Following the Rip-Off Britain programme (BBC1, 22 Apr) which included a focus on pet food labelling, PFMA would like to address some of the issues raised.
In addition to the response below you can also click through to our new Labelling Fact Sheet for more information. PFMA is always happy to answer any questions on the subject.
Pet Food Labelling Legislation
Pet food labelling is governed by EU legislation for the labelling of animal feed. We don’t have our own set of rules, nor do we come under the legislation for human food labelling. The legislators state what information must be on the packet and how this must be presented. As we fall under animal feed, some of the terminology used is more tailored to the farmer rather than the pet owner and we’re working hard to ensure these terms are better understood.
Current legislation means that manufacturers can label ingredients by category e.g. ‘meat and animal derivatives’, or by providing a full list of the specific ingredients present. Both formats are widely available on the market and the consumer can make a choice.
The term ‘meat and animal derivatives’ is set by the legislation and it refers to the animal based ingredients in the product. The EU considers this the most appropriate term which can be easily translated by the different member states. The pet food industry uses by-products from the human food and all materials must come from animals slaughtered under veterinary supervision. For instance, parts of the animal that are not perhaps culturally acceptable for us to eat but are still nutrient dense e.g. organ meats are used. These materials meet the very high safety and quality criteria laid down in the legislation.
Why do we use category descriptions?
As industry uses by-products from the human food chain the raw material supplies can vary during the year. Manufacturers may therefore use ingredients from different animal species based on supply levels. All the materials selected are of equal quality and provide the same nutritional benefits to the animal. Listing ingredients by category means some producers can select ingredients based on supply without having the high cost of changing labels constantly, helping reduce costs to the consumer.
Many pet food products provide a full ingredients list
For consumers who prefer to buy a pet food with a full ingredients listing, there are many products available on the market.
Safety and optimum nutrition is of paramount importance
The quality and safety of our pet foods is of paramount importance to us. Beyond the legislation, industry has adopted a number of Codes of Practice which members of the PFMA follow. Our members manufacture their diets in line with the FEDIAF Nutritional Guidelines which detail the nutritional needs of cats and dogs at the varying life-stages. These guidelines are peer reviewed by independent veterinary nutritionists throughout Europe and are regularly updated. Prepared pet food is grounded in science and owners can have absolute confidence in the food they buy.
Where can a consumer find out more?
To support consumers, pet food manufacturers often provide full product information on company websites and all companies have care lines for consumers to get more information.
PFMA is also proactive in this area as we recently produced a Fact Sheet on ‘Understanding Pet Food Labels’, along with a short 2 minute film on how pet foods are made including what ingredients are used, the nutritional expertise within the industry and the legislation by which industry is governed.
For more information on pet food production and pet food nutrition, please visit www.pfma.org.uk