DEAR DR. FOX: I was surprised that you suggested feeding high-quality baby food to someone's elderly Yorkie recently. I stopped adding baby food to my dogs' meals due to reports of high levels of heavy metals being found in many baby foods. Has that improved, and is it now safe to feed baby food to our dogs? -- E.M., Juno Beach, Florida
DEAR E.M.: You raise a very important issue, and I am glad to have this opportunity to clarify. I never advise feeding baby foods on a regular basis to dogs and cats -- only when they are off their food and their appetites need to be stimulated, which meaty baby foods generally do. The short duration in this scenario should not expose them to any significant risk from the heavy metal contaminants in many baby foods.
A 2021 report from the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform says that some commercial baby foods are tainted with dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. The report was based on information from just four baby food manufacturers: Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain and Gerber. Arsenic, lead, and cadmium were found in baby foods from all of the companies; mercury was found in food from the only company that tested for it (Nurture). The full report is available at oversight.house.gov.
Data was not available for several brands, because they did not respond to the committee's requests. The report states: “Walmart (which sells baby food products through its private brand, Parent’s Choice), Campbell, (which sells baby food products under the brand name Plum Organics) and Sprout Organic Foods refused to cooperate with the Subcommittee’s investigation. The Subcommittee is greatly concerned that their lack of cooperation might be obscuring the presence of even higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby food products than their competitors’ products.”
Arsenic has also been reported in baby cereals. I find this situation astounding and very concerning, especially since even low levels of exposure can cause serious and often irreversible damage to brain development. Only recently was arsenic taken out of chicken feed, poultry meat having previously been a significant source of this toxin.
Considering the serious problem of heavy metal contamination in manufactured baby foods, it is likely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what goes into many pet foods -- along with aflatoxin and other molds, and Salmonella and other bacterial contaminants, which result in frequent recalls when pets become ill and die. According to one of many studies on pet food contamination, commercial dog foods appear to be safe for chronic consumption. Concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury were dependent on the food's primary protein sources. Overall, poultry-based diets had relatively lower heavy metal and arsenic content than red meat- and fish-based diets. Despite the safety of most pet foods, occasional outliers for lead render some concern for chronic exposure.
Various body parts -- bones, livers and fats, in particular -- from older animals such as dairy cows, laying hens and livestock, as well as horses, tuna and even whales, should probably not be considered safe ingredients for pet foods. Recycling these parts into pet foods, livestock and poultry feeds, and human supplements and food-additives should be prohibited in the absence of thorough safety testing.
In our modern factory farm system, the longer an animal lives, the more heavy metals, arsenic, fluorides and other industrial pollutants it accumulates, along with pesticides and various pharmaceuticals. The lower our foods are on the food chain, the lower our accumulation and risk -- another benefit of plant-based diets.
DOG TREAT RECALL
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture found Salmonella bacteria in a sample of chicken treats for dogs distributed by Stormberg Foods. The company is investigating the source of contamination and issued a recall for Beg & Barker, Billo's Best Friend and Green Coast Pets chicken strips and crisps with expiration dates of June 6, 2023, through June 23, 2023. For details, visit truthaboutpetfood.com.
DEAR DR. FOX: I just finished reading your recent column entitled "Our spiritual crisis in the Anthropocene epoch." You said it all. I feel such sadness about where we are as a people -- our relationships with each other, with all other living beings and with our universe.
I feel inadequate to make this world a better and healthier place to live for those who come behind us. I am a member of the Justice and Peace ministry of my local Catholic church; there are six of us in this group, and we feel we are just talking to each other on these issues.
Currently, we are trying to create space to be open and accepting of Pope Francis’ teachings in his letter, "Laudato Si." Your column touched on everything that the pope is offering us in his wisdom. -- C.S., Wall, New Jersey
DEAR C.S.: I am glad that my article touched you, and that you now know that you are not alone in your concerns about the state of the world and the harmful consequences of our inhumanity.
There is much that we can all do to help make a difference, rather than lapse into despair and let environmental anxiety take over. Doing a moral inventory of our consumer habits and the “carbon footprint” of our choices -- from avoiding products tested on animals and shifting to vegetarian/vegan diets -- are initial steps. Helping with animal rescue and conservation organizations, both local and international, can be very rewarding, as can fostering dogs and cats in need of forever homes.
You may enjoy some of the articles posted on my website, such as drfoxonehealth.com/post/animal-suffering-and-the-god-question and drfoxonehealth.com/post/one-earth-one-health-a-manifesto-for-action. And do make contact with the U.K.-based Catholic Concern for Animals at catholic-animals.com/contact-us.
You and your group may especially enjoy my book "The Boundless Circle: Caring for Creatures and Creation." And my recent book "Animals and Nature First" will spark the activist in you!
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)