Like other farmers, trade wars and tariffs are hurting pulse crop farmers financially. And now pulse growers and some pet food companies are also losing business because of a new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report linking pulse crops in dog food as a possible cause of enlarged heart disease in some dogs.
The FDA has been looking for more than a year into dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM which is effectively an enlarged heart disease. However, pulse growers like Chester’s Jillien Streit say FDA overstepped its bounds in drawing a direct link to specific pet food ingredients in a sample size of 560 cases out of a dog population of roughly 77 million.
“The issue that we take with this as pulse growers in Montana is as we continue to look into this, because, of course, you know, everyone's concerned” said Streit. “You don't want anyone's dog to have any issues and we don't want our products to be hurting anything. So, we start looking into this and we see that there's some really questionable issues with this particular report.”
She says the FDA’s report is hurting the market for pulses like peas and lentils which has already been damaged by ongoing trade wars.
“Absolutely” said Streit. “I mean, right now, the pet food industry is one of the only things keeping the pulse industry afloat, especially as of late with the tariffs that we've been struggling with, China and India. Ten years ago, before we had the pet food industry, there was only one marketplace and it was to ship all of our products export. Now we have this domestic food industry that is growing, but not at a rate that is going to keep up with like, let's say, with a pet food.”
And she is encouraging other pulse growers to voice their concerns to members of Congress.
“Well, I would say the call to action is to get a hold of our congressional delegates and have them start asking for some answers from the FDA” said Streit. “Number one, why was this article allowed to go out before it was peer reviewed? Number two, is the science valid? You know, ask them to stop putting out these reports until they can validate this science. And then I guess the other thing is to, you know, make sure that the FDA puts out a statement that says that there is no causation between DCM and the use of peas and lentils.”
The FDA says it’s continuing to investigate and work with veterinarians and the pet food industry.
According to the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, pulse crops have been in pet food formulations going back more than 30 years.