'Truth in Labeling’ Should Apply Universally:

Manufacturer Conceals Use
of Controversial Ingredient In Pet Pharmaceutical Product

Attention Pet Owners:

Love your dog?

Don’t potentially kill him or her with misplaced kindness by feeding them “health products”, the ingredients of which are not fully listed or disclosed.

I’ve endeavoured, thus far unsuccessfully, to take Bayer Animal Health to task over deliberately concealing the inclusion of the animal cancer-causing ingredient, saccharin, in a purportedly “benign” pharmaceutical product sold through vets.

When my phenomenally adored collie cross, Yanni, was diagnosed with a tumour at the end of 2013, I decided to further investigate the ingredients of an inadequately labelled “joint mobilisation” product.

I fed my beloved dog only raw, organic food. Being vigilant about everything he ate, when a vet recommended a product called “Bomazeal Mobilize” back in 2011 – I questioned him about its ingredients (the label listed only its “active constituents”).

Ingredients ‘Proprietary’, Claimed Staffer, As Rationale for Concealment

The vet was ignorant of its contents and instructed me to ring the manufacturer, Bayer New Zealand – which I did. The product manager (or person of similar title) refused to disclose anything other than the limited list of ingredients on the label, saying that the information was “proprietary”. She assured me that the other ingredients in the tablets were simple, benign tablet-forming materials – and she also ASSURED me that there were NO sugars or artificial sweeteners or flavours, or any other ingredient over which I would have concern.

Not prepared to accept her assurance, I pressed for the complete list of ingredients. I had no right to know, she told me. However, when I refused to let the matter rest, she promised to “speak to her colleagues” and get back to me with these. Somewhat predictably, she never did.

Nothing That Would Cause You Concern

Unfortunately, since Yanni was heading towards his senior years and getting a bit stiff in the hind quarters, I made the deeply regrettable decision to keep feeding him a liberal number of the tablets every night from that point onwards.

Yanni

My beloved collie / German Shepherd cross, Yanni.

Following Massey University’s diagnosis of Yanni’s cancer, I decided to re-visit the issue of the “Mobilize” product. As disgusting as it sounds, I rationalised that the only way to find out the truth about the product’s ingredients was to eat one myself. (I have a primal passion for my dogs, and I’ll do anything for them.)

Horror would not be too strong a word to describe my reaction when I realised I was eating something that tasted like the worst kind of sugar pill imaginable with a bit of seafood-flavoured lacing. I could tell immediately that it not only contained artificial sweetener, but a significant amount of it. (The taste of the artificial sweetener stayed in my mouth for hours, even after brushing my teeth.)

I rang Bayer Animal Health the following morning, and spoke to another staff member, persisting until that individual agreed to read out the full list of ingredients. These included saccharin. It can be fairly said that I was furious, and hung up to maintain composure. When I called back shortly afterwards and asked for the rest of the list of ingredients to be read out, my request was refused.

 . . . tasted like the worst kind of sugar pill imagineable with a bit of seafood-flavoured lacing . . .

Upset? Angry? Yes. All that – and more.

To say I’m deeply disgusted at this manufacturer and its “ethics” would be an understatement:

Unbeknownst to me, and against the backdrop of the false assurances previously given to me by this organisation’s personnel I had, effectively, been feeding my precious pet handfuls of a highly controversial artificial sweetener every night for two years or more.

Known Link Between Saccharin and Cancer in Laboratory Animals

There is a known and direct link between saccharin and cancer in laboratory animals. The United States National Cancer Institute’s website, for example, states that studies in laboratory rats have linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer. The site states clearly that, at some point, the United States Congress mandated all food containing saccharin bear the following warning label:

‘Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.’

And here we have an animal pharmaceuticals manufacturer actually putting it in their products – and what’s worse, failing to disclose the fact on their packaging. Worse still, lying about it when a product purchaser contacts them asking questions about their product’s ingredients.

Here’s my feelings on the matter, to the extent that they’re not already abundantly clear:

To deliberately allow pet owners to unknowingly feed saccharin or any other potentially cancer-causing ingredient to their animals under the guise of a natural health food product, is absolutely heinous.

To deliberately allow pet owners to unknowingly feed saccharin to their animals under the guise of a natural health food product, is absolutely heinous.

Pet food and animal chemical manufacturers should be subject to the same “truth in labelling” regulations as all other consumer product companies. In fact, vigilant monitoring by the authorities is especially important in the case of food and pharmaceuticals intended for pet consumption, given the otherwise inability of owners to know what they’re feeding their animals.

A (Very) Sad Ending

My personal experience has a (very) sad ending. In what was one of the worst days of my life, I consented, on Friday, December 20, 2013, to the Massey University specialist team’s request to allow Yanni to be “euthanased”.

I held his paw as his life was taken from him at precisely 6.30pm that night.

To the Bayer “Animal Health” corporation:

Whether I’d have lost my beloved Yanni without the assistance of your saccharin-laced products or not, I’ll never know.

But I would NEVER have knowingly fed him a highly controversial and totally unnecessary product like saccharin or any other artificial sweetener. For your deliberate non-disclosures, questionable labelling practices and strategic concealments (and, in my case, intentionally misleading statements made to me by your representatives) you – in my book – are the very height of heinous.

Epilogue:

A young friend posted Yanni’s story – and my unhappy experience with Bayer Animal Health – on Facebook.

Over the course of a month, the post received a flood of “likes” – before being mysteriously removed by Facebook’s management. The only explanation, as I understand it, was an apparently brief email (which I haven’t seen) to the effect that the post was “in dispute”.

Here’s a note to Bayer:

This article, unlike its canine subject, will never die. It’s just going to keep popping up everywhere. And while your word means nothing, you can count on mine.

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