A RECENT spate of pet food-related poisonings has today prompted RSPCA Australia, Australian Veterinary Association and the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia to call for an overdue mandatory pet food standard – almost three years after it was recommended by a Senate inquiry.
In July, a knackery that sold pet food linked to the deaths of at least 23 dogs and the hospitalisation of a further 67 refused to recall its products despite requests from the regulator.
Agriculture Victoria said that all affected dogs were young, healthy and vaccinated.
Victoria’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Graeme Cooke said dog owners should look out for a sudden loss of appetite, lethargy and jaundice in a dog that was previously healthy.
Industry regulator PrimeSafe enforces compliance with the Meat Industry Act and the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production of Pet Meat.
However, PrimeSafe does not have the power to issue a mandatory recall of pet food.
Instead it relies on pet meat processors and pet food distributors to comply with voluntary product withdrawals and recalls.
RSPCA Australia senior scientific officer (companion animals) Dr Sarah Zito said all pets in Australia should have access to safe, high-quality food and that current self-regulation fails to protect pets from unsafe pet food.
“A mandatory Standard against which all pet food producers must be audited is needed,” Dr Zito said.
“[This would] guarantee that pet food (including pet meats) meets 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.
“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.”
Australian Veterinary Association’s PetFAST Representative Dr Sue Foster said the process has taken too long and without swift action more Australian pets will fall ill and die.
“Pets are considered family members and so the community expectation is that pet food should be regulated in the same way as human food,” Dr Foster said.
“Australians should be able to buy food for their pets knowing that the industry is regulated to reduce the chance of unsafe pet food being produced and sold and to ensure that there is a standard recall process across the industry to guarantee a prompt and effective response if a problem is identified.”
Elliot is a freelance print and radio journalist with a passion for experimental radio fiction, podcasting and international affairs.