Dogs and cats are social creatures, just like humans. And like humans, they need an assortment of healthy fresh foods to eat. But unlike humans, pets rely on their owners to provide them with these foods and make sure they’re nutritious and safe.

In the world of pet foods, it’s not enough anymore to just make a pet product that’s tasty and nutritious neopet food. In order to be successful in today’s saturated market place, it is more important than ever to make a product that is safe.

The Pet Food Institute (PFI), an organization dedicated to informing and educating consumers on the importance of quality pet food, has released information directly related to this issue. According to PFI, 8 out of 10 dogs and cats are now being fed primarily commercial pet food (commercial food refers to any product that is not straight from the farm).

1. Pet Food Safety

The most recent news from PFI and FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Admin.) is a report detailing the important topic of pet food safety: The New Global Pet Food Survey and Report on Pet Food Safety . In looking over this document, several key points are brought to light.

A) What Is Safe?

According to the global study, more than three quarters of people worldwide believe that food that is fed to pets should be safe, while only two thirds trust the products they feed their own children. This shows that pets are considered a member of the family in many countries around the world, and expectations for safety of pet foods are at an all-time high.

B) What Is Unsafe?

In the global study, respondents felt that “filler” and unidentified meat ingredients are the most unsafe. However, in their own homes, respondents thought that “artificial flavorings” and “non-nutritional additives” were unsafe for pets to consume.

C) Who’s At Risk?

Although the global survey showed that the U.S., Canada and Mexico have the highest level of concern about pet food safety, when asked who is at risk: 30% of Americans said that they were; 12% said their pets were; and 11% stated their friends or neighbors’ pets were at risk.

D) Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?

In the global survey, respondents were asked to rate on a scale of 1-10 how knowledgeable they were about pet food safety. More than half said they were very knowledgeable (54%) or somewhat knowledgeable (15%). Interestingly, only 32% said that they had heard of the topic of pet food safety in the last 6 months.

This last point makes it clear that you must be proactive and not fall into the group of people who have heard about this issue but choose to ignore it. If you don’t know what’s going on, chances are your pet could be at risk and nothing you do will change that fact.

2. Pet Food Recalls

The term “recall” generally refers to an action taken by a manufacturer to remove defective or potentially hazardous products from the marketplace. In the U.S., there are two types of recalls: Class I and Class II .

Class I pet food recall : An immediate recall of a pet food product that presents a threat of serious or life-threatening injury or illness if it is not removed immediately from the market.

Class II pet food recall : A voluntary withdrawal by a firm of one or more units of their product that presents a potential, non-serious, non-life-threatening health risk.

In late February 2010, J.M Smucker Co. voluntarily recalled its 9Lives® Healthy Weight™ dry cat food. The reason given was that the product may be contaminated with Salmonella or Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, which can sicken animals and people. These bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping in animals. Most people exposed to these bacteria do not become sick, but infants, older people and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk.

Cats are especially susceptible to these two illnesses because they lack a robust immune system. As reported by the FDA, “any pet that has eaten the dry food should receive immediate medical attention” 

3. General Food Safety Tips

PFI has outlined a few tips for consumers to keep in mind about their pet’s food:

A) Read the Label

KEEP IN MIND : Look for labels that contain complete nutritional profiles including calories, fat, protein and carbohydrate content. Reading these labels will also help you determine if your pet is getting an appropriate diet. Keep in mind that manufacturers are responsible for determining the values on these labels; even though they may be accurate, it’s important to note that they’re still estimates. Additional ingredients to look out for include “digest,” and “byproducts” as vague terms which can mean anything, contributing nothing to your pet’s well being.

Remember that a good pet food label is complete, and states nutritional information, ingredients and a guaranteed analysis. The manufacturer is responsible for the quality of ingredients and should be able to back up the claims on their label.

B) Don’t Trust “Byproducts”

Since there are regulations to define what an “ingredient” can be, there are no regulations at all that define the term “byproduct.” This is why it’s important for consumers to know what goes into pet foods and to trust their own preferences. If you’re not sure about something, ask your veterinarian or check online .

C) Just Say ‘No’ to BHT and BHA

Both BHT and BHA are artificial preservatives created primarily to prolong the shelf life of a food product, which is why they’re commonly found in pet foods. However, these chemicals can increase the risk of cancer in pets.

BHT stands for Butylated Hydroxyanisole and BHA stands for Butylated Hydroxytoluene. Both are derived from petroleum and are commonly used in processed foods as an antioxidant. People with food allergies may want to avoid these ingredients because they can cause severe reactions.


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