“Investigating” Weruva’s Pet Food Plant

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I received this from a listener I was able to help emotionally after a tragic accident in which her little kitten Emma got stuck inside a litter pail and died. Then I heard from her with concerns about the manufacture of Weruva cat food. I am blogging this so that it can educate all of us about the folly of thinking that we can each become plant inspectors, or that we even know what we are looking for. It is also another example of an uneducated assumption by some people in the United States that because there are serious health and safety issues with many food and products made in China, that somehow this extends to all of Asia. It is really lamentable and foolish assumption to make.

I have moved from Montana to Portland Oregon and I was looking for the pet store I buy Weruva from but could not locate it and stopped at a different one which sells only premium foods but no Weruva. He told me he only sells foods that he has personally been able to tour the processing plant. If he sees any trace of mice, workers don’t wear proper head and foot protection, etc. he will not carry their products. He said that in December he will be going to Thailand to tour the Tiki Cat plant. He has contacted the people at Weruva, but was turned down! I am very impressed that he goes to this extreme to insure that our animals have the best foods. I told him I would contact you and see if there was anything you could do to help him. My 3 babies and I love the Weruva. I think this owner is great to care so much. I am considering going to a food that he can attest to.

When I read this I thought that while the store owner might sound like a serious vendor, his claims were laughable of his having toured every facility whose foods he carried. Pet food plants let nobody in for a long list of reasons — and a fellow with a small specialty store would have no access whatsoever. Weruva (and Newman’s Own, and many top premium pet foods) are careful to keep the identity and location of their plants guarded not because they have anything to hide from consumers, but at least in part because the competition would make attempts to move in on their resources). Also, the very idea that this shopkeeper would know what to inspect for in a plant — anymore than average people could do a credible restaurant inspection — is blowing smoke. So I asked David Forman, the owner of Weruva, to comment on this shop owner’s claim:

I do appreciate a vendor going the extra mile (literally) to differentiate himself from his competitors by claiming to tour factories to see what is going on. However, I am not sure of this guy’s production/inspection background, so unless he really knows what he is doing, he really is not qualified to give anything more than an opinion. If he is an expert and can comment up and down, left and right, great — but highly unlikely. There is so much beyond a cursory review or tour of the plant.

Canada, for instance, recently inspected our factory in Thailand. They stopped ALL foreign importation of pet food into Canada until all facilities were inspected. Their shift was to eliminate any potential of BSE entering Canada. The inspection of our factory was to be a 2-day inspection and Canada passed it in one day because of its superior QC. The head inspector has seen hundreds of factories over 30 years of doing this. Cook and Thurber, one of the leaders in independent third party audits, often inspects the factory rigorously on behalf of Subway (David’s father’s business supplies all the tuna to the Subway chain in the United States). Subway sends members from its own team to inspect. The absolute strict BRC inspections, on human food standards, are conducted. There are qualified entities regularly going through our factory and inspecting on extremely sophisticated human food standards, of which the pet food side must pass. It goes way beyond “traces of mice and proper hats.” If you have to pass the barrage of human food inspections we do, questions like that aren’t even remotely considered. It goes without saying that the rudimentary sanitary and hygiene stuff is done. Like good pet foods these days, it is a very 101 question to ask if they contain by-products, wheat or soy. Customers are more advanced and get into the nitty gritty.

So Kim, I did some investigating of my own and can tell you two things: The Tiki plant in Thailand has no visits of any kind expected in December. And my personal opinion is that this shopkeeper wants to go to Thailand and is looking for a way to write it off as a business expense. Sorry, but that’s how I see it. Anybody who would disparage a company — and not carry their products — on the absurd assumption that he should have been allowed to tour their facility — is not a proper person, as the English would say. A friend in the movie business used to call people like that “14 carat phonies.”

UPDATE: Weruva Wins the Day!

Kim wrote back:


Thank you once again! The more I thought about it I decided that I felt Weruva was the best for my furry family! I have already found the original store I was looking for and am 100% committed to Weruva varieties. I knew you were the person to contact! My goal is to be able to meet you in person. Congrats on the new show. I hope to listen to it also.

Well, that is great news. They also have a less expensive brand they now make called BFF (Best Feline Friend) which saves money by alternating it with the other flavors. But it is fish-based so three times a week is about right for that. Also PETCO now has a new well-priced canned food called Soulistic made just for them by Weruva – same high quality and a big bargain!

I hope we meet some day, too!

–Tracie Hotchner

Weruva is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.