Pet food safety is essential, and the PFIAA continues to explore ways to address the problem of unsafe pet food.
The Australian Government response in June 2021 to the report of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee, on the regulatory approach to ensure the safety of pet food mentioned the inclusion of feeding trials along with other testing methods. (Recommendation 3) The Australian Government agreed to refer this to the Standards Australia technical review committee for their consideration which is currently underway.
It is important to note that feeding trials are one of several measures a pet food company can undertake to ensure that their products ‘do no harm’.
While useful in select circumstances and amongst other measures, feeding trials are inadequate single measures for food safety control. They have limitations.
- Feeding trials are varied in how they are conducted and what they measure. Each pursues the answer to a different question. They are specific in nature, and not always standardised.
- Feeding trials are limited as they can only measure what we know in the present day to be a risk to pet health. Pet foods, the environment, ingredients, and manufacturing processes change, as do our pets themselves. Food quality and safety assurance process’ must change too and respond to new findings.
- Feeding trials fall short as they cannot account for all factors that are involved in the food safety and quality assurance process. Trials alone simply cannot measure everything of concern when it comes to unsafe pet food.
- Feeding trials give a single snapshot of a product, produced over a limited period of time. They test only a sample of food and can’t account for the unavoidable changes that happen to food, as it passes through raw material, manufacturing, distribution, and sales processes.
To help safeguard the health and well-being of Australian pets, PFIAA are improving the effectiveness of the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food (AS5812:2017) and encouraging all pet food manufacturers to enact this standard within their businesses.
To address each of the limitations mentioned above, we endorse:
- Mandating standardised measures of ensuring pet food safety, which shall be undertaken by all certified pet food companies
- A system of continuous improvement reacting to new science and findings in pet health
- A complete, multi-step product verification and auditing process, with many combined safety checks, to which feeding trials can contribute
- Ongoing, pet food safety and quality checks. A continual pet food safety feedback loop should run through the entire process that brings a pet food to the bowls of our pets
In this way, the PFIAA realise the valuable role of feeding trials, but recognise that many other checks and balances are required to minimise the risk that unsafe foods pose to pets.