Pet food safety controls in Australia
This chapter provides a more comprehensive overview of the main controls
in place with regard to pet food safety in Australia. It includes a discussion
of the differences between state and territory laws, as well as the interaction
with import and export regulation, consumer law, and laws pertaining to therapeutic
and medicinal goods. An overview of international regulatory frameworks for pet
food is also provided.
Australia's pet food industry is self-regulated against a voluntary Australian
Standard for pet food manufacturing and marketing. The standard is administered
by the PFIAA through a Letter of Exchange Agreement with DAWR. The agreement is
audited on an annual basis by the DAWR Compliance Integrity Unit to ensure
adequacy for export arrangements with overseas markets. This arrangement is similar to that adopted by the rendering industry.
It is worth noting that the PFIAA has no staff, and consists of one
part-time executive manager who provides all services relating to the
administration of the standard. It also has an unpaid executive committee
(described as 'honorary volunteers') drawn from industry:
Under that [standard certification] process, we provide
documentation to auditors and companies. We answer inquiries regarding AS 5812
process and requirements. We do assessment of returned audit summaries—they're
assessed by me, and then I personally issue those certificated to the companies
and send copies to the government for companies that are exporters. I maintain
the register of registered companies. I maintain a register of
The Australian Standard applies to both domestic and imported
manufactured pet food products. In order to prevent the introduction of foreign
animal diseases, imported products are also subject to official animal and
plant biosecurity risk assessments and associated import requirements.
Although compliance with the Australian Standard is encouraged, it is
not mandatory. Companies wishing to comply and receive accreditation under the
standard must undergo assessments conducted by an independent, qualified
auditor. The auditor's role is to inspect the manufacturing premises and assess
conformance with processes and labelling, as specified in the Australian
Standard. The annual audit and accreditation program administered by the PFIAA
- certification issued to members on receipt of the audit report,
signed by an approved third party auditor;
- listing of accredited members on PFIAA's website; and
- approved use of AS 5812 compliance on marketing materials and
As the Australian Standard is voluntary, it recognises that
manufacturers may be able to achieve the same quality assurance through
alternative means. However, all processes, whether achieved through the
provisions of the standard, or an alternative, must be validated against a Hazard
Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) quality assurance system.
Compliance with the Australian
Standard – Accreditation and audit procedures
As previously noted, the PFIAA estimated that 95 per cent of prepared
pet food (by volume) sold in Australia is made by its members. Its membership
consists of 63 companies, including 29 manufacturing members, nine marketing
members, and 25 allied industry members. As part of its statement of purpose, the objective of PFIAA is to 'promote the
prepared pet food industry in general and the interests of the members of the
Association', amongst other things.
Under the current arrangements, PFIAA provides oversight of the pet food
industry. A key element of this oversight is the accreditation system provided to
members which (by way of a third party independent audit) are able to demonstrate
compliance with the Australian Standard. Once compliance is demonstrated,
member manufacturers are entitled to declare their certification, and are
listed on the PFIAA website. 
The AVA explained that the PFIAA's compliance certification is similar
to the Heart Foundation tick, in that it operates as a means of gaining a
market 'tick of approval'.
Further, the committee was told that in circumstances where a breach of
the standard is found, the PFIAA is required to report to DAWR under a Letter
of Exchange agreement. Notification must occur within 24 hours of the breach
being detected and the manufacturer is required to correct the critical defect
prior to recertification.
In addition to the audit requirements set out by the PFIAA, the
committee was informed that individual manufacturing companies, particularly
those with overseas affiliations, may conduct additional assessments of their
pet food. At a public hearing in Sydney, Mars Petcare told the committee that
it applies a globally consistent recall policy and process to all its business
units around the world. In Australia, it is validated and accredited by Lloyd's
Register Quality Assurance.
Nestlé also advised the committee about the 3500 quality and safety
tests it conducts on the factory floor each day. These include nutritional
analysis, online testing, post-production testing and hygiene checks for
personnel. Both major manufacturers – Nestlé and Mars Petcare – noted that the recall
process applied to their products is the same for both pet food and human food.
In its submission to the inquiry, the PFIAA further clarified that that
it was currently in the process of revising its auditing and document
management processes for Australian Standard accreditation. According to the
PFIAA, this work is being done in partnership with an external not-for-profit
company and 'has the potential to enhance' the current accreditation process.
The changes, to be implemented by late 2018, are expected to include a
requirement for auditors to be Exemplar Global accredited, and audit operations
to be JAS-ANZ accredited.
State and territory legislation
As state and territory governments retain primary responsibility for
food safety regulation, there are some variances in how the regulation of pet
food is administered across jurisdictions. One reason for this is that pet meat was once subject to a different Australian
standard—the Standard for the Hygienic Production of Pet Meat (pet meat
standard) developed through the Primary Industry Standards Committee Technical
Report 88. As noted in Chapter 1, pet meat was incorporated into the pet
food standard in November 2017.
While state and territory laws aim to ensure the safety of meat for
human consumption, the legislation also includes provisions which consider the
directing of animal products from the human food supply chain into the pet
meat/food supply chain. Therefore, the requirement to label raw pet meat as 'unfit
for human consumption' is consistent across all jurisdictions. However, no
single jurisdiction has specific legislation in place to deal with manufactured
Pet food labelling requirements are regulated in some jurisdictions.
However, with the exception of Queensland, no other jurisdiction has provisions
in place to require manufacturers to state the actual ingredients or methods of
processing pet food products on their product labels.
As part of its 2012 review of pet food controls, the PFCWG received statements
from state and territory members regarding a possible regulatory approach to
processed pet food. An overview of these statements is provided below:
A statutory agency, Safe Food Production Queensland, regulates the
primary production and processing of meat, eggs, dairy, seafood and
horticulture in Queensland through the Queensland Food Production (Safety)
Act 2000 and Food Production (Safety) Regulation 2014. The Regulation sets
out the Food Safety Scheme for Meat and Meat Products, and the Dairy Food
Safety Scheme, both of which reference pet food and set standards for
The Food Safety Scheme for Meat and Meat Products requires that all meat
must be handled and processed to a human consumption standard, until such time
that a decision is made to divert the meat to the animal consumption supply
chain. In its submission to the inquiry, Safe Food Production Queensland reiterated
that there is 'no "second class system" or less stringent standard'
for producing meat for animal consumption, as opposed to meat for human
consumption, in its jurisdiction.
As a member of the PFCWG in 2009–12, Safe Food Production Queensland
stated that it would not enforce the pet meat standard, as it conflicts with
the state regulation already in place.
In Victoria, the Meat Industry Regulations 2015 establish labelling
requirements for pet food packaging. As per AS5812:2017, pet food that is
prepared for retail sale must be labelled as 'pet food only', and display a
picture of the whole of the body, or the head, of a dog or a cat. No additional
regulations exist for the manufacture of meat used in pet foods.
In its statement to the PFCWG, the Victorian Department of Primary
Industries emphasised the need to consider the impact of a regulated approach
to pet food safety, particularly for businesses. It suggested that a business
impact assessment be undertaken, as well as a national regulation impact statement,
in accordance with the Commonwealth Government's Office of Best Practice
New South Wales (NSW)
The NSW Food Regulation 2015 makes a number of references to the pet
meat standard. Knackeries are required to comply with the relevant standards
specified in the pet meat standard, as are animal food processing plants,
animal food field depots, animal food vans, and animal food field harvesting
vans. In addition, general operational hygiene requirements also adhere to those
set out in the pet meat standard.
In response to the PFCWG, the NSW Department of Primary Industries advised
that a critical review process was required before any new regulatory measures
for pet food were initiated.
According to the Western Australian Department of Health, pet meat manufactured
and distributed in Western Australia is produced and processed under lower
standards than food produced for human consumption. Pet meat must therefore be
clearly labelled as 'Pet Meat – Not For Human Consumption'. The food
regulations also require pet meat to be stained with blue dye to distinguish it
from meat for human consumption.
Western Australian representatives on the PFCWG stated that there is a
need for a more consistent approach to the management of pet food
contamination. They acknowledged that, although the standard was likely to be a
good marketing tool for pet food manufacturers, a self-regulated industry would
not be able to address problems associated with imported goods. They also drew
attention to the fact that imported products could not be regulated without
established domestic pet food regulation.
Although conscious of the need for industry support and funding, Western
Australia put forward the view that a recall framework would likely decrease
the number of pets affected by pet food related disease/intoxication.
In Tasmania, the Primary Produce Safety (Pet Food) Regulations 2014
require commercial pet food producers to be accredited. Producers that
slaughter animals or birds, or process carcasses for the production of pet food
are included in this category. Accredited producers must comply with relevant
standards; hold an accreditation for their business which covers the supply,
production or processing of pet food; and prepare and implement an approved
food safety program which is audited at least once a year.
In its statement to the PFCWG, Tasmanian representatives noted that
self-regulation or co-regulation of the pet food industry is preferred. The
need for a central reporting point to capture data on adverse pet food events, and
the need for an efficient recall framework, were also highlighted.
The governments of South Australia, the Northern Territory, and the
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) did not provide member statements to the Pet
Food Controls Working Group. With the exception of the ACT, these jurisdictions
require adherence to the existing pet meat standard.
As part of its inquiry, the committee also considered the numerous laws
that interact with the process of manufacturing, supplying, and selling pet
food. These include laws pertaining to importation and biosecurity, consumer
goods, food safety, product safety, therapeutic and medicinal foods and pet
The regulatory requirements imposed by DAWR under the Biosecurity Act
2015 regarding imported pet food vary depending on the level of quarantine
risk posed by the product. The biosecurity assessment is made as part of the
import permit application process, and is based on the ingredients contained in
the pet food, the country of origin and manufacture, and the heat treatment
applied to the product.
According to DAWR, assessments of biosecurity risk in imported pet food
products include consideration of:
- regulatory oversight of the overseas manufacturer;
- quality systems employed by the manufacturer and the components
of these systems that contribute to biosecurity risk management;
- biological ingredients used to manufacture products;
- biological materials held on site but not used to manufacture
- treatments applied during manufacture which manage contamination
Following an assessment of relevant documents, an on-site audit may be
conducted. The objective of this type of audit is to verify that the
manufacturer effectively embeds all relevant aspects of their quality
management system into their production processes, thereby ensuring that the product
exported to Australia meets requirements.
Issues such as product shelf life, nutritional completeness,
contamination with non-biological foreign bodies, or chemical residues are not
taken into consideration during the department's biosecurity risk assessment.
DAWR is also responsible for providing certification for pet food
products destined for export in accordance with the Export Control Act 1982 and supporting export regulations. The regulations differ for pet foods,
according to the type of food and destination. The department oversees a range
of regulatory activities for prescribed and non-prescribed pet foods for export
which may include:
- declarations of Australia's freedom from serious livestock
- an Australian Government certification of safety, labelling or
chemical residue matters;
- establishment auditing and inspection;
- verifying pre-export testing; and
- providing export documentation, which may include an export
Some export markets require demonstrated compliance with the Australian
Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food (AS 5812). In these
cases, DAWR will monitor the exporter's compliance with the standard by
overseeing and auditing a third party accreditation system in partnership with
Australian Consumer Law provides the relevant Minister with the authority
to order a compulsory recall of a consumer good if a mandatory standard is not
met or the suppliers of the goods have not taken 'satisfactory action to
prevent those goods causing injury to any person'. However, the policy does not
make mention of the remedies available when injury is inflicted upon a pet,
such as if a pet food is found to be mouldy or contaminated.
In addition to the problems associated with pet food being considered a
consumer product, there are also complications with regard to the way pets
themselves are considered under the law. Australian Consumer Law covers the
purchase of a pet in the same way that other consumer goods are covered. This
requires the seller to ensure the pet is of acceptable quality, fit for
purpose, and accurately described. If there is a problem with a pet, such as a
terminal or serious health issue, the consumer is entitled to particular
remedies. However, submitters pointed out that the law as it stands does not operate in a
way that is logical to consumers. Ms Sarah Agar from CHOICE explained:
When you buy a toaster, if it's faulty, you can take it back
to the store and get a refund, and that's a good remedy, but, when your pet
food is faulty, your pet can die, and there are not appropriate remedies in
place for consumers and pet owners who are in that situation. People should be
able to trust that the pet food they buy is safe and won't harm their pets, but
we can see that this currently isn't the case.
Notwithstanding these limitations, Australian Consumer Law does:
- contain prohibitions in relation to false and misleading
statements (which extend to labelling, advertising and consumer guarantees made
in relation to pet food products);
- require that products are fit for purpose (and that manufacturers
or suppliers in breach of these provisions may be subject to relevant penalties
and remedies); and
- set out a framework for voluntary recall of products by
manufacturers or suppliers.
Therapeutic and medicinal foods
Foods that are designed to help pets with certain medical conditions,
such as kidney disease and diabetes, but do not contain any medicine, are
considered therapeutic foods. Previously, the APVMA regulated therapeutic pet
foods and conducted testing to verify the claims made by pet food manufacturers
and to ensure that the evidence regarding the benefits of the food was sound.
However, as part of changes introduced in 2015, therapeutic pet foods now fall
under the voluntary standard for pet food and are no longer regulated
The APVMA does however retain regulatory oversight over supplements and
medicines consumed by pets. These include pharmaceutical products,
complementary medicines and supplements (e.g. vitamins or glucosamine), and
pesticides (e.g. worm and flea treatments).
The rendering industry is self-regulated under a Code of Practice first
developed in 1996 and most recently reviewed in 2017 through the Primary
Industry Ministerial Council and the Primary Industries Standing Committee.
To build on the Code of Practice, the rendering industry is now
developing the code into a recognised Australian Standard for administration by
the Australian Meat Regulators Group.
A number of state and territory regulators enforce the rendering
standards through the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Rendering of Animal
Products. For example, the NSW Food Authority requires rendering plants to meet
the relevant standards, apply for a licence, and consent to routine inspections
The Feed Ingredients and Additives Association of Australia (FIAAA) is
the peak industry organisation representing suppliers of feed ingredients and
additives. It provides 'stewardship' to the industry by administering the FIAAA
Code of Practice, a formal recall procedure, and acting as a contact point for
the FAMI-QS scheme, which is an internationally recognised feed certification
With regard to the pet food industry, the PFIAA guidelines recommend
adoption of the FIAAA Code of Practice, which is referred to in the pet food
standard. Additionally, the Stock Feed Manufacturers Council of Australia
automatically accepts FIAAA accredited suppliers on the basis that they have
fulfilled the APVMA's requirements on suppliers for self-assessment.
The FIAAA is working with DAWR on a proposal for a National Feed
Standard to underpin the existing Code of Practice. The FIAAA stated in this
While the industry does not want any unnecessary increase in
regulation, a standard would be a means of addressing risks along the supply
chain to both pet and human food.
While concluding that 'it is not necessary for regulation to be
complicated', the FIAAA suggested that there 'may be benefit in strengthening
self-regulation' without adding to the regulatory burden.
Having explored the suite of legislation and regulation impacting on the
pet food industry in Australia, the remainder of this chapter will focus on
regulatory frameworks for pet food around the world.
International models of pet food regulation
Evidence provided by submitters drew the committee's attention to the
operation of regulatory frameworks in the US, Europe, and Japan. The common
factors across these systems include the existence of an established regulator
of pet food, reporting and tracking systems, and requirements for business and
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has
responsibility for regulating pet food. Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic
Act, all food for animals must be safe to eat, produced under sanitary
conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labelled. Some
states also regulate the licencing of manufacturers and labelling of pet food in
accordance with to their respective state laws and rules.
Like the PetFAST system in Australia, the USFDA administers the Pet
Event Tracking Network (PETNet), which allows the USFDA, as well as federal and
state agencies, to share information about pet food related incidents to
determine a regulatory response. The purpose of PETNet is to prevent or limit
adverse effects associated with harmful pet food products.
The USFDA has powers to investigate customer complaints and conduct
inspections of pet food business facilities. Business operators can have their
registration suspended if their products are found to pose a serious health threat.
The USFDA can also enforce recalls if pet foods are found to be harmful.
In the US, pet food recalls are covered under the same regulatory
process as human food through the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Part
7. Recalls are categorised into Class I, II or III, based upon the severity or
health implication. Companies are legally required to provide notification of a
Class I recall event through the Reportable Food Registry, which usually
initiates contact with the USFDA and results in a subsequent recall of the
product in question.
There are three types of recalls. Recalls can be conducted on the
initiative of a company, by USFDA request, or by order under statutory
authority. The USFDA must first establish that there is a 'reasonable
probability' that the food is adulterated or misbranded, and that the use of,
or exposure to, such food will cause serious adverse health consequences to
humans or animals.
According to some submitters, the mere existence of a recall authority has
encouraged US manufacturers to pull products from shelves before government
intervention is required. In 2018 alone, more than 20 pet foods were recalled from American retail
shelves, with the large majority of them initiated by the manufacturers. By way
of comparison, there have been only two voluntary recalls of pet food in
Australia in two years.
In addition to these measures, direct consumer reporting is available
through an online portal (www.safetyreporting.hss.gov). According to Nestlé, this mechanism has proven to be a 'measured approach' that
can be implemented 'at reasonable cost' and can 'help sustain both transparency
and pet owner confidence'. The portal also allows the USFDA to maintain visibility
of potential problems in order to take action before they become widespread.
While the USFDA has federal regulatory authority, pet food and treats
are also regulated in individual states by respective departments of
agriculture. To facilitate uniform interpretation and enforcement of state
regulations, many of the states follow the model laws and regulations set out
by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Through a memorandum of understanding with the USFDA, AAFCO provides
definitions for all pet food and animal feed ingredients and sets nutrient
profiles for dogs and cats. The profiles are updated periodically, with the
last revision occurring in 2016. Under the AAFCO guidelines, pet food
manufacturers can achieve nutritional adequacy by meeting its Dog and Cat Food Nutrient
Profile standards; or by conducting feeding trials in accordance with
standardised feed testing methodology.
As an organisation of state and federal regulators, the AAFCO provides a
forum for control officials, industry associations and consumer groups to meet
in partnership and discuss issues such as:
- uniform and equitable laws;
- standards and regulations;
definitions and enforcement policies for manufacturers; and
- labelling, distribution and sale of pet food products.
AAFCO remains the recognised information source for pet food labelling
standards, ingredient definitions, official terminology, and standardised feed
testing methodology. The Pet Food Committee of AAFCO meets biannually to monitor, review and
recommend appropriate revisions to the AAFCO Official Publication – the
founding document for animal feed regulation in the US, which is now officially
recognised in the Australian pet food Standard.
Europe operates a co-regulated system for pet food, whereby industry
works with government and other stakeholders to develop requirements for the manufacturing
of pet food.
Pet food safety is overseen by the European Commission Directorate
General for Health and Food Safety, and Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 provides
an official control to ensure the verification of compliance with animal feed
and food law, animal health, and animal welfare rules. Additional regulations
covering the sample and analysis of feed for control purposes are also in
The European Commission requires pet food businesses engaged in the
production, processing, storage and distribution of pet food products to
register with the relevant authority in their country. A set of hygiene and
quality control requirements regarding the manufacturing facility, equipment,
personnel, record keeping, complaints handling and recall of products must be
met. If the manufacturer knows or 'has reasons to believe' that a product is unsafe,
a recall of the product in question is mandatory.
The EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) provides an early
warning and reporting system for human and animal food products. However,
unlike PetFAST alerts, which are only available to members of the PFIAA and
AVA, RASFF alerts are available to the public and are published on a website. In 2016, RASFF reported over 14 alert notifications of serious health risks related
to pet food products; 20 border rejection notifications; eight information
notifications; and eight follow-up notifications.
To avoid pet food safety incidents, pet food companies in Europe are
legally required to inform the relevant government authority of any adverse
events. The government authority then informs the European Commission of such
events and of instances where non-compliance is discovered. While the
government authority of each country (typically the department of agriculture)
can force mandatory product recalls, the European Commission cannot.
The European Pet Food Industry Federation, known as FEDIAF, has a
complementary role in the regulatory system. The European Commission recognises
and endorses the standard developed by FEDIAF with regard to the manufacture of
safe pet foods. FEDIAF also monitors RASFF alerts and can be involved in discussions with European
authorities if the alert is relevant to the pet food industry. It may then work
with the European Commission to develop a workable outcome for the industry.
Additional nutritional information about pet food is available through
FEDIAF's 'Guidelines for Complete and Complementary Pet Food for Cats and Dogs'
publication. Although the guidelines are neither mandatory nor enforced, they
are considered a complementary resource for manufacturers and consumers.
Following a series of safety incidents involving melamine contamination
of dog food, the Japanese Government passed the Law for Ensuring the Safety
of Pet Food in June 2008. The law requires pet food manufacturers and importers to notify the Ministry of
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Minister of the Environment,
before initiating business operations.
The responsible ministries have established standards, including
requirements for the production of pet food, prevention of harmful substances
and product labelling to which such businesses must adhere. On-site inspections
are permitted through legislation, as is the sample testing of pet food
products. If standards are not met, fines and/or imprisonment may apply.
In Singapore, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority has responsibility
for regulation of human and animal food. It administers a mandatory licencing
scheme for local manufacturers and importers of animal feed, and imposes strict
controls on imported pet food through the Feeding Stuffs Act (Singapore).
Conditions on licencing include ensuring that pet food products are wholesome,
safe for feeding, and free from prohibited substances. Licensees must also
comply with product labelling requirements, maintain relevant product records,
and keep facilities clean and tidy.
Import permits are required of all importers prior to importation of pet
food products. Products containing meat or meat products are subject to
additional requirements, such as a health certification provided by a
veterinary professional, or certification that the product is free from
biosecurity hazards and diseases. Breaches of the specified legislation can
result in licence suspension, revocation of a business licence (without prior
notice), fines or imprisonment.
Ministerial responsibility for pet food in New Zealand is held by the
Minister for Primary Industries. Under the Agricultural Compounds and
Veterinary Medicines Act 1997 (New Zealand), pet food is classed as an oral
nutritional compound and must comply with a set of requirements for
manufacture, sale, import, export, and use. Other requirements set out in the Animal Products Act 1999 (New Zealand)
and the Biosecurity Act 1993 (New Zealand) may also apply.
With regard to a recall framework, the Animal Products Act 1999 (New
Zealand) states that the Director General is able to direct a recall if a
product is deemed not fit for purpose, or where a product's fitness is in doubt,
such as through mislabelling.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page