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Meat Species in Pet Foods - Not All Brands Follow Regulations

04 October 2014

Although regulations exist for pet foods, there is growing evidence that products could be subject to food fraud.

Researchers in Chapman University’s Food Science Program in a study on pet food mislabelling looked at commercial pet foods marketed for dogs and cats to identify meat species present as well as any instances of mislabelling.

Of the 52 products tested, 31 were labelled correctly, 20 were potentially mislabelled, and one contained a non-specific meat ingredient that could not be verified.

“Although regulations exist for pet foods, increases in international trade and globalisation of the food supply have amplified the potential for food fraud to occur,” said Dr Rosalee Hellberg co-author on the study.

“With the recent discovery of horsemeat in ground meat products sold for human consumption in several European countries, finding horsemeat in U.S. consumer food and pet food products is a concern, which is one of the reasons we wanted to do this study.”

Chicken was the most common meat species found in the pet food products.

Pork was the second most common meat species detected, and beef, turkey and lamb followed, respectively.

Goose was the least common meat species detected. None of the products tested positive for horse meat.

pet food meat content

Of the 20 potentially mislabelled products, 13 were dog food and seven were cat food.

Of these 20, 16 contained meat species that were not included on the product label, with pork being the most common undeclared meat species.

In three of the cases of potential mislabelling, one or two meat species were substituted for other meat species.

In the study, DNA was extracted from each product and tested for the presence of eight meat species: beef, goat, lamb, chicken, goose, turkey, pork, and horse.

“Pet food safety was another area of concern, particularly with pet foods that are specifically formulated to address food allergies in both cats and dogs,” Dr Hellberg added.

The pet food industry is a substantial market in the United States. Nearly 75 per cent of US households own pets, totalling about 218 million pets (not including fish).

On average, each household spends $500 annually on their pets, equating to about one per cent of household expenditures.

In the past five years, pet industry expenditures have increased by $10 billion, with $21 billion spent on pet food alone in 2012.

The foods developed for pets are regulated by both federal and state entities.

The US Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine regulates animal feed and pet foods.

While the US Department of Agriculture regulates the interstate transportation and processing of animal products, as well as the inspection of animal product imports and exports.

While a seemingly high percentage of pet foods were found to be potentially mislabelled in this study, the manner in which mislabelling occurred is not clear; nor is it clear as to whether the mislabelling was accidental or intentional and at which points in the production chain it took place.

The study was published in the journal Food Control and was completed with Chapman undergrad student Tara Okuma.

October 2014

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