I've always believed that the best way to answer any question is to look at the evidence, and then form your own opinion. Sadly with Internet searches being over-saturated with news venues posting the same article over and over, it's hard to find real evidence.
Today I've compiled a whole bunch of information for you under one page.
After viewing this information, I'm confident that you, the consumer, will be able to form their own opinion on this controversy.
What is Beneful?
Let's start with the basics. What is Beneful?
Beneful is a popular brand of dog food made by Purina. Purina is owned by its parent company, Nestle. It consists of brightly-colored kibble in a bag that is decorated with pictures of vegetables, fruits, and a happy fluffy dog.
For this demonstration, we will use Beneful's Incredibites formula.
But just what is Beneful made of?
According to the Beneful website, Beneful's Incredibites ingredients are as follows:
Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, beef, rice flour, soy flour, meat and bone meal, propylene glycol, sugar, salt, phosphoric acid, mono and dicalcium phosphate, animal digest, potassium chloride, tricalcium phosphate, sorbic acid (a preservative), non-fat yogurt, dried carrots, dried peas, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, Red 40, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, Blue 2, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.Most people can't make heads or tails of what any of that means, so let's break these ingredients down in our next section...
Okay, so what's up with the ingredients?
We all know that dogs thrive on meat-based diets. Wolves, after all, don't go around eating salads.
What should be in our dog's kibble, however?
When we take into account a dog's dietary needs, and look at Beneful's ingredient list, the shadiness of Beneful really begins to take root.
Let's look at the ingredient list again, with some added help from dogfoodadvisor.com .
Keep in mind that ingredient lists are ordered from most abundant to least abundant ingredients, ex. Beneful's most abundant ingredient is ground yellow corn.
Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corngluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of vitamin E), beef, rice flour, soy flour, water, meat and bone meal, propylene glycol, sugar, salt, phosphoric acid, tricalcium phosphate, animal digest, potassium chloride, sorbic acid (a preservative), non-fat yogurt powder, dried carrots, dried peas, dicalcium phosphate, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, red 40, l-lysine monohydrochloride, manganese sulfate, niacin, yellow 5, yellow 6, vitamin A supplement, blue 2, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, vitamin B12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, sodium seleniteThe bold red ingredients are what dogfoodadvisor.com calls "problem ingredients."
Let's start at the most basic problem here: artificial dyes.
Dogs do not care about the color of their food. The artificial dyes in Beneful are there to give the illusion of freshness, vegetable content, and healthiness to the human who buys the food.
There is no other reason for the dyes except to get you to choose that product.
It's clear that first and foremost, they have to resort to cheap tactics like dyes to get you to want to buy their product.
Now for a full step-by-step analysis of the ingredients...
The 5 Main Ingredients:
- ground yellow corn - an inexpensive filler that provides energy, but minimal nutritional value
- chicken by-product meal - a low-quality ingredient consisting of whatever is left of a chicken when all the prime cuts are removed (anything from organs, feet, beaks, underdeveloped eggs)
- corn gluten meal - an inexpensive ingredient commonly used to boost the total protein content of dog food. Made of the gummy, starchy material left over from corn that has had its carbohydrates removed.
- wheat flour - just like ground yellow corn, it is an inexpensive filler that is of minimal nutritional value
- animal fat - byproduct of rendering, but the main issue is the source is unspecified. It can only be speculated what kind of animals this fat came from. (Roadkill, spoiled supermarket meat, dead, diseased, or dying cattle, and even euthanized pets are often sent to rendering plants)
Keep in mind that these are the five main ingredients, which means this is mostly what Beneful consists of... and that they are all low-quality, filler, or mystery ingredients.
The other "problem ingredients" are...
- soy flour - usually used as a replacement for meat to save money on production, although it has less nutritional value than meat
- meat and bone meal - an ingredient made of mammal tissues and bone, usually used to boost total protein levels of dog food. This is another "mystery source" ingredient, which could possibly come from the same sources listed previously under animal fat.
- garlic oil - ingredient used for flavor, though in some rare cases it has been linked to Heinz body anemia in dogs
- propylene glycol - I have highlighted this one in red because of the current controversy surrounding this ingredient. Though the FDA has approved of its use as a moisture-retaining food additive, it has been proven to be safe in humans. However, there hasn't been extensive testing done on its effect on canines. It should also be noted that despite the fact that it is used often in antifreeze, it is not of the same chemical composition as ethylene glycol, a known poison associated with antifreeze. Despite this, it is used in large amounts in Beneful's food, and the long-term and high-dosage effects on canines is not fully known. For this reason, it is a problem ingredient.
- sugar - an ingredient that first of all, is completely unnecessary, but also can unfavorably impact the blood-glucose levels of an animal soon after it is eaten. Because of the high carbohydrate content of Beneful as is, sugar shouldn't even be an ingredient at all.
- animal digest - a chemically hydrolyzed mixture of animal by-products that is sprayed onto kibble to improve flavor. Another "mystery source" ingredient.
- artificial dyes - already discussed. Provides no added value except for manipulating the buyer's attitude and beliefs towards the product.
- menadione sodium bisulfite complex - a controversial form of vitamin K that has been linked to serious issues such as liver toxicity, allergies, and the abnormal breakdown of red blood cells
There are also some unknowns in bags of Beneful...
What are Mycotoxins and Bacteria doing in my food?
This is perhaps the most jarring reality of Beneful... The presence of mycotoxins and bacteria in independently-tested bags of Beneful.
What are mycotoxins?
They are created by fungus and have various adverse effects on mammals. According to this handy diagram from mycotoxins.info , many things can happen to a dog exposed to mycotoxins, none of which are good.
Though it's not clear at which step of manufacturing the fungus and mold enter the bags of Beneful, independent testing has proven their presence. Unsanitary grain storage and inadequate facilities are usually to blame. Whether the fungus was present in the ingredients to begin with or introduced in the packing plant is a mystery, but even if introduced later in the manufacturing process, the dark, sealed environment of the bag and moist food can become a breeding ground for fungus and thus, mycotoxins.
According to a large study done on popular pet foods conducted by the Association For Truth In Pet Food, Beneful is not only a high risk for mycotoxins, but also dangerous bacteria.
These unwelcome additions to Beneful only create more issues for the dogs who eat it.
So what kind of effects can Beneful have on dogs?
In some dogs, none at all. Just like some people seem to survive perfectly on a diet of fast food and junk, some dogs don't seem to have any issues eating Beneful.
Some dogs, however, have found Beneful to be a death sentence.
The most common symptoms described by owners of dogs who had suffered after eating Beneful are:
- an odd odor emanating from the body
- weight changes
- liver failure
- kidney failure
- internal bleeding
Many owners, after bringing their dog to the vet, have been told it "appeared as if their dog had been poisoned."
My dog had/has some of these symptoms. What do I do?
First of all, stop feeding Beneful, if you haven't already.
Feeding any more Beneful could have dire consequences, especially if the bag you have is contaminated with mycotoxins or bacteria, or if your dog is already in poor shape.
Second, find a new food on dogfoodadvisor.com .
They are an unbiased source that rates foods based on the nutritional needs of a dog and the ingredients in the food. A four or five star rating is what you want to be aiming for. (For comparison, Beneful is a one star food... the lowest rating possible.)
Third, assess whether or not you want to fight back.
Many people who have contacted Purina have been able to get their vet bills paid for. This can be helpful for those who cannot afford to pay for the treatment, but if your pet has already passed, it will not bring them back.
For those who don't want to deal with the company that may have potentially killed their pet, and want better compensation than just a vet bill, joining in the class-action lawsuit may be the right choice for you.
You can join the lawsuit by visiting the website of Morgan & Morgan and calling the phone number in the upper right corner, or filling in the assessment form on the right side of the page.
Fourth, find support if needed.
Losing or almost losing a pet is a tough thing to deal with. Finding support in friends or family can help you recover.
If you feel the need to talk with fellow pet owners who have experienced something similar related to Beneful, there are two groups that you can join on Facebook:
Is Beneful Killing Or Sickening Dogs? Post Your Story! - group for sharing discussion and stories of dogs affected by Beneful
Beneful Angels - The Faces Behind the Statistics - page for sharing pets that have died while eating Beneful
How come this food is still on shelves?
There isn't a clear answer to this question.
One thing is for sure, Purina continues to deny the claims made by pet owners. Even in the face of independent testing, they continue to claim that their food is of the utmost quality, nutritional content, and safety.
Unfortunately we know all of this to be false. Most of their ingredients are cheap filler, mycotoxins are not heavily present in quality foods, and dogs continue to get sick.
At the end of the day, money speaks. Nestle is a giant company and a recall would mean a heavy loss. It is always easier to deny an issue than admit fault.
I want to take action. What can I do?
Feel free to share this article with anyone you know through email, social media, or word of mouth.
Join the lawsuit if you had a dog that was harmed or killed under mysterious circumstances by visiting the website of Morgan & Morgan and calling the phone number in the upper right corner, or filling in the assessment form on the right side of the page.
Tell your local pet food store about Beneful and suggest they remove it from their shelves.
Make your local vet aware of the mycotoxin test results.
Join one of the support groups on Facebook.
Educate yourself on dog foods and canines.
Best luck to you and your pups.