Pet food labelling in Australia should comply with Australian consumer law and the Australian Standard for manufacturing and marketing of pet food – AS5812.
Label requirements under AS5812
The Australian Standard for manufacturing and marketing of pet food AS5812, provides detailed guidelines for compliant pet food labelling in Australia.
The labelling guidance in AS5812 has been developed to reflect and align with other existing global standards, such as those in Europe and the USA, and help companies comply with Australian consumer law. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has a central role in promoting competition and ensuring fair trading.
Pet food labels complying with AS5812 are required to include the following information on labelling:
Identification as pet food
The words “PET FOOD ONLY” (or words to similar effect) is to appear conspicuously on the label (or printed onto the end of a can) and an illustration of the whole body or head animal species for which it is intended (e.g. a dog or cat) is also to be included on the label.
Nutrition information panel
A statement of either guaranteed or typical (average) composition, regarding protein and fat is required to be included on labels. Labels may also include information about energy content and other nutrient levels in the food.
AS5812 states: ‘The variety name of a pet food shall be informative and an accurate description of the style and flavour.’
Nutritional adequacy statement
Information as to whether the product provides a complete and balanced diet for a pet at a particular life stage, or whether it is intended to be fed intermittently or with other foods for nutritional completeness (e.g. as a treat or complimentary food) is required.
Directions for use (Feeding guide)
Labels provide directions for feeding the food to pets. It should be recognised that these are only a guide and individual pets may require more or less food than recommended, depending on their metabolism, lifestyle and life stage. The pet owner is usually best placed to determine how much and how often to feed their pet, using the pet’s behaviour, body condition and general health to guide them. If in doubt, please consult your veterinarian.
Pet food labels with a longer shelf life (e.g. 2 years +) shall include a packaging date. In the case of shorter shelf life products such as those requiring refrigeration, this date labelling will include either a ‘best before’ statement or a ‘use by date’. It is important to follow any specified product storage conditions to ensure product integrity and safety.
The Standard advises that pet food labels list the ingredients (with the exception of water) in descending order (by weight) and states: “Ingredients will be presented in an informative and consumer friendly manner”. It is also required to provide pet owners with information concerning what species of animal meats (e.g poultry, beef or fish). The label must include a statement of ingredients re food additives, including advising if flavours, colours, preservatives, vitamins and minerals are added. ‘AS5812 specifically requires that where preservatives such as sulphur dioxide or sulphites are included,these shall be identified on the label, by inclusion of their common, prescribed, proprietary name or the FSANZ Food Standards code number.’
General consumer information
In common with many other packaged foods sold in Australia, prepared pet foods labels provide further useful and important information to help pet owners.
Pet foods often include product features and these are required to be consistent with Australian consumer law. Reflecting this, ‘the Standard’ advises that “labelling should not directly or indirectly mislead or misrepresent the product to the purchaser”.
Manufacturers generally ensure that their brand name appears in a prominent position on the pet food label.
Name and address
The manufacturer or importer name and address must appear on the label.
Weights and measures
The net weight of the product is to be included on the label.
Bar coding information
Bar coding is an international system of product identification, and all pet food products sold through the major retail outlets in Australia carry bar codes. The bar code is a series of numbers represented by the width and spacing between the bars. The bar code provides information on the country of the manufacturer, the manufacturer’s identity and product identification, plus a check digit for bar code validation.
This article is for general information only
This information is provided by the PFIAA as general information only. For detailed advice about the Australian Standard AS5812, please refer directly to the Standard. For advice and information concerning treatment and feeding your individual pet, we recommend that you seek the advice of your veterinarian. The PFIAA does not warrant that this document provides a comprehensive review of all relevant clauses of AS5812 or legal requirements for pet food labelling under Australian Consumer Law.