PetCo Promised To “Turn Their Backs On Artificial Ingredients” – So Why Didn’t They?

“Bye Bye Bad Stuff: At Petco, we have set the new standard in nutrition by eliminating all dog and cat food and treats that contain artificial ingredients*.”

This bold promise is featured on PetCo’s website at the top of their new Better Nutrition page. Unfortunately, the company’s claims are not entirely true.

The above statement ends in a conspicuous asterisk – as do the in-store banners and all other references to the company’s new “no artificial ingredients” policy announced November 13, 2018.

According to Ryan Yamka, PhD, founder and independent consultant with Luna Science and Nutrition, and founder of the Guardian Pet Food Co., the asterisk came about after PetCo got wind of his March 13, 2019 article titled, “Fake News: Petco drops pet food with artificial ingredients.”

Yamka’s op-ed piece reveals the “gaps and false promises” in PetCo’s claims. For example, more than 20 artificial ingredients did not make the list of “12 artificial colors, 22 artificial flavors and 20 artificial preservatives” culled from their inventory.

One such ingredient is the common artificial preservative, Potassium Sorbate, which PetCo has since promised to abolish from their shelves by February 2020.

It is also worth noting that some of the artificial ingredients spared from PetCo’s ban list are found in their own food brand, WholeHearted. (After all, it’s not very good business to ban yourself.)

Jim Galovski of Guardian Pet Food Company wrote his own op-ed piece on the PetCo artificial ingredient controversy, entitled  No More Nasties! Has Petco Really Delivered on Their Promise?

In it, he analyzes the fine print behind that mysterious asterisk. PetCo’s original statement is in italics, and Galovski’s notes are in bold:

*Artificial ingredients initially planned for removal are those Petco defines (not what you might consider artificial, only what Petco defines as such) artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, determined by referencing guidelines provided by AAFCO and FDA (gives you the impression that there is a “higher” authority but it only measures up against the previously mentioned “Petco defines”)Substances that are derivatives or mimics of natural compounds are not included. (an unusual statement since every artificial ingredient has been created to mimic a natural ingredient either for cost savings or due to production issues) In addition, substances that may fall into categories outside the Petco definition of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives are not included at this time. (this covers vitamins, minerals and amino acids because even “Natural” pet foods have to add the statement “with added vitamins and minerals”. If they really were turning their backs, they’d only be left with a handful of dog and cat foods). While Petco reviews ingredient panels of our products in determining which products meet our nutrition standard definition, we cannot guarantee the absence of trace impurities from soil, water, air or the ingredient supply chain in any product(an attempt to wash their hands of liability because not all manufacturers are upfront and honest and some of the “banned” ingredients will still show up, even if they aren’t on the ingredient deck.As Petco continues to evaluate and develop our nutrition standards with a focus on what is best for our customers’ pets, Petco reserves the right to re-evaluate these standards and to continue to refine ingredients.

Galovski also points out that PetCo’s food overhaul only applies to dog and cat products. Since the company also sells diets for reptiles, birds, fish, rodents, and other pocket pets, why aren’t they removing the “nasties” from these foods as well? As Galovski notes in his post, “after all, the store is ‘Where the Pets Go’.”

Why do pet food experts like Ryan Yamka and Jim Galovski care so much if PetCo plays fast and loose with their marketing materials? Yamka explains:

“Petco’s marketing campaign is based on fear-mongering, scare tactics and leaving out details. Based on their marketing, the ingredients they chose are “nasty” and “unhealthy or can cause health issues.” Remember, just the ones that they chose!”

He goes on to say:

“In the end, when a company makes a promise to turn their back on synthetic foods, consumers expect MORE. There are foods in the market place that do not use synthetics at all because they have decided not use synthetics. So it is not a unicorn, and it is actually feasible to do.”

What do you make of PetCo’s failure to fully deliver on their promise? Will you continue to shop their stores despite the company’s misleading policies?

Featured Image via Facebook/PetCo

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