorities, much still remains to be done to attain international standards and widespread consumer confidence” as stated in the Executive Summary of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission report of 2010 titled Potential Health & Safety Impacts from Pharmaceuticals and Supplements Containing Chinese-Sourced Raw Ingredients. (Available as a PDF document at www.uscc.gov)
Though this was the largest Pet Food recall in recent history and given extraordinary attention by the media, in no way was it isolated. If you were to visit the FSA advisory website on animal and veterinary products Click Here you can find countless conversations about products originating from China that had suspicious contamination.
So why are all of these manufacturers going to China for their ingredients anyway?
The major reason is very simple: Money & availability. The fact of the matter is that most of these raw materials are considerably less expensive from China when compared to sourcing them from the USA, but is the quality the same?
When it comes to ingredients TopDog says the USA all the way!
In 2007, when TopDog Health & Rehabilitation set out to develop an innovative and effective joint health supplement for dogs, one of the core foundations in the development process was that we would only source the best-of-the-best ingredients, originating only from the USA.
It quickly became obvious that USA ingredients cost more.
If our focus was profit then we made the wrong decision.
The reality is that we knew if we wanted the highest quality and highest safety profiles for our customers then sourcing USA ingredients was our best decision.
Until now though, TopDog Health & Rehabilitation has never promoted in our marketing or advertising of our joint supplement GlycanAid® and GlycanAid HA®, that all the ingredients incorporated into these products are sourced from the USA. As a company, our focus was on efficacy and proving to pet owners and veterinarians that our product was hands-down one of the best on the market based on our unique formulation.
Is utilizing all USA ingredients something to be proud of? You are damn straight it is and there is a good reason.
The Grim Reality and Understanding what Adulterated Ingredients Mean
At the 2012 meeting of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), an independent watchdog group for the industry, we were presented with information that was nothing short of scary about the practices of many of these Chinese raw material companies. These were isolated examples from the companies who were actually “caught” and in no way is a reflection of all Chinese companies, but admittedly this all is very scary and brings to question how many other companies are out there that have not yet been caught.
We knew we had made the right decision!
Adulteration by definition means the addition or contamination of raw material with a potentially harmful inexpensive ingredient. By doing so these manufacturers can deceive companies into thinking they are buying pure raw material X when the reality is the exact opposite. In many cases, these companies worked very hard to find or develop adulterated ingredients that will fool chemistry analyzing machines into even thinking it is pure raw material X.
If you ask me, this is big buyers beware.
Are USA ingredients Superior to Foreign Ingredients?
The reality is there is no hard proof that raw materials sourced from the USA are any more superior or safe than raw materials sourced from China or any other country for that matter. I am sure many ethical companies in China utilize trustworthy business and manufacturing practices. The problem is, how do we know?
What we do know though is this. There are undeniably far more regulations imposed on raw material manufacturers in the USA than anywhere in the world. These regulations are meant to protect consumers and improve the probability that the end product is safe. Therefore you are getting duel protection, first with the strict regulations imposed on the raw material manufacturers and second on the extensive testing by the end product manufacturing side. In our minds, this is a convincing blanket of security that needs to be acknowledged, respected, and therefore supported.
Exceptions to the Rule
It is an obvious reality that the Green-Lipped Mussel of New Zealand, for example, does not originate nor live in the United States of America. The point is, in some situations certain beneficial natural ingredients can only be found outside of the USA.
That said, in situations such as this, where consumers around the world should have access to potentially beneficial raw materials indigenous to only certain geographic locations, then alternative regulatory measures need to be taken to ensure only the best-of-the-best raw materials are imported and utilized.
Such is the case with TopDog Health & Rehabilitation’s product Flexerna Omega®.
When TopDog determined that it was essential for our patients to have access to the undeniable benefits found in the oil of these mussels we searched long and hard to find the raw material manufacturer who had the track record and research to prove the safety and efficacy of its product.
An Oath to Protect
Here in the USA we love and treat our pets as if they are integral members of our family. In the majority of homes, we love them like our own children. I personally could never even imagine a home without my dogs. How boring it would be. Being a father of not only three children but also three dogs, there is nothing more important to me than protecting all of them under any and every circumstance within my power.
That said, one thing I have total control over is what I put into their bodies. Trust me when I say this, we as a family are very very careful about what goes in our mouths and you should be as well.
Granted we live in the Era of the Global Economy, it is a well-known fact that when it comes to medicine, nutrition, and health, the United States of America is the trusted leader.
Make sure as you move forward in life as a consumer for both you and your dog that you know the origin of the ingredients and support those companies that take great measures to produce only the best products possible.