RSPCA Australia and the nation’s peak pet food body have called for an urgent review of food safety regulation following a series of dog deaths in Victoria.
The Australian Veterinary Association, the RSPCA and the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia wrote a joint letter in July to the Federal Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, with these concerns but have not yet received a response.
The three bodies are calling for an end to the significant delays in developing and implementing robust pet food regulation, including expediting a mandatory Standard for pet food safety – almost three years after it was recommended by a Senate inquiry.
RSPCA Australia senior scientific officer – companion animals – Dr Sarah Zito said 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.
“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,” she said.
Toxicology testing on meat processed by a Gippsland knackery has indicated that horse and camel meat from the Northern Territory contained a plant toxin called indospicine that has a traumatic effect on the livers of dogs.
Dr Zito said in June 2018, the Federal Government led a national review of pet food safety regulation.
“However, over three years later, the Government still has not provided their final report or outlined a way forward.”
She said the current self-regulation fails to protect Australian pets from unsafe pet food.
“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.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
“This has dragged on long enough, and we must act now to prevent future tragedy. The Federal Government must outline a clear way forward to establishing Government regulation of pet food in Australia.”
It is now three years since a Senate inquiry recommended a mandatory Pet Food Standard to ensure pet food quality and safety.
AVA PetFAST representative Dr Sue Foster said all pets in Australia should have access to safe, high-quality food, that adheres to animal welfare standards in regards to processing.
“Pet owners should have confidence that the food they’re buying is safe and that if an unexpected problem arises, there will be prompt and regulated recall.”
The AVA said it strongly recommends that nation-wide government regulation of pet food is established and that the Australian Standard AS5812 becomes mandatory. This would provide confidence for pet owners and their veterinarians that all pet foods are produced to the same high standard, the AVA said.