Australian pet food standards must be enforced

As Australia’s agriculture ministers defer a decision to mandate pet food standards, new research reveals nine in ten pet owners expect our governments to enforce regulation of our industry.

  • Healthy pets mean happy owners: health and wellbeing are an utmost priority for all Australian pet owners (96%), who care about the quality of the food that they’re feeding their pets (97%);
  • Pet owners want more transparency: the majority of pet owners (84%) expect enforced standards will regulate the quality assurance of their pet’s food;
  • It’s time Australian agriculture ministers call for the ball: Pet Food Industry Association of Australia

(PFIAA), the RSPCA and the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) urgently call on Australian

agriculture ministers to commit to mandatory oversight of the Australian Standard (the industry code of practice) regulating the manufacturing and marketing of pet food.

A new survey has revealed nine in ten (88%) Australian pet owners agree that pet food should be produced to the Australian Standard: the industry code of practice regulating the manufacturing and marketing of pet food. The findings have come to light as Australian State and Territory Agriculture Ministers defer a decision on the mandatory regulation of the Australian pet food industry.

The survey results have been released by the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA) to pulse check the views of Australian pet owners. Currently, all members of the PFIAA voluntarily hold themselves to a high standard by complying with the Australian Standard. However, compliance is not mandatory. Hence, manufacturers who choose not to be members of the PFIAA have no obligation to comply with the Australian Standard.

Australia is one of few comparable nations without a mandatory model of regulation. The United States, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom have regulatory models in place that set the standard to produce pet food, conduct inspections, and provide verifications of compliance, as well as mechanisms to investigate customer complaints and conduct mandatory recalls.

Without a mandatory standard in place, there are no legal consequences for those who put pets at risk. Executive Manager of PFIAA, Carolyn Macgill, says: “We know that pets play an important role in Australians’ lives – our survey shows that an overwhelming majority of pet owners view their pet as a member of their family (78%)i. That’s why for us, the health and wellbeing of Australian pets is the number one priority.”

In 2018, the Federal Minister for Agriculture established a review to consider the appropriateness of the current approach to regulating the pet food industry in Australia. The findings of the Pet Food Review Working Group were due to be considered in November by the Agriculture Ministers Forum, however, this has been now postponed while cost-benefit analysis is completed.

“We have been at the table as an industry advocating for independent oversight that holds our sector accountable and enhances the safety of pet food. We’re calling on Australian Governments to mandate the Australian Standard for all manufacturers and put an independent regulator in place to enforce recalls where safety issues exist.”

The majority of the pet owners expect that Australian Standard will regulate the quality assurance of food (84%), nutritional requirements (80%), provide information on how the food is produced (68%), use of additives and preservatives (64%), list of banned ingredients (63%), and dictate information available on the pack (61%)i.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) strongly supports a mandatory Australian Standard for pet food to improve safety and ensure that timely recalls can occur, should any problems arise. The AVA is integral to the operation of PetFAST (a national surveillance scheme to detect adverse pet food events), knows first-hand both the extent of incidents and the devastation caused by them, and is also demanding implementation of mandatory pet food standards.

“Our industry wants regulation. Consumers want regulation. Animal welfare groups want regulation. It’s time for state and territory governments to agree to a model of regulation that delivers the regulatory oversight currently missing in Australia. There is no reason not to regulate. This isn’t about wrapping our industry in red tape; it’s about clearly defining the standards by which we all make and market pet food, aligned with the beliefs of pet owners.

“Ten years on from the first decision to walk away from regulation of our industry, and over three years on from the beginning of the current review, we call on State and Territory governments to step up. Any further delay is inconsiderate to the concerns of Australian pet owners,” says Ms Macgill.

View/Download the full infographic here.