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Understanding your pet food labels

August 4, 2011
It is our responsibility as pet carers and responsible consumers to understand the food that we and our companions consume and understand the jargon written on our labels.
Balance and guaranteed analysis should not be the only standard set by the regulatory bodies, which is true in pet food, but also the quality and type of ingredients used.
The labelling is so complex and the script so small that it is no doubt that the consumer has no chance of understanding the label and deriving at an informed decision.  So often we read of preservatives, colourants, stabilizers and emulsifiers without really understanding what they are or mean. Other terminology that is used which leaves us confused is: “meal, digestives, by-products, fat, flavouring, etc.” Then there are ingredients that we do not know of and are worthy of understanding: “brewers rice, gluten, beet pulp” and the many added synthetic vitamins and minerals.
Remember, your pet food contains very little meat and most of the composition of your companion’s diet is made up from the “other”. This makes it even the more important that you understand what is in fact the bulk of your companion’s diet.
Most people pick up a bag of kibble or a can of food and read “with chicken or “with beef” and think that they are feeding a diet that contains plump whole chickens or choice cuts of beef. But the law is very clear: the “With” rule allows an ingredient name to appear on the label, such as “with real chicken,” as long as each such ingredient constitutes at least 3% of the food by weight, excluding water for processing. The “flavor” rule allows a food to be designated as a certain flavor as long as the ingredient(s) are sufficient to “impart a distinctive characteristic” to the food. Thus, a “beef flavor” food may contain a small quantity of digest or other extract of tissues from cattle, or even an artificial flavor, without containing any actual beef meat at all. The “dinner” product is defined by the “25% Rule,” which applies when “an ingredient or a combination of ingredients constitutes at least 25% of the weight of the product, (excluding water sufficient for processing)”, or at least 10% of the dry matter weight.Despite the fact that the pet food industry is a very regulated industry, and that all pet food has to be labelled in terms law, it was very clear that the industry has not been open, transparent and forthcoming with their labelling and ingredients.
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 Vondi’s Holistic Pet Nutrition is a registered nutritional pet food that is natural, wholesome and free of preservatives. www.vondis.co.za
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