Minister ramps up pet food regulation as more dogs die
AUSTRALIA'S $4 billion pet food business is facing an imminent shake-up with industry members pushing for more power to regulate manufacturers, who currently have no obligation to recall products even when they kill or harm an animal.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, whose department is leading a working group into pet food regulation, has asked the group to expedite their work following a spate of deaths linked to premium brand Advance Dermocare.
The dry dog food was voluntarily recalled last year when it was linked with the condition megaesophagus - a disorder where the oesophagus becomes enlarged - causing the deaths of 17 dogs and feeding problems in 90 others.
"I'm a dog-owner myself and I think it's important we get this issue sorted," Mr Littleproud said.
Australia's pet food industry has increased in worth by 35 per cent since 2013 but there are still no laws governing pet food safety - only a voluntary standard which costs about $120 to purchase.
The Pet Food Industry Association of Australia, the peak body for pet food businesses that establishes and reviews industry standards, has 63 corporate members that are responsible for 90 per cent of industry turnover.
The Telegraph can also reveal five pet food manufacturers sit on the board of the PFIAA with the president and vice-president from Nestle Purina Petcare and Mars Petcare, which have a duopoly on the market.
The other board members are from 4Legs Pet Food Company, Diana Pet Food and Real Pet Food Company.
But despite the size of the industry, the PFIAA only has a part-time executive manager who oversees everything from maintaining stakeholder relations to handling public inquiries and running PetFAST, the only recall mechanism available.
Former executive manager Duncan Hall told a Senate inquiry it was "not a well-resourced association".
New executive manager Carolyn Macgill said the PFIAA "strongly encourages" members to be certified to the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food, adding that "this is the most significant focus of our activity".
RSPCA vet and PhD candidate Dr Bronwyn Orr said voluntary standards were "not acceptable".
"The whole system and supply chain - there's a bunch of holes and gaps in regulation that really need to be filled," Dr Orr said.