Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It's taken me the long weekend to calm down.

On Friday, I had meant to stop by the pet shop on my way to work to get another bag of dog food. For a confluence of reasons, I didn't. The connecting train to the office arrived just at the same moment as I crossed over to the platform, so instead of taking the escalator to the exit where I would get out of the station and upstairs into the shopping centre where the pet shop was, I stepped into the train. I figured that I would pick up the dog food during dinner hour instead. What I didn't know then was that goD was looking out for me and my dogs.

Because 10 minutes later when I got into the office and checked my e-mail before starting any real work, I found a post on my dog e-list on a dog food recall. My blood ran cold when I realised that the brand that I feed was on the recall list.

P&G had issued a voluntary recall of some brands of pet food because a manufacturing facility had been compromised by salmonella. I googled like crazy but couldn't find anything which told me whether the recall was limited to the US and Canada, or also included exports to Asia.

In mounting panic, I called the pet shop. Yes, they knew what I was talking about. Yes, we are affected. And yes, stop feeding that to your dogs. Right now. They bent over backwards, working out a refund scheme for me, and helping me to select another brand that was close in composition so that an abrupt change of feed wouldn't throw the dogs' digestive system out of kilter. But when I asked why wasn't there any publicity about the recall, they pointed out that if I wanted to take up the issue, I would need to contact the importer/distributor. They were merely the retailer.

I left the office, retraced my steps back to the train station, got to the pet shop, got alternative food. Getting something to feed the dogs was at that time more important than doing work. No offence to my US friends, but this time, I elected not to buy American. I'm fussy about buying made in China foodstuff, but I think I've fallen into a colonial sort of complacency where I had assumed that anything Western-made is A-OK. Well, that's a fallacy these days. A British cat breeder friend had remarked that EU requirements for pet food are much stricter than US standards, so with that thought in mind, I decided to buy British.

Then I returned to work. I could really have used a good stiff drink, now that I was done with the crisis. But there was no possibility of that since I was at the office, so I opted for a cigarette instead. Yes, I am kinder to my dogs' systems than I am to my own.

By then, I had somewhat stopped freaking out. Meanwhile, L at home had thrown out the dog food and cleaned the container in which it was kept, as well as their food and water bowls, and also the kitchen counter top, and after all that, the sink and also sponge which he used to clean up. We're not fooling with salmonella. We're only jolly lucky that we don't have young children and elderly people in the house who could have been easily compromised by handling the dog food.

What really shook me was that there was no news of the recall here. If it wasn't for a heads-up from the US friend on my e-list, I would not have known. And that's when I started getting pissed off with the importer of the pet food, as well as Agri-Veterinary Authority (AVA), which is the regulatory body. The P&G release was dated July 30, a full week ago. In the 7 days since, we had no publicity on the matter.

The local importer has my name and address on its database -- from time to time, they send me brochures on the brand's products and on special offers that they may be carrying. At no time did they contact me regarding the recall -- when they knew full well I must be feeding that brand.

And as for the AVA, which during the last melamine-related recall made so much self-righteous noise about how they regularly test pet food that has been imported and how all imports meet their requirements, well this time they were well and truly caught with their pants down. I shot them an email that night.

I haven't yet heard from the importer or the AVA -- the parties with whom the buck should stop. They could be puking over the toilet bowl now for all I care. As long as it's not my furkids and my family doing that.

I can still do with that drink.

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