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Dog Food Recalls in Australia: What You Need to Know

A dog smelling multi-colored kibble

The last thing you want to find out is that the food you’ve been feeding your dog could be causing them harm. Unfortunately, dog food recalls in Australia happen more often than everyone would hope. So, as a dog parent, the best you can often do is proactively feed your dog a healthy diet that is less likely to end up on the recall list and stay current with the most recent recalls. 

To help dog owners keep their furry friends safe, we’ve put together the most common patterns and culprits when it comes to pet food recalls in Australia. From there, we provide guidelines on how to choose a dog food brand and recipe that is least likely to become recalled.

Why Are Some Dog Foods and Dog Treats Recalled?

A bowl of kibble with recall on it

In most cases, dog foods are recalled because they pose a health threat to dogs that eat them. This often includes different forms of food poisoning, an issue related to malnutrition, or too much of a certain ingredient leading to serious health issues. For example, Hill’s Pet Nutrition recalled over 20 different canned recipes because they potentially contained toxically high levels of Vitamin D [1]. The FDA then tested a sample of Hill’s canned foods and recalled an additional 19 varieties that presented a threat of Vitamin D toxicity.

However, in some rare cases, the packaging may present a handling danger or the packaging may fail to keep the food fresh and safe. There are also some cases were foreign materials, such as bits of plastic, are found in pet food. At times, there are also recalls linked to distribution facilities (often related to rodent activity and feces).

Finally, some dog foods are recalled due to mislabelling or inaccurate claims on packaging.

Why Are Dog Food Recalls Tricky Business?

Simply put: It’s the responsibility of pet food manufacturers.

Often, pet food manufacturers are responsible for notifying agencies responsible for officially recalling the products. In Australia, this agency is The Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA). This is because the manufacturers are often the first to find out there’s a problem based on customers reaching out regarding issues–and because Australia does not have a government agency that tracks and investigates pet food dangers. That is, unlike the U.S.’s FDA recall system, there is no mandatory recall system in Australia.

To make matters even more frightening for pet owners, meeting pet food standards set by the PFIAA in Australia is still voluntary.

The Dog Food Recall Call Process in Australia

As of now, one of the most reliable ways for pet food problems to be reported, tracked, and analyzed is through a system called PetFAST. THE PFIAA and Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) created this system, and it’s only used by veterinarians to report issues to the PFIAA as of now [2].

How Does PetFAST work? 

If a pattern arises in relation to a specific pet food, a committee composed of members from the PFIAA and AVA will meet, investigate, and then decide if action should be taken.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Food Brand is Recalled?

If your dog’s food winds up on a recall list, the first action you must discontinue feeding it to your dog ASAP. In most cases, you can then bring the remainder of the food back to the store where you purchased it for a refund. 

You will want to contact your vet if the recall reason is quite serious and your dog has been eating the recalled food for some time. It’s also a great idea to look up the symptoms related to the recall reason, in case your dog presents symptoms. For example, if your dog had been eating the Hill’s canned food that was recalled for Vitamin D toxicity, you would want to know the signs of said illness.

Common Patterns in Recalled Dog Foods

A dog food manufacturing facility with meat on a conveyor belt and workers

While there are no hard-and-fast rules for avoiding a brand that may get recalled, you should be aware of the most common patterns found in recalled dog foods in Australia. These include:

      • Lack of quality control at the manufacturing site
      • Lack of in-house testing of foods before entering the market for sale
      • Low-quality ingredients
      • Toxins–most often mould on grains
      • Salmonella contamination (most often found in pig ears and rawhide)
      • Pathogens, including euthanasia drugs from low standards and ovesight when sourcing ingredients

How to Choose a Pet Food That’s Low-Risk for Recall

A dog licking his chops with a bowl of dog food in front of him

So, how can dog owners protect their best friends by being proactive? First, you will want to keep an eye on active recall lists such as the Canine Bible’s and the FDA’s. Keep in mind that not all pet food recalls wind up in the news. However, the best way to prevent your dog from dining on dangerous food is to follow these guidelines:

#1 Research the Dog Food’s Source of Ingredients

Mould can be fatal to dogs–and is one of the more common toxic contaminates in dog food. So, it’s best to avoid buying dog food with ingredients that are transported long distances to the manufacturing facility.

Furthermore, some countries have a low threshold for what is considered ‘safe’ when it comes to fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Countries that are known for using animal waste on their crops should be avoided.

Additionally, simpler is often better. The fewer the source countries for a recipe’s ingredients, the easier the oversight is.

#2 Find Out Where the Food is Manufactured–Opt for Australian-Made

    In addition to finding out where a company sources its ingredients, you will want to look into where they transform those ingredients into your dog’s diet. Again, many countries are known for lax oversight and looser safety standards. China is the most-sited example of this.

    While it may not seem to directly affect your dog’s food, it’s important to keep in mind the labor conditions of the people making your dog’s food do play a part in the safety. For example, if a person is working 14 hours on their feet, fatigue is likely to set in and serious issues could result. This can include mishandling tests or even not seeing foreign objects pass by on a conveyor belt.

    #3 Check Review of the Food Before You Purchase

      As we pointed out, it’s up to the pet food company to recall their food through the guidelines set by the PFIAA. The level of severity to initiate a recall can be left up to the interpretation of the pet food company–and the process can take some time.

      To protect your dog, reading through a pet food’s reviews can give you insight into if it caused other dog’s health issues. Just keep in mind that many dogs have allergies to certain ingredients–and switching to a new food can cause digestive issues. So look for patterns of issues beyond these such as vet visits.

      #4 Find Out if the Brand or Parent Company Has a History of Recalls

        While any brand can incur a recall, there are some VIPs that wind up on the recall list several times. This is often because of where they’re sourcing their ingredients and manufacturing. 

        #5 Opt for Higher-Quality Ingredients

          It’s often true that you get what you pay for. Pet foods are no exception. When you choose a dog food that uses higher quality ingredients from reputable sources, part of what you’re paying for is trusted oversight and practices. Companies that carefully source their ingredients have an easier time tracing issues back to specific farms or suppliers. 

          The one exception to this from time to time is organic ingredients. While not all organic ingredients are unsafe, they are 4 to 8 times more likely to be recalled [3].

          Don’t Let Your Dog Become a Victim of a Pet Food Recall

          When it comes to dog food recalls, it can be a matter of life and death for your best friend. As a dog parent, it’s best to be proactive and invest in a dog food you know is safe. Always opt for a trusted dog food brand that sources its ingredients with your dog in mind.