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Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine [Paperback]

Marion Nestle

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Book Description

Aug. 4 2010
Marion Nestle, acclaimed author of Food Politics, now tells the gripping story of how, in early 2007, a few telephone calls about sick cats set off the largest recall of consumer products in U.S. history and an international crisis over the safety of imported goods ranging from food to toothpaste, tires, and toys. Nestle follows the trail of tainted pet food ingredients back to their source in China and along the supply chain to their introduction into feed for pigs, chickens, and fish in the United States, Canada, and other countries throughout the world. What begins as a problem "merely" for cats and dogs soon becomes an issue of tremendous concern to everyone. Nestle uncovers unexpected connections among the food supplies for pets, farm animals, and people and identifies glaring gaps in the global oversight of food safety.

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Review

“A detective story that identifies plenty of perpetrators as well as victims. . . .[Warns] that the problems wouldn't stop with animals”
(Atlantic 2008-09-29)

“Informative. . . Begging comparison with Sinclair’s The Jungle.”
(Publishers Weekly 2008-08-25)

“Fantastically readable.”
(Food & Wine 2008-09-30)

“Iluminate(s) the connections between the food supplies of humans, farm animals and pets. . . . Highlight(s) the broader failings of food regulation.”
(The Economist 2008-09-06)

“A serious investigative tome.”
(Financial Times 2009-04-19)

“A call to action that we can all hope the new Obama administration hears before there's a repeat of the tragedy.”
(Casper Star Tribune Sunday 2009-01-25)

“Nestle is one of the best writers on the general subject of the food industry. . .. Guaranteed to get you thinking.”
(Booklist 2008-09-01)

“Like a good novel, the book is a quick, even entertaining read. The message, however, is one that demands paying attention.”
(San Francisco Chronicle 2008-09-10)

“A call to action that we can all hope the new Obama administration hears before there's a repeat of the tragedy.”
(Sacramento Bee 2009-01-20)

“The information and its implications are eye-opening. It’s a call to action that we can all hope the new Obama administration hears.”
(Gina Spadafori The Daily Citizen 2009-01-23)

“Reads like a gripping murder mystery.”
(Alternet.org 2008-09-10)

From the Inside Flap

"Pet Food Politics is a first class example of investigative journalism exposing one of the challenges of globalization of our food supply. It's required reading for anyone who wants to understand the implications of globalization and the importance of quality control in all our food."—Allen M. Schoen, MS, DVM, author of Kindred Spirits: How the Remarkable Bond Between Humans and Animals Can Change the Way We Live

"Provocative, well-researched, and insightful, Pet Food Politics is a page-turner and a must-read for people who care as much about the quality and safety of the food in their pets' bowls as they do about the food on their own plates. This in-depth study reads like a thriller, and will make consumers reconsider trusting the 'hand' that feeds them."—Claudia Kawczynska, Editor in Chief, The Bark

"Pet Food Politics offers the most detailed account we'll ever get of the 2007 pet food recalls—even for those of us who closely followed the story. What's more, Marion Nestle uses the specifics of this event to reveal the inadequacies of the agents and policies that are supposed to safeguard U.S. pet food. While Pet Food Politics will be fascinating to pet owners, given the myriad connections between the human food and pet food industries, this is an important book for anyone who eats."—Nancy Kerns, Editor, Whole Dog Journal

"How pet food is produced—and its parallels to the manufacturing of human food—should be of concern to everyone, not just to those who love animals. In her expert examination of the pet food industry, Dr. Nestle tells a story as compelling as any mystery. You'll never look at the pet-food aisle the same way again—or your own food, either."—Gina Spadafori, Universal Press Syndicate pet-care columnist and bestselling pet-book author

Praise for Marion Nestle's previous work:

"Marion Nestle . . . explains what the industrialization of the food supply in this country has done to both the taste and the safety of the foods we eat."—Alice Waters, author of The Art of Simple Food

"Marion Nestle has emerged as one of the most sane, knowledgeable, and independent voices in the current debate over the health and safety of the American food system."—Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food

"Pet Food Politics reads like a detective story in which each new clue points to a greater crime than the one we started out investigating. Marion Nestle makes an overwhelming case for the inadequacy of our present system of monitoring food safety."—Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of the pet food recall of 2007 Aug. 21 2008
By Joseph Adler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Marion Nestle's book "Pet Food Politics" is about the pet food recall of 2007. For those of you who don't remember, there was a massive recall of pet food last summer. The recall began with cat food manufactured by Menu Foods (but sold under many other brand names including Iams, Nutro, and Hill's), but expanded into a large number of cat and dog foods under many different brand names. It became clear after the recall that the problem occurred because an unscrupulous Chinese supplier sold a mixture of wheat flour, cyanuric acid, and melamine as wheat gluten. As a pet owner, the recall inconvenienced me (I had to change my cats' foods). As a parent, I became greatly concerned about what I was feeding my daughter and began seriously looking at where the food I bought was produced. I bought this book because I wanted to better understand what happened.

I knew the basic story here, but did not know about the total number of pets who died (likely in the thousands), the reasons why melamine was substituted for the wheat gluten (cheap melamine looks like expensive protein when tested using standard industrial tests), nor what happened to the contaminated pet food (it was fed to livestock and made it into the human food chain).

This book is a fast read and is clear, well written, and very interesting. Unfortunately, it is too brief. I wish that Ms. Nestle had taken this opportunity to explain more about the pet food industry: its history, the major players, the processes used to make pet food. The story is fascinating, but it feels more like a New Yorker article than a book.

I would recommend this book to someone who was interested in the pet food recalls, though I think that most readers should start with other books about food production. Specifically, I would recommend Michael Pollan's excellent The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals or Marion Nestle's own What to Eat before reading this book, to get a feel for how food is produced and to understand some of the politics involved.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BRILLIANT JOB OF UNTANGLING A COMPLEX WEB Sept. 8 2008
By Tracie Hotchner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is a page-turner - and not just because it shows all the twists and turns that went on behind the scenes in the pet food recall. It is an eye-opener about the lack of government oversight or pet food company responsibility for what goes into pet food or how it is made. Just as the title makes clear, this is not a book about pet food manufacture and ingredients - that is the book the author was working on when the pet food recall happened. THAT book is forthcoming. This book is exactly what the title says: it's about the politics of pet food manufacture and sales and how our chihuahuas have been the sentinels as a wake-up call that our human food industry is no better. The author is neutral and balanced and generously gives benefit-of-the-doubt to the various players in this dangerous food drama, a fiasco that still haunts many of us with dogs and cats. Nestle's lack of judgmentalism is actually great because it allows you as the reader to discover how it all worked and bring your own moral indignation to the table, as it were. This book is like following a detective looking for an explanation of the economic,business, political and social elements that conspired to bring about a horrible Perfect Storm of tainted food. I was absolutely riveted by the meticulous research that went into unraveling the mystery and uncovering the obfuscation by many of the participants. As the author of "The Dog Bible" I can attest how hard some information is to come by, especially in nutrition, so I was so impressed by this book that I invited the author, Marion Nestle, onto my live NPR radio show DOG TALK on September 27th. You can sign up for the free podcast or listen live online and decide for yourselves. I say she's done a brilliant job and given us a really significant heads-up for ourselves as well as our pets. I will wager that you'll click on "buy now" once you've heard her talk.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book! Nov. 2 2008
By Susan Bearden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Marion Nestle presents an insightful, disturbing analysis of the recent contamination of many popular brands of pet food by melamine, an industrial waste chemical. She prints a list of affected brands at the back of the book and I was horrified to discover that the "high quality" mail order food I was feeding two of my dogs was on the list (although I have not had any problems). Even more disturbingly, she discusses how the globalization of food distribution has put not just pet food but human food at risk. Just after I finished reading this book, reports of melamine-laced milk products sickening thousands of babies in China appeared in the major news outlets. Everyone, not just pet owners, should read this book!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Investigation Oct. 2 2008
By Linda F. Kurtz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This short book provides a competent overview of the China melamine pet food scare of two years ago. As a dog owner who lived through it and searched for updates on what was safe and what wasn't, I was very interested in Nestle's investigation and findings after the fact. While I was reading it, the news broke about the same kind of poisoning in baby formula in China. Had I not seen that, I might have believed that once the perpetrator of the pet food poisoning was executed!! the poisoning would stop, but no. As Nestle expertly explains, despite the lack of safely involved with worldwide food production, the United States is woefully short of regulatory and safety inspectors for these products as they come into the country and are combined with other ingredients and then distributed to companies who make food of all kinds and specifically pet food. Maybe, pet food companies will take more care in their formulations, however, all pet owners should take the time to investigate the manufacturer of the food they use and pay extra for the better brands of pet food. Nestle lists the brands that had to be recalled for both cat and dog food in the back of her book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent information for all animal lovers Sept. 15 2008
By S. Look - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found the information in this book very interesting. It is packed full of information that kept me turning the pages - I finished this book in a little over a day and am still processing the information. There is information in here that I had never heard and I followed the recall very closely.

I think that all animal owners owe it to themselves to read this book just to see how loose the pet food industry was/is. Pretty appalling stuff.

I went to school for international business and found the material regarding the China/USA import/export very interesting and think everyone can take something away from this book.

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