Made in the USA: What It Means and Why It Matters

If given a choice, many consumers would choose products “Made in America” over those made in foreign countries. When it comes down to it, too many of us choose an item based on price first. It’s one thing when you’re making a major purchase where quality matters. But how vigilant are you at buying American-made when it comes to dog products like pet beds, dog apparel, pet food, or toys?

 The “Made in USA” Label

The biggest effort people make to buy American is to look for a red, white, and blue symbol on a product. But the issue of Made in the USA is a little more complex. Some products with the Made in USA label are only partially made here.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the job of determining what products meet the “all or virtually all” standard connected with the label. In the U.S., manufacturers are only required to disclose the U.S. content on automobiles, textile, wool, and fur products.

Virtually all means that there is no more than a negligible amount of foreign ingredients or content in the product. You have no way to know what ingredients the company sourced from other countries, or what those countries are.

While manufacturers of other products aren’t required to disclose the amount of U.S. content, those who do so willingly must comply with the FTC’s policy. That means when purchasing pet beds, pet apparel, and pet food, the Made in USA label doesn’t necessarily contain all safe ingredients. There are also those products that say “USA”, “American Made”, or “Assembled in the USA”. Finding products with the American labels is a good start.

Assembled in the USA

At first glance, this might seem like you’re getting an American-made product. In reality, the company is getting their parts from at least one foreign country and putting them together here. It’s the equivalent of ordering a jigsaw puzzle from another country and then putting it together here. The parts might come from anywhere or any combination of countries.

Made in the USA Vs Sourced in the USA

The biggest concern most pet parents have is getting high-quality, safe food and treats for their dogs. After all, anything your dog ingests has a direct bearing on their wellbeing. The number of dog food brands and the onslaught of life stages formulas makes it even more difficult to choose.

What’s So Bad About China?

The difference between dog food made in China and that sourced and manufactured locally is due to China’s lack of regulations on manufacturing pet food. The country already has problems with contamination of human foods. It’s not likely they’re going to put more importance on manufacturing safe, high-quality dog food than they are human food.

China incurs severe penalties on those responsible for human food poisoning. They don’t have comparable penalties related to the safety of pet food.

If you had a dog or cat in 2007, you probably remember the Melamine Pet Food Recall on March 15th of that year. That was when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) learned that some pet foods were causing severe illness and death in cats and dogs. The source turned out to be contaminants in vegetable proteins imported from China. The contamination was melamine, found in wheat gluten.

Veterinarians saw patients with acute renal failure due to the melamine contamination To get an idea of the magnitude of the problem, the ensuing recall included over 150 brands of pet food.  

You would think that would be enough to bring the use of contaminated ingredients from China to a screeching halt. The reason that this heartbreaking event lives on is that it wasn’t just pet foods made in China that were affected. The contamination was introduced through he pre-mix like those used in nearly every pet food.

The far-reaching impact included many top brands that pet owners thought were safe. If they could be wrong once, why couldn’t it happen again?

In 2011, The FDA introduced the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for the purpose of preventing contamination of human and food-animal feeds including dog food made in China and locally.

Over time, other types of contamination have been found in dog food from China. In addition to melamine, contaminants have been associated with propylene glycol, mycotoxins, and cyanuric acid.

Keeping Your Dog’s Food Safe

There’s a good reason that we don’t sell commercial dog food or treats at the Gold Dog Whistle. While many brands claim their products are Made in the US, there is no guarantee. Instead, we opt for those foods and treats that are made by hand and sourced locally.  

  • It’s always a good idea to research any food or treat company before you buy. If a company doesn’t want to reveal where they get their ingredients, you might want to move on to the next one.
  • Look for a history of recalls. You might be surprised that some of the most expensive and highly advertised brands have topped the recall list more than once.
  • Keep in mind that importing some items is necessary and it isn’t always a bad thing. Where would we be without Cuban cigars, Belgian chocolates, and many other luxury items? The biggest difference comes from ingredients that are made in China. Make that the absolute exception to giving any pet food company a try.

Some dog owners have made the switch to homemade dog food to ensure their dogs get human quality ingredients. If you take that route, make sure you understand all of your dog’s nutritional needs. These vary according to your dog’s breed, age, and health condition.

There are also two common practices that aren’t good for dogs. One is feeding a grain-free diet. Only dogs that have celiac disease can benefit from eating gluten-free. The only exception to this rule is for Irish Setters. Due to a large occurrence of a condition among this breed that causes an intolerance to gluten, feeding a gluten-free diet is recommended for these dogs.

Another bad idea is feeding dogs a vegan diet. Yes, they can get similar vitamins from plants that they do from meat. But a dog’s anatomy is designed for eating meat. They can struggle with consuming high-fiber plants that also lack some of the nutrients they need to keep them healthy.

What About Other Products from China?

It isn’t just concerns over the safety of dog food that matters. It’s also over other products like dog beds, dog toys, clothing, and collars and leashes. Dogs don’t limit what they put into their mouths to those products approved by the FDA. They grab, play, and chew on anything that will fit. If there are toxins in those items, they can ingest them through their mouth or through their skin.

A forensic toxicologist for Consumer Affairs tested dog and cat toys made in China and sold at Walmart showed elevated levels of chromium. Chromium is a known cancer-producing agent that can also affect a dog’s GI system, respiratory system, immune system, kidneys, and liver.

Other toxins found in pet products include:

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – Contains chlorine and often contains toxic phthalates to soften the hard plastic. Phthalates are often found in dog toys.
  • Bromine – A flame retardant often used in dog beds.
  • Cadmium – Found in imported dog toys.
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) – This chemical is used to manufacture some plastics but, most importantly, is sometimes found in the lining of dog food cans.
  • Formaldehyde – This dangerous chemical is used to make rawhide dog treats.
  • Lead – Sometimes found in imported dog toys.
  • Chromium – In trace amounts, chromium is an essential dietary mineral. Vets sometimes use it in small doses to treat insulin insufficiency in dogs. Higher doses, such as those found in some imported dog toys, are highly toxic.

The more you read about the potential toxins in dog toys, the more tempting it is to let your dog play with sticks! Some of these toxins are easily absorbed through the mouth tissue and gums, leading to serious health issues over time.

Many of us think of our fur babies as our “children with paws.” But if you have little ones in your house too, these products present an additional hazard. If your toddler crawls around in the floor with your dog, they might also put your dog’s toys in their mouth.

Why Do So Many Stores Sell Pet Products Made in China?

As it often does, the answer usually comes down to profit. Products made in China are a lot cheaper, allowing retailers to enjoy a healthy profit margin. In contrast, products made in the USA have more regulation. Manufacturers must pay their workers a fair wage and meet safety regulations. It costs more to produce the same items, but they are better for your pet, your community, and your country!

What the Gold Dog Whistle Is Doing to Help

I founded the Gold Dog Whistle based on my love for dogs. Their lives are already much too short. I want to make sure every dog enjoys a long, healthy life filled with joy and fun. It isn’t about the profit margin. It’s about offering pet products better options that work, last, and don’t present any risk to your dog.

Sure, some of our best products use ingredients from other locations. For instance, some of our designer dog collars feature beautiful Swarovski crystals. Many of our Susan Lanci designs implement suede fabric from Japan. Coat soothing products use shea butter from trees in South and Central America. What you won’t find are toxic ingredients that come from China.

We are taking the time to research our vendors and the products they sell to ensure the highest level of quality. Every time you shop with us, you get a high-quality product that performs without doing harm to you or your pet. Never has purchasing products from the USA been more important than right now. When it comes to your pet, the last thing you want is to put them at risk just to save a few dollars. Shop our website for a broad range of awesome products Made in the USA.

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