The one thing that consumers can pretty much depend on in the regulation of pet food is the words and the numbers printed on a pet food label. It doesn’t sound like much, but actually it can be helpful to consumers.
To take full advantage of the enforcement we get, consumers need to understand a couple of things.
- The words (and numbers) on a pet food label are highly scrutinized by regulatory authorities, the website is not.
- Regulatory authorities consider pet food websites to be an extension of the pet food label.
With #1: The one thing consumers can pretty much depend on being regulated in pet food is the label; the words printed on a pet food label (misleading pictures are not enforced). On a yearly basis, pet food manufacturers are required to register each product they sell in each state they sell in – and labels for each product sold must be submitted for inspection. State authorities (most) have a check list of pertinent things that the label must include. If something required is missing, the label will be rejected – the product will not be able to be sold.
Things that the pet food label must include are intended species (such as for a cat or dog), Guaranteed analysis, quantity statement/weight, pet food company name and address, feeding directions, calorie content and a listing of ingredients.
And…to our advantage, regulatory authorities closely scrutinize any claims made on a pet food label…such as significant words to educated pet food consumers ‘USDA inspected and approved meat’ and ‘Human Grade’. If a claim is made on the actual pet food label – regulatory authorities require sufficient verification from the manufacturer to the validity of the claim.
Using this example of a Human Grade claim printed on the pet food label, consumers can trust that regulatory authorities have fully verified all ingredients are human edible, all supplements are human grade and the pet food is manufactured in a licensed human food facility.
But what about a website? With #2 mentioned above: Pet food regulatory authorities consider “brochures, point of sale materials, websites” to be an extension of the pet food label. In other words – pet food brochures, point of sale materials, and websites should abide by all label regulations and should be thoroughly inspected by regulatory authorities (emphasis on the word ‘should’). Using this example…
How does a consumer know if the claim of ‘USDA inspected meats’ is true?
Knowing that regulatory authorities closely scrutinize the actual label, not the website – to help verify if a claim touted on a website is true, check to see if the same claim is on the pet food label.
If there is no ‘USDA inspected meats’ claim on the actual pet food label, a consumer can safely assume the claim has not been verified by regulatory authorities. Before you believe the website claim, ask the company for proof. They CAN and SHOULD be able to provide you with certain verification of their claim (such as copies of quality guarantees from their suppliers, copies of recent invoices, and/or the USDA inspection number of the facility the meat is sourced from).
Remember, regulatory considers the website (and brochures) an extension of the pet food label; claims on a website are required by law to be truthful and the company is required by law to provide verification of that claim. If they don’t, report that pet food website to your State Department of Agriculture (you can find your state authority Here). Explain the pet food made a claim that they would not verify to you, ask for their assistance.
Pictures and Made in the USA claim
Unfortunately for pet food consumers, pictures of choice cuts of meat printed on a pet food label or displayed on a pet food website are NOT scrutinized by regulatory. Images that mislead consumers are a violation of pet food regulations, but authorities have chosen NOT to enforce these laws. As well, the Made in the USA claim is not scrutinized. Law requires the claim to mean all (or virtually all) ingredients including supplements originate from the US and the product itself to be made in the US. But…authorities have chosen NOT to enforce these laws.
Do not depend on the validity of pictures or Made in the USA claim on pet food labels or websites. Ask the pet food company for verification of the claim.
One more thing…
The claim ‘USDA inspected meats’ or ‘sourced from USDA facilities’ means absolutely nothing. These claims give consumers no guarantee to quality of ingredients. Rejected for use in human food meats are ‘inspected’ and fail inspection – they are not ‘inspected and approved’ for human consumption. Ingredients that fail inspection are ‘sourced from USDA facilities’. Don’t assume claims like these guarantee you a quality meat is being used in the pet food. The claim Human Grade or USDA inspected and approved – if verified – are your guarantee to quality.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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