In the past couple of days, several clients have been calling to ask about the Purina Beneful dog food "recall". The following is a summary of the currently available information about the Beneful controversy as we understand it. The story is evolving and fluid, and with time, as more facts emerge, the information presented here may become inaccurate.
Firstly, it is important to state that there is no FDA recall of the Beneful product, just a lawsuit put forward by a man who claims his dogs were sickened and died after being fed the food. The suit claims that the antifreeze propylene glycol was found in the product. Also, a group calling themselves The Association for Truth in Pet Food (ATPF) claims that their "scientists" found mycotoxins (toxins that come from fungus) in Beneful.
On propylene glycol: Yes, it is used as an antifreeze. However, it is the environmentally-safe, non-toxic (to dogs and humans) antifreeze and not to be confused with the toxic, fatal-if-swallowed antifreeze, ethylene glycol. Propylene glycol is FDA approved for use as a food additive for dog and human consumption. In food it helps keep in moisture. It IS NOT SAFE FOR CATS, and is not permitted for use in cat foods. Because cats are true carnivores, their livers are ill-equipped to metabolize compounds that more omnivorous species' livers can.
On Mycotoxins: Mycotoxins, if found in food, are harmful at high enough doses. If this is true, then it may be a cause for concern. I visited the ATPF's website, and saw all kinds of scary results indicating that mycotoxins are in a lot of pet foods. However, there was no reference to the type of methodology used to come to their conclusions. There were only general statements that their "scientists" found that many petfoods contain high levels of mycotoxins and that they submitted their results to the FDA. If this were true, I think that the FDA would have issued a recall. My impression is that the ATPF is very predisposed towards assuming that most pet foods are harmful because they are produced by big corporations.
Nestle/Purina is standing by the quality of their product and are planning to vigorously defend themselves in court.
Given the currently available information, it is probably safe to be feeding Beneful, however, until all the facts of the case emerge, and to err on the side of safety, it is probably prudent to switch to another dog food if your are feeding your dog Beneful. If the ATPF can produce good, science-based results indicating unsafe levels of mycotoxins then I would fully concur that Beneful is unsafe.
-Mike Bukowski DVM 2/26/2015