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Can from Clearwater food bank turns out to be dog food

Frank Viscido, a retired airman who lives in Largo, thought he had found a miracle food last week.

The label read like a can of Popeye's spinach. Eat this stuff, he thought, and maybe the creaks of arthritis, the pull of time on his 68-year-old body, wouldn't be so bad.

After all, he had never seen a single food promise so much:

"Strong Immune System."

Those antioxidants!

"Joint Health."

What a waterfall of glucosamine!

"Sharp Vision."

My, that beta carotene!

And so much more.

Practically a multivitamin in a meaty pate.

The label illustrations of grapes and tomatoes, sunflower and avocado, didn't look so unappetizing either.

"Boy, I wish the VA had this," Viscido thought. "I'm going to be 21 years old in no time."

Maybe, if he got more the next week, he could even be King Kong.

The can came from the Religious Community Services Food Bank in Clearwater, a surprising place, for sure, to find a miracle food.

The Air Force veteran goes there for free foodstuff once a week. The service is a welcome supplement to his limited Social Security income.

A food bank volunteer who saw that Viscido was interested in healthier products recommended the product to him.

"You're a senior. This ought to be good for you," Viscido remembered the man saying.

Indeed, the can was boldly labeled: "Senior. Holistic Superfood."

"Looked good," said the grandfather of four.

But what the volunteer (a senior himself), Viscido and even three food bank sorters who handled the can did not see at first: the clues, and the catch.

On the front of the can: "Healthy skin … and Coat."

Coat?

Viscido said he couldn't help but smile when he read the following after searching for preparation instructions: "Superfoods every dog needs."

Lightning struck: This. Is. Dog. Food.

That a senior was given a can of dog food from a food bank, stereotypes aside, is a rarity, say both nutrition experts and RCS staff.

"Every once in a while, you hear about a situation of a homeless person eating pet food, but I haven't heard of this scenario before," said Elaine Turner, associate dean with the food and environmental toxicology lab at the University of Florida.

Turner said nothing in a can of processed dog food would likely be hazardous to human health.

Lisa Matzner, director of development for RCS, which provides food to about 7,000 people every month, said she was shocked to learn about the error.

"It's the first time I've ever heard of something like this. We don't take pet food donations," she said.

The food bank, which recently took in about 45 tons of canned goods from the Letter Carriers Food Drive, sorts donations three different times before it reaches clients. During the sorting process, expiration dates are checked by volunteers (the dog food was good for another several months) and put into a proper category.

Many of the goods the food bank distributes come from individual donors.

A scenario Matzner envisions for how dog food wound up being given to a senior involves a well-meaning donor sweeping the contents of a cupboard into a donation bag, unknowingly including the Nutro brand pet food in the process, and the can subsequently being missed by screeners.

Matzner said she intends to post a photo of the can so volunteers can be on the lookout in the future.

As for Viscido, he says the moment is one of those life needs more of, tangible evidence that the illogical can bring joy.

"When I came across this, I thought, 'It's proof,' " Viscido said. "I thought it's comical, it's real funny. What makes a joke funny? It's not logical."

Can from Clearwater food bank turns out to be dog food 07/17/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 6:31pm]
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