Vets, animal welfare groups call for an end to toxic pet food

Earlier this year, toxic pet food killed 23 dogs and hospitalised another 67, resulting in yet another campaign to implement robust pet food regulations – now.

RSPCA Australia has joined forces with the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA), urging the government to end significant delays in developing and implementing pet food regulations.

They’re seeking a mandatory Standard for pet food safety – almost three years after it was first recommended by a Senate inquiry.

“All pets in Australia should have access to safe, high-quality food and pet owners must be able to have confidence that the food they’re buying is safe,” says RSPCA Australia senior scientific officer (companion animals) Dr Sarah Zito.

“But at the moment, we do not have adequate regulation of pet food in Australia, and the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food is not mandatory. The recent events in Victoria, where at least 23 pet dogs died, and many more became ill due to unsafe pet food causing liver failure, are a tragic reminder of this.

Read: Lack of regulation for pet food in Australia

“Now more than ever, our pets are providing us with valuable comfort and companionship. They’re viewed as family members, and the consequences of losing a beloved companion to unsafe pet food are devastating.”

In June 2018, the federal government began a review into pet food safety regulation. Three years later, it still has not provided a final report.

Current self-regulation by producers fails to protect pets from unsafe pet food, says Dr Zito.

“A mandatory Standard against which all pet food producers must be audited is needed – to guarantee that pet food (including pet meats) meet a high standard of food safety and traceability, to prevent potential contaminants and toxins from entering pet food, and to ensure that there is a mandatory recall process to prevent further illnesses and deaths if a problem occurs,” she says.

“The lack of a mandated recall process when pet food problems have been identified has exacerbated adverse events in which pets have suffered from life-threatening illnesses.

“Australians should be able to buy food for their pets knowing there are robust and enforceable systems in place to help prevent unsafe pet food being produced and sold and ensure there is a standard recall process across the industry to guarantee a prompt and effective response if a problem is identified.

“The only effective way to address the issue of pet food safety in Australia is to implement government regulation and a mandatory Standard for the manufacturing, marketing and safety of pet food.”

Read: Foods you should never feed your pets

We may be a step closer to protecting our pets, which, to many, are considered family.

Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud has been sent an open letter signed by 22,338 Australians calling for safer pet food, says consumer advocate CHOICE.

“The pet food industry wants this. Animal welfare groups want this. Consumer advocates want this. And now over 22,000 Australians want their pets to be safe from dodgy pet food,” says CHOICE consumer advocate Jonathan Brown.

“Our pets are our family and, just like when we buy food for our loved ones at the supermarket, we expect some level of safety and quality control with pet food.

“Pet owners just want the assurance that the checks and balances are in place to keep our pets safe.”

CHOICE has asked Mr Littleproud for all pet food to meet an enforceable mandatory industry standard, a system to get dodgy pet food off the shelves and out of homes faster and an independent regulator to oversee pet food standards.

Read: Pets, touch and COVID-19: Why our furry friends are lifesavers

“Other countries have put in place minimum standards for pet food and Australia can too,” says Mr Brown.

“We need a mandatory standard, faster recalls and an independent regulator to make sure pet food is safe and our pets aren’t needlessly put at risk. We hope Mr Littleproud takes this opportunity to help every dog and cat in Australia by putting in place new rules for pet food safety.”

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.