Secretive Feed Manufacturers

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When we announced an upcoming nationwide article on horse feeds, we also asked you, our readers, to tell us what brands to include. We received a huge response, and we contacted 65 firms. We received answers from four companies. Why the secrecy'

There are no federal regulations on manufacturing practices for horse feed or routine testing of feeds for toxins or other harmful contaminants. Except for the periodic spot-testing done by the state departments of agriculture, consumers are at the mercy of manufacturers.

We realize that detailing manufacturing methods could make a company vulnerable to attacks by competitors. If you’re running a business, this is a serious consideration. Still, we think there’s no excuse for not addressing at least the basic issues raised in our survey. Our questions focused on simple protocols, such as screening ingredients for safety and quality and using proper precautions when using pesticides and in storage of the feed. Are the companies who refused to participate hiding something' Their silence makes it hard not to wonder.

Over the last eight years, there have been 19 recalls serious enough to involve the FDA (see page 3). Because of the sheer volume of feed produced, things like an individual nutrient not meeting label specs is almost inevitable. Having been cited per se is not necessarily a big issue. Having been cited for a toxin, or having been cited repeatedly for not living up to label claims, is an issue. If you’re like most people, you don’t know where your feed company ranks on these issues. We can add this lack of transparency to the list of things that need to be corrected to guarantee your horse gets the best feed out there.

Regulations and government involvement aren’t cure-alls, but it’s reasonable to expect the manufacturers of our horse feeds should be held to at least the same standard as for pet food (which is bad enough). There’s too much at stake.

-Eleanor Kellon, VMD