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  • Pet Food Recalls – Shining A Light On What The Pet Food Label Does Not Tell You

    Pet Food Recalls – Shining A Light On What The Pet Food Label Does Not Tell You

    In the US and the UK, pet food recalls appear to be on the rise.  At Thoughtful Pets, we choose to work closely with the pet food brands we offer on our website and discuss in detail with them their products.  By doing this we have a better understanding of their products, and it allows us to raise any questions or concerns we, or, our customers may have.  It also allows us to provide our customers with detailed information about the foods they feed their dogs and cats, enabling them to make informed decisions about their pet’s nutritional needs and what foods are suitable for them.

    All the brands we choose to stock have been rigorously nutritionally tested to ensure they are suitable for your pet and meet nutritional requirements.

    Through our experience in the pet food industry, we have found one major concern that affects many brands on the market; the nutritional analysis. This has been the reason for a number of pet food recalls.

    According to the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) guidelines, every complete dog and cat food must have a typical nutritional analysis displayed on its packaging.  The typical analysis is the average amount of nutrients found in the food and must include protein, fibre, ash (inorganic matter), oils and fats.  Any other information presented is voluntary and provided at the discretion of the manufacturer.

    Unfortunately, these guidelines offer little guarantee for the actual nutritional content of the food.  The FEDIAF guidelines (20 Oct 2011) allow a permitted tolerance for each nutritional aspect. For example, protein content is allowed a tolerance of up to 12.5% of the total protein percentage. Therefore, the actual protein content of the food can vary between batches within this tolerance level.  Oils, fats, and ash also have a tolerance of up to 12.5%, and fibre has a tolerance of up to 17.5% under the guidance (http://www.fediaf.org/self-regulation/labelling/).

    There is also a tolerance for nutritional additives such as taurine and thiamine.  This tolerance can be anywhere between 10-40% of the declared value, depending on the amount added to the food.  This variation has the potential to cause problems as certain additives are vital for your pet’s health.  Thiamine, for example, is a water-soluble nutrient that cannot be stored in your pet’s body, so it cannot be utilised later on.  Under normal conditions, this is not an issue as long as your pet is eating food containing suitable levels of thiamine.  However, as the tolerance for nutritional additives is so varied, and the exact amount present is rarely guaranteed, if, for example, your pet starts consuming lower levels of thiamine over a period of 4-6 weeks it could result in a deficiency, or at the very least less than optimal levels of thiamine being present in your pet’s blood (which could lead to serious health issues).

    Ultimately, this means that FEDIAF guidelines permit tolerance levels which allows some brands to leave pet owners with an inaccurate picture of: (i) the quantities of certain nutrients in their pet’s food and (ii) the overall quality of their pet’s food. This can obviously be problematic where a pet has a particular health issue.

    Not all pet food brands only provide a typical analysis.  We are fortunate enough at Thoughtful Pets to stock brands such as Ziwipeak who provide a guaranteed analysis of the nutrients in their foods on all their packaging, as well as a typical analysis (both are available to view on our website).  The guaranteed analysis provides a minimum guaranteed content for protein and fat and a maximum content for fibre, moisture, and ash. Whilst the minimum content still permits a higher range of protein and fat, the maximum ranges for fibre can be invaluable for pets with digestive and bowel disorders, which require a diet low in fibre. There are no tolerances levels for a guaranteed analysis, so the figures stated as the minimum or maximum must be adhered to. Whilst all the brands we stock have their nutritional content rigorously tested, brands which provide guaranteed analysis can be invaluable for pets with certain health conditions.

    Of course failures in testing can happen in the pet food industry, despite the best efforts of all involved, and when these unfortunate incidents impair the quality, or, safety of pet food, the responsible action of any company faced with a problem with their brand is to action a recall. Recalls for a lack of certain nutritional content, however, shine a light on this neighbouring issue; that in fact at present there are tolerance levels built into the typical analysis provided on the pet food label, of which pet owners are unaware.

    At Thoughtful Pets we have always been prepared to take-up questions for our customers with any of the companies whose brands we sell, and the openness of a brand is an important factor as to whether we will, or, will not stock the brand, as we are committed to providing our customers with the best information possible to assist them in making the right pet food choices for their pets.

    For further information about nutritional analysis, please see our blog article “Are You Comparing Apples With Oranges?”.