Senate to inquire into problem-plagued pet food industry

20 June 2018

Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff today secured a Senate inquiry into the safety and regulation of the pet food industry in the wake of the most recent contamination case which has left over 100 dogs with debilitating megaesophegus, and caused the death of at least 17 pets.

Senator Griff said the death and disability of these valued pets had highlighted to consumers the poor state of regulation and oversight in the industry.  

“It’s ridiculous that people can pay up to $50 a kilo for premium pet food, thinking it’s the best, and yet they cannot have confidence it’s safe for their pet to eat,” Senator Griff said.

“This is a $4 billionindustry and it is self-regulated – it looks after its own compliance and its own recalls. It’s hardly a model for transparency and assured good practice.

“It’s the old ‘Dracula in charge of the blood bank’ problem and, frankly, we must do better. People are grieving the death of their pets, or face ongoing costs and guilt because their pets now have to live with an untreatable condition – all from what appears to be dog food purchased in the belief it was one of the better products available on the market.

Melbourne University’s U-Vet Hospital is continuing to investigate more than 100 cases of megaoesophagus in dogs fed Advance Dermocare, the product implicated in the deaths and disability of dogs around Australia since December 2017. It took three months for manufacturer Mars Petcare to initiate a voluntary recall of the product.

This follows other instances in recent years of mouldy and contaminated food – such as pieces of plastic and metal found in popular supermarket brands.

The terms of reference of Senator Griff’s inquiry (outlined below) will look at compliance, the adequacy of current labelling requirements, the system for implementing timely recalls and the effectiveness of the industry administered PetFAST system, as well as learnings from international approaches.

It will also consider whether there should be an independent body to provide oversight and regulate manufacturing.

“We need better accountability,” Senator Griff said. “We need to prioritise pets over profits.”

“Over 60% of Australian households own a pet, and yet there are no enforceable standards for pet food safety.  There is no framework to implement mandatory recalls. There are no real repercussions for manufacturers who fail to notify their industry body or the public of potential hazards and initiate product recalls within a reasonable time.

“It is time to fix this system.”

Senator Griff today successfully moved that -

The following matters be referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee for inquiry and report by 30 August 2018:

To inquire into and report on the possible regulatory approaches to ensure the safety of pet food, including both the domestic manufacture and importation of pet food, with particular reference to:

1. the uptake, compliance and efficacy of the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing & Marketing of Pet Food (AS5812:2017);

2. the labelling and nutritional requirements for domestically manufactured pet food;

3. the management, efficacy and promotion of the AVA-PFIAA administered PetFAST tracking system;

4. the feasibility of an independent body to regulate pet food standards, or an extension of FSANZ’s remit;

5. the voluntary and/or mandatory recall framework of pet food products;

6. the interaction of state, territory and federal legislation;

7. comparisons with international approaches to the regulation of pet food; and

8. any other related matters.

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