Questions asked: Animal Testing in Food

Last week we wrote in “Enjoy Food Consciously – Without Animal Testing“, how PETA worked together with Barilla to end the last (and unintentional) animal testings. Michael Niebo, Research Associate at PETA USA was in on the project and answered us some questions about the process with Barilla, but also in general about animal testing in the food sector.

How did the cooperation between PETA and Barilla come together to begin with? Did PETA approach Barilla to become animal cruelty free?

We are constantly looking for evidence of experiments on animals by commercial products manufacturers, like food and beverage, cosmetics and household products companies.

This was the case for Barilla. We found a few published journal articles reporting Barilla-funded and co-authored experiments on rats, which surprised us given Barilla’s reputation as a thoughtful company. PETA wrote to Barilla stating that we were troubled to find these articles, and asked them to meet with us to discuss the more humane and effective non-animal research methods which could have been used instead.

Barilla was very receptive to our letter, responded immediately, and we began our successful collaboration from there.

In cooperation with PETA, Barilla Group was able to publish a statement against animal testing. Photo: Barilla

What kind of support did PETA provide Barilla to become animal cruelty free?

Over the course of several meetings between PETA and Barilla’s respective scientific teams, we were able to discuss why Barilla’s wheat-related experiments on animals were not relevant to humans and what in vitro and other human-based methods they could be using instead.

We also learned that the original problem at Barilla seemed to have been caused by misguided input from some outside consultants who recommended tests on animals to look at health benefits of wheat. The company was incredibly remorseful about this.

We also helped to clarify some of the government regulations regarding health claims for food products, which in the US state that ultimately only data from humans can substantiate such claims.

Based on these discussions, Barilla crafted a fantastic policy against testing on animals and pledging support for greater use and development of non-animal research tools across the industry.

How long did the process take for PETA and Barilla to achieve this result?

From the time of our initial letter to the time that they posted their final policy was about two weeks. The process could not have gone more smoothly.

Different from Green Pearls® members, such as Familien-Landhotel Stern, many large companies still use animal testing in production.

Especially in the food section, which products would you advise against?

As for food companies that we know are currently still testing their products and ingredients on animals, PETA is actively pursuing the Kikkoman soy sauce company, Group Danone (makers of Dannon yogurts), and Kraft Foods, which have all recently conducted or funded experiments on animals to establish health claims for their products.

Hopefully, through the successful process we’ve undergone with compassionate and forward-thinking companies like Barilla, PepsiCo, Welch’s and others, we will able to get these and other companies to replace crude experiments on animals.

We are currently compiling lists that will outline the animal testing policies of the world’s leading companies in the food sector and others. People can also go to PETA’s cruelty-free shopping guide online.

Because of the inherent abuses involved in the meat and dairy industries, PETA advocates for a compassionate and healthful vegan lifestyle, and with so many great new options out there, it is easier than ever to avoid any products containing animal-based ingredients (meat, dairy, eggs, fish, milk, etc).

A stronger awareness towards animal testing is important in the future, in order to change something. (Photo: Familien-Landhotel Stern.)

Is their a tendency recognizable – are more and more brands coming forward to achieve the status Barilla now has? How is this especially in the food section?

Unfortunately, despite the incredible progress we’ve made to end experiments on animals and develop superior alternatives like cutting-edge organs-on-a-chip, many companies, universities and government agencies are still conducting cruel, expensive and ineffective experiments on animals.

However, there is a growing awareness of the abuses and wastefulness of animal testing, and its helping more and more companies modernize their policies and practices.

For example, more than 1,700 personal and household products companies are on PETA’s list of companies that refuse to test on animals.

Why do you think that living animal cruelty free is not a standard in peoples’ and companies’ minds yet? What needs to be done to achieve this mindset, in your opinion?

The main issue is often that people are simply unaware of the abuses that occur in laboratories, and the extent to which they might support it with the purchases or business decisions they make.

This is where an organization like PETA steps in. We work to make people and companies aware of these issues, and with that awareness and knowledge often comes the willingness to make changes, whether it be a personal lifestyle change, or a company’s decision to end experiments on animals.

Thank you Michael Niebo for taking time for an interview.