Those of us who buy pet food should be able to have complete confidence in the claims being made about them. Responsible pet food companies need to stand by these claims and the products that they bring to the market. This responsibility is not only encompassed in legislation, The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (the Act), but also in the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food (AS 5812), which helps define ‘best practice’ for the pet food industry.
Ethical business practices centre about communicating with complete honesty and transparency, and this extends to product claims, which cannot be false, misleading, or deceptive. The more we look, the more we realise that claims ‘come in many shapes and sizes’, and include not only pet food labels, but messages given on other commercial platforms (websites, online and physical promotional materials, etc.). Pictorial messages and even statements that are made verbally are also claims. They are created of course to educate, and influence our purchasing decisions, but should always communicate a message with clarity, and should not rely on further qualifiers or disclaimers which might confuse or mislead.
One particular claim type that a customer may encounter when deciding on a purchase is a Credence Claim.
A Credence Claim is one which cannot be proven by the customer by simply looking at or assessing the product themself. In this case, the customer must trust the pet food company in the truth of the matter. They can be claims relating to product quality, composition, or origin, including words and phrases such as “Sustainable”, “Australian Made”, “Organic”, “Kosher”, “Pure”. “World’s Best”, “Human Grade” or “Environmentally Friendly”.
Care must be taken by a pet food company to ensure that all claims and particularly those classed as Credence Claims can be proven. This means they need to be validated by the company. To ensure a claim has supporting evidence the pet food company should have a system in place that can provide evidence when requested by a customer, or by an auditor.
When assessing claims, pet food companies may be audited against the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food (AS 5812), in particular the section relating to Labelling, Marketing and Nutrition. There may also be other compliance and legal requirements that the company need to consider, depending on the nature and purpose of their products.
Failure of a pet food company to meet their responsibility in making truthful claims may result in a breach to the Act and possible prosecution. Failure would also have ramifications for customer confidence in the pet food company and its products.
PFIAA promotes excellence within the Australian pet food industry by continuously advocating for and improving the standards which protect consumers and safeguard the health and wellbeing of Australia’s pets.
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