Death and the Lowest Bidder

I’m sure by now that everybody’s heard about the massive pet food recall. Essentially, there is one maker that manufactures over 100 brands of “wet” dog and cat foods. Information is still coming in, but apparently rat poison contaminated a key ingredient in food packaged between December 1 and early March. Possibly millions of pounds of it.

Yeah, now we’ve heard about it. I wish we’d heard about it nearly 5 weeks ago when all of our pets were sick. I wish somebody had said that the food was suspect. I wish that somebody would have told us the symptoms to watch out for.

I wish we had not continued to poison our cat.

We have three pets…two cats and a dog. They all began acting sick about the same time…barfing up wierd and wonderful things all over the house and generally acting run-down (it’s kind of hard to tell with a cat!).

Casper the massive Maine Coon (22 pounds) and Zerbert the dog (large black lab) both recovered fairly quickly, but Regina, the little old lady cat that came with the house, has been getting steadily worse.

Turns out, we had some of the contaminated food (Iams in this case). Our pets eat kibble, but we use the occasional can of wet food for treats for the cats. The dog got sick because he finishes off anything the cats don’t want.

We only feed the soft food as treats, so they did not get much. Casper recovered quickly. So did Zerbert. Regina’s been sick and declining since. We did not know why. There was still nothing in the news about the recall.

Yeah, some treat we gave ’em. Here’s the kicker…Regina’s old. We’ve owned the house 14 years and she came with it, fully grown. She has problems with her teeth and sometimes digestion. We assummed she was just old. We switched dry foods to one she’s traditionally liked, and when that didn’t help and she started rapidly loosing weight, we switched her back to the wet food hoping to help her gain some of her weight back. That’s right, trying to help her, we poisoned her some more. We coerced her to eat the stuff. When she tried to eat other foods, she barfed them up so we took them away and left her with only the bad stuff to eat. This was a premium brand, after-all!

She rapidly declined. We started hearing about the recall, but all the information seemed to indicate that the food was fatal, and there were only 16 cases nationwide. It was no big deal, and if they were pulling food from stores around the country it was stictly precautionary. They weren’t listing brands in the news stories…we naturally assumed if had been a major brand we’d hear about it for sure. We knew it wasn’t our brand. It did not occur to us yet that it could be the problem. Fortunately, they had now pulled the cans and we’d run out of the Iams and switched to another (not recalled and not made by these idiots) brand.

Still, she declined. She couldn’t make it to the litter box anymore. She’s never done that before. When we realized she’d lost 40% of her body weight we rushed her to the vet.

Yep, kidney’s failing. Vomiting, painful and limited urination. Massive weight loss. All symptoms of her having been poisoned. There’s still nothing in the news about what to watch for. The company responsible is still admitting to only 16 cases nationwide. Their recall list only lists the brands. If you wonder about one and click on the link, it dumps you to the front page of that brand’s site with no further guidance.

Nobody’s talking about the symptoms in non-fatal cases. What? There are non-fatal cases? Well, not according to the company responsible.

Sixteen cases. Yeah right.

My vet says there’s probably many, many thousands. Maybe 10’s of thousands. Millions of pounds of food, sold by the ounce.

He’s seen dozens of cases, just in the last week, just in his practice. The symtoms are distinctive. Older pets are more susceptible to the light doses like ours got.

Another kicker. The company responsible is not taking reports of sick or dead animals unless you have the can and lot number. Yeah, we always keep our smelly, empty cat food cans for months after using them. Bastards.

She may make it. Essentially, her kidneys are damaged, and now infected. Antibiotics, special food, and lots of care are all we can do. Her age is against her. Time will tell.

Oh, and why the title? Why “Death and the Lowest Bidder”?

The company is already tentativly blaming a new supplier of wheat gluton from China. They aren’t really telling yet. But what bugs me is this is the nearly inevitable result of the way we are doing business in North America. Everything is goverened by the bottom dollar. They’re no longer interested in making a quality product…only the cheapest product possible and still maintain their market share. Losing market share? They never think of increasing the quality of the product…they just pump more money into advertising the same cheap crap as a premium product.

The decisions are not being made for the quality of product, the satisfaction of the consumers, or even the long term health of the company, but rather are being made by accountants intent on harvesting every cent they can for the stockholders, regardless of the true long range costs.

They’re not after a reasonable return. They’re acting on pure greed, nothing less. There’s a cost to that, but there’s no slot in the spreadsheet to put it.

Minimum quality of components. Minimum quality of worker. Minumum amount of testing. It’s the corporate way at the moment. We see it in every industry.

What the hell do they think is going to happen?

Daniel Meyer

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