Warning: Not Ferret Specific!
This is part 1 of a series I’m writing on pet food safety.
Choosing a pet food is a weighty task that no owner should take lightly. Obviously, I am of the school of thought that raw and whole foods are a much healthier and better choice for every pet – but I realize and understand that not every pet parent can make the commitment, or can balance raw and homemade diets properly. Therefor, commercial diets are still a necessity in our world, and that is okay! However, because the standards and guidelines regarding the manufacturing of pet foods are very lax compared to human foods, there are a great many quality control issues that can easily arise. The most recent Diamond recalls illustrate this fact well. While facilities that manufacture pet foods do need to be inspected regularly, it is not nearly often enough to catch all the possible issues. Not only that, but the ingredients themselves aren’t put through many inspections, if any at all.
But how does a consumer know what to look for when choosing a food? How can we as pet owners put our trust in a company?
One major tool to consumers is to look for unrequired certification. AAFCO and FDA guidelines alone do not cover quality control to the degree of preventing poor quality, contaminated, or otherwise hazardous pet foods from being sold – this is obvious to anyone who has experienced or seen the amounts of recalled pet foods over the years. Knowing where your pets’ food comes from is an important indicator of its quality.
In the US and Canada, foods that are manufactured in North American facilities and exported to European vendors need to be certified by European Union standards, called EU or CE certification. European standards are much more stringent and require that the manufacturing process as well as ingredients have to meet the proper standards. Many of the larger pet food companies, such as Pedigree, Iams, and Science Diet, all have separate manufacturing facilities in Europe and in the US. In this way, they are able to avoid certifying foods made in North America, and only have to spend the money to certify the foods that they make for sale in Europe. The committee that oversees this certification is APHIS (Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service.)
EU Certified foods guarantee the following:
1. Meat ingredients are sourced from animals fit for human consumption (human grade). Meats sourced for pet foods in the US, not EU Certified, can be of the 4D’s (diseased, dying, disabled, dead.)
2. Knowledge of GM (genetically modified) ingredients (manufacturer would be required to know and provide this information to US or Canadian pet parents, would be listed on the label for EU pet parents). Currently no requirement for human or pet foods in the US requires labeling of GM ingredients.
3. Suppliers of ingredients are inspected and approved by USDA. Currently suppliers and sourcing of ingredients have no quality control to go through. (Remember the melamine scare in 2007???)
4. Additional quality control.
But other companies utilize only their manufacturing facilities Stateside, and go through the rigorous testing to qualify for EU/CE certification. This means that all the foods that they make, whether sold in Europe or in North America, meet European Union standards. The largest manufacturer of EU certified foods in the US is Ohio Pet Foods. Foods out of OPF include VeRUS, Annamaet, Dr. Tims, Blackwood, Pet Chef Express and Canine Caviar. Champion Pet Foods out of Canada (Acana and Orijen) are also EU certified.
EU Certification is not the only or the best certification to look for, but it is a good start and will give you a better idea on what kinds of quality control measures to look for in a pet food. Many foods that are not EU Certified still have incredible quality control and are still great.
The most important thing regarding pet food safety is to do your research, and be 100% comfortable in your knowledge of the brand. Family owned companies tend to have stricter control measures and more pride in their product, thus making it more consistent. And not all family-owned or EU certified brands are expensive – foods like Fromm Classics are still great quality and are extremely affordable to the average consumer.
Some more links to read more about Pet Food Quality Control: