Pet food is essentially self-regulated with voluntary industry standards applied through the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA). In 2011 the industry code of practice was replaced with the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food (AS 5812–2011), which has since been updated to the Australian Standard (AS 5812-2017) for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food.
RSPCA Australia worked with other key stakeholders to develop the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food (AS 5812–2017). RSPCA Australia was also represented on the Primary Industries Ministerial Council Pet Food Controls Working group.
A number of pet food product safety incidents over the previous years have raised some concerns about pet food safety. A longstanding pet food/pet meat safety issue in Australia relates to the use of sulphur dioxide and sodium and potassium sulphite preservatives. These can cause thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency, which can be fatal. Products specifically marketed for pets such as commercial ‘pet meat’; ‘pet mince’ or ‘pet food rolls’ may contain sulphite or potassium sulphite preservatives that liberate sulphur dioxide.
Thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency can occur when dogs and cats are fed on a diet containing sulphite preservatives. Thiamine deficiency causes severe neurological symptoms and can be fatal. For decades, sulphite preservative induced thiamine deficiency has been frequently recognised by the Australian Veterinary profession.
The Australian Standard for Manufactured Pet Food AS 5812 contains clauses that address the sulphite issue by including a mandatory requirement that any product containing sulphur dioxide, sulphite or potassium sulphites must contain sufficient thiamine according to AAFCO guidelines, for the entire shelf-life of the product. This will help to prevent thiamine deficiency in relation to pet food/pet meat that complies with AS5812.
However, RSPCA Australia still has concerns about ‘pet meat’ products and any other product that does not voluntarily comply with the Australian Pet Food Standard AS5812 in relation to the use of sulphite preservatives.
Regulations for ‘pet meat’ products are currently inadequate. Pet meat manufacturers must ensure they take steps to safeguard pets from thiamine deficiency by ensuring that any product containing sulphur dioxide, sulphite or potassium sulphites contains sufficient thiamine according to AAFCO guidelines, for the entire shelf-life of the product. This is the requirement for any pet food product that complies with the Australian Pet Food Standard and should be the requirement for any ‘raw pet meat’ products or any other food intended for cats and dogs.