Help! My pet food claims it’s ‘human grade’. What does this mean?

There are many claims on the various food and drink labels that humans (and their pets) consume.

It is important that claims on all human food and drink packaging accurately reflect the nature of the product and do not mislead consumers as per the requirements outlined within the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). It is no different from the food we feed our pets.

Let us bring it back to basics.

Pet food ingredients are purposefully selected based on the type of food (dry, canned, raw or a treat product). Pet food ingredients may be sourced from animals and include beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish, and insects as well as from plant products such as corn, wheat, soy, sorghum, peas, potatoes, barley etc.

Vitamins, minerals and amino acids may also be added to make pet food nutritionally complete and balanced or to provide extra nutritional benefits for cats and dogs based on sound and relevant science.

Pet food often uses co-products of the human food chain, providing high-value nutritional ingredients that contribute to the sustainability of our food systems without compromising food availability.

The Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA) recognises that recent claims such as ‘human grade’ on pet food packaging are causing discussion amongst pet owners. Does ‘human grade’ pet food make it superior? Is the quality better?

It’s impossible to see a difference. Pet owners are unable to prove the claim by just looking at the product in the pack, whether a complete pet food or a treat

There is no official definition for a human-grade claim. When the PFIAA refers to ‘human grade’ ingredients or products, we mean pet food that is produced using ingredients from the human food supply chain, manufactured in premises certified for producing human edible food to meet the relevant requirements for a dog or cat.

There are some non-negotiables for a claim like ‘human grade’ to appear on pet food. They include:

  • The claim includes all vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, plant, and animal-derived materials.
  • The claim cannot be used for individual ingredients – it must represent the whole product.
  • The label must still clearly identify the food as “PET FOOD ONLY”.
  • Raw materials must be sourced from human edible material, fit for consumption (under relevant State Laws) and produced in an accredited human-grade manufacturing facility. It must be safe for cats and dogs to consume.
  • A claim cannot infer that the product is inherently ‘safer’ by virtue of the sourcing or by being processed to human food manufacturing standards.

For manufacturers importing ingredients, they must meet stringent import requirements for pet food end-use. An import permit may be required.

All manufacturers and marketers of pet food must ensure that all claims related to the products on or off pack can be supported and that relevant state and national regulations are upheld. It is no different for ‘human grade’ type claims.

PFIAA promotes excellence within the Australian pet food industry by continuously improving and advocating for industry standards to safeguard the health and wellbeing of Australia’s pets.

Further details on standard pet food safety measures taken by manufacturers can be found here.