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SAN DIEGO -- Four weeks after the initial recall of pet food containing a contaminated ingredient, pet owners across the nation said they remain concerned and confused about what to feed their pets, according to a survey of 400 cat and dog owners, commissioned last week by pet goods retailer PETCO, based here.
PETCO said the research showed that nearly three out of every four "pet parents" said they believe the pet food they buy may not be safe, even though government officials have said the public should feel secure in purchasing pet food not subject to the recall.
Consumer concerns identified in the survey's findings are consistent with what retailers are hearing from their customers, said PETCO; and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's report of receiving more than 12,000 consumer inquiries about the pet food recall -- the equivalent of two years' worth of inquiries for the entire agency.
"Given the complexity and fluidity of the situation, it's not surprising that consumers have questions and are looking for information," said Dr. Tom Edling, director of veterinary medicine for PETCO. "As pet parents, we want to protect our cats and dogs and provide them with the best care possible."
Although 90 percent of surveyed pet owners said they have not changed their brand of dog or cat food, nearly half said they are now more likely to look at pet food ingredients before making a pet food purchase. In addition, 70 percent of surveyed dog and cat owners said they don't see a meaningful difference in nutritional value among the various brands and types of pet food.
Edling said those results suggest that consumers want and need more information to feel comfortable making a good food decision for their pets.
"Only 1 percent of the food on our shelves was affected, and there is a wide variety of high-quality foods, including premium and natural, available to keep your pet happy and healthy," The PETCO official said. "Most pet foods meet minimum standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO). If the AAFCO name is not on the package, the food is not considered nutritionally complete. Premium brands generally provide the highest quality and level of nutrition available, often exceeding minimum standards."
PETCO said it has seen increased consumer interest in high-quality premium foods, including natural and organic foods, over the last month.
On March 16, Menu Foods, Inc. initiated a recall of specific products manufactured at its facilities for a range of other companies and marketed under several private-label and brand names. According to the FDA, products recalled over the last month account for only about 1 percent of the nation's pet food supply, PETCO said.
For the PETCO-sponsored survey, KRC Research conducted a nationally representative telephone survey of 403 cat and/or dog owners of at least 18 years of age and who have at least partial responsibility for buying pet food. The survey, conducted April 7 through 9, has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.
PETCO is a privately held specialty retailer that provides products, services, and advice for pet owners. It operates more than 850 stores in 49 states and the District of Columbia.