Originally published September 30 2008 – updated and republished August 14, 2014.

A recent article posted on The Consumerist website brings up a very good point (and lesson) that pet owners should take note of…

The article comes from a pet owner whose Yorkie became ill, and after a couple of days in the vet’s office, the owner looked at her Eukanuba canned food and realized it had expired 3 years ago. When she checked the cupboard she discovered several other cans of dog food – all recently purchased at PetCo – had expiration dates from 2004. Here is the link to the story – http://consumerist.com/2007/10/19/petco-sells-dog-food-that-expired-3-years-ago/

What happened to this pet owner (and pet) can easily happen to anyone. How many times have you purchased something and never looked at the expiration date?

With pet food – somewhere on the can or bag, usually on the side or back of the bag – is the ‘Best By’ date. With most of the manufacturers that I have spoken with, this date does NOT mean the food is officially expired – it just means that the food does not provide the nutrition as stated in the Guaranteed Analysis. The ‘best’ nutrition for your pet has expired – but again in most cases – per what the manufacturers tell me – the food is still ‘good’.

Shelf life varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. The shelf life of dry pet foods can vary from 4 months to 3 years – canned and/or pouched products vary from 1 year to 5 years. Treats usually have the same shelf life as the manufacturer’s dry food – but just to keep things confusing, that can vary too. The ‘Best By’ date provided on the food – does NOT tell you how old the product is – it does NOT tell you when the food was manufactured. It only tells you the date that particular manufacturer has determined the food no longer provides the pet with the proper nutrition. While some ingredients in the food might still provide adequate nutrition – other ingredients have faded over time.

All pet foods that are naturally preserved begin to lose their nutritional value almost immediately after they are made. This is the drawback to natural preservatives (but the ONLY drawback – you ONLY want naturally preserved pet foods and treats for your pet ). So the challenge is to find a pet food that is very fresh. Our friends at AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials – rule makers of the pet food industry) have made that a little difficult for pet owners – adding to the challenge. Pet food manufacturers are not required to put the date the pet food was manufactured on the bag or can – ONLY the date that particular manufacturer has determined the food no longer is ‘best’. As I stated above – it varies a great deal from product to product – manufacturer to manufacturer.

Call your pet food’s manufacturer and ask them the shelf life of dry foods and canned foods. I know it’s a chore, just one more thing you have to do and look out for – but it is very important. You want what you pay for – quality nutrition for your pet – and a fresh product will provide that (of course you have to pay attention to ingredients too – but that is a whole different subject!). Get yourself into the habit of looking at the ‘Best By’ date BEFORE you purchase the pet food and or treat. Your effort will not only provide your pet with better nutrition – getting yourself into the habit of looking at the expiration date could just save you from an experience similar to the pet owner mentioned in the beginning of this article – and a sick pet.

 

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
TruthaboutPetFood.com
Association for Truth in Pet Food

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