Legislation, Safety and Quality – Britain’s Pet Food Options

Nicole Paley, Deputy Chief Executive – Communications and Animal Welfare at the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) on how to choose the correct food for your pet

The pros and cons of feeding both a raw food diet and a kibble diet continue to be controversial to many dog owners. Nicole Paley of the PFMA talks to Westies & Besties about taking the heat out of the discussion to ensure pet owners have access to balanced information when making the important decision of what to feed their pet.

Can you explain some of the legislation, as well certain processes, food manufacturers of both raw and kibble must go through to be able to sell dog food?

All prepared pet foods, whether wet (including commercial raw) or dry, are subject to the same legislation to ensure safety and quality. The legislation covers the full pet food cycle from the sourcing of ingredients to the information that must be on the pet food label.

There is strict legislation on what ingredients can/cannot be used. For instance, all the animal-based ingredients can only come from animals that have passed veterinary inspections as fit for human consumption. The pet food industry uses the by-products from the human food chain, which is a long-standing environmentally sustainable practice.   

In addition to the legislation, PFMA members formulate their diets in line with industry guidelines and codes of practice which provide that extra reassurance on quality and standards. We encourage pet owners to visit the PFMA members page of our website.: www.pfma.org.uk/members-of-pfma  

There are numerous claims and rumours from raw food advocates as to how kibble is processed. Can you comment on this, please?

When considering a pet food, it is important to note that it is content, not format, that matters most. All pet food products that are labelled as ‘complete’ should contain the correct balance of nutrients that are needed for the intended pet species, whether they come in cooked (dry or wet) or raw format. The choice of which format to feed is with the owner, depending on what they view as the best option for their pet and depending on any feeding advice provided by the vet.

To take the mystery out of pet food production methods, PFMA has a dedicated page with photos of manufacturing plants, and a short animated film explaining how dry and wet products are made: www.pfma.org.uk/pet-food-film

To help owners navigate their way through myths and misconceptions and make informed decisions about feeding their pet, PFMA has developed a range of factsheets on topics including ‘Understanding the different pet food formats’, ‘Responsible raw feeding’, and ‘Pet food ingredients’. See all our factsheets on www.pfma.org.uk/fact-sheets

As well as raw food and kibble, some brands are selling insect-based diets. What are the benefits of such food?

The human population is expected to grow to ten billion by 2050 and assuming consumption habits continue as they currently are, this is expected to increase global demand for animal-derived protein.

Pet food producers are now working to address the anticipated gap between available meat-based proteins for pet food and the projected demand. As the squeeze on resources and food availability continues, the pet food industry is committed to looking at further solutions to minimise the environmental impact and sustainable use of resources in the manufacturing of pet food, insect protein is one of them. Insect farming is shown to have smaller environmental footprint and can produce high quality protein. There are currently a small number of companies who use an insect-based protein in their pet foods.

What advice would you give to dog-owners who are undecided which food is best for their dogs?

There is a wide range of pet foods, something to suit all needs and preferences. Firstly, it is important to choose a diet that is labelled as ‘complete’ to ensure the product will have all the nutrients a pet needs for healthy, bodily function. – a dog needs 37 essential nutrients in his/her daily diet. Followed by is it appropriate for the dog’s life-stage, e.g. puppy, adult, reproduction, or senior diet? Once these essentials have been met it then comes down to what a dog finds palatable, helps them perform well, and also suits the owner’s lifestyle. We would always encourage owners to do some research and speak to their veterinary team if they have questions.