Pet food products are highly regulated, from the ingredients used, through to production, marketing and sales. This need for tight regulation and control is only right. Pets are important family members, and just like children, they depend on us to provide safe, nourishing food that supports their lifelong health and wellbeing. The 2007 pet food recall due to melamine contamination brought pet food, and the ingredients used to make it, to the attention of the regulators and pet parents. Since then, other pet food recalls have unfortunately occurred, not only related to unsafe, poor quality ingredients, but also due to inappropriate vitamin inclusion.
Global regulations and pet food nutritional standards
In most countries, food products for consumption by pets are regulated by animal feed laws. Bodies such as the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) in the USA and the FEDIAF (European Pet Food Industry Federation), in the European Union (EU), provide additional support to the foundations of the regulations, either through development of legally binding directives or provision of self-guidance codes. AFFCO and FEDIAF both publish nutrient standards for pet foods to ensure the manufacture of nutritionally adequate products. At this moment in time, global pet nutrition requirements are not entirely harmonized.
The pet food distribution network is increasingly complex
Ambitious pet food manufacturers are now looking to grow outside of their normal regions and seek exciting opportunities for brand growth internationally. To implement this successfully, in a progressively competitive global environment, it is vital that nutritional adequacy and regulatory compliance is met. Deviations from these fundamental starting points will damage consumer trust in the brand, since the product could be recalled if not in compliance. Countries outside of the EU and USA will often adopt and include the AFFCO or FEDIAF nutritional guidelines as part of their pet food production regulations and standards. Safeguarding that a pet food products’ nutritional and quality standard is met in all markets, to attain compliance with each local regulation, therefore brings various challenges to brand owners.
Optimal Vitamin Nutrition bridges global guidelines for vitamins in cat and dog food products
Optimal Vitamin Nutrition or OVN® from DSM takes the AFFCO and FEDIAF guidelines into account but is not limited by them. The lower OVN levels are set to meet NRC (National Research Council), AFFCO or FEDIAF vitamin amounts, whichever is the highest, at any given life-stage. Table 1 shows how the lower OVN® vitamin guidelines were set using the published NRC, FEDIAF and AFFCO vitamin requirements. By at least targeting to attain these lower OVN® levels in pet foods, brand owners can be assured their products will meet all vitamin requirements set by most global and local regulations.
The upper levels of OVN® are substantiated from further review of the literature. They reflect the most recent nutritional science, where vitamin levels above that of the FEDIAF or AFFCO have provided additional functional health benefit, such as improved coat condition or better support of immune function. Such levels can be used to help support more specific, functional claims on a pet food label, which are also closely regulated. The upper OVN® levels stay below the lowest published safe upper limits of vitamin intake in pets.
OVN provides a starting point for pet food and vitamin premix formulation
OVN guidelines provide the target amounts of vitamins to be provided in pet food at the point of consumption. They do not include overages for losses during production or during shelf life. As these are unique for each factory, process and product, they must be accounted for during selection of the vitamin form appropriate for the food product during design of its vitamin premix. Production of a high-quality vitamin premix completes one of the steps needed for a high nutritional quality outcome. During pet food product development vitamin content should be checked to ensure OVN® is attained, thereby ensuring nutritional adequacy defined by regulation and importantly that the brands promise of nutritional quality is delivered.
Ingredient form quality and global traceability
Selection of the highest quality vitamin forms is essential to achieve targeted optimal vitamin nutrition in pet food products. Often, vitamins are perceived as commodity ingredients, but vitamin form quality can vary between producers. By not realizing this, pet food quality can soon be compromised. It is therefore important that the best, technologically advanced forms are chosen to meet label declarations.
By selecting suppliers such as DSM with quality integrated vitamin production and micronutrient supply chains for premix manufacture is one-way brand owners can help alleviate the burden of achieving transparent ingredient traceability in their pet food products in all global markets. Consistent, globally implemented quality programs also provide assurance that vitamin ingredients and premixes thereof will meet or exceed regulatory requirements of all in the pet food supply chain.
The Optimal Vitamin Nutrition program from DSM therefore helps pet food, treat and supplement manufacturers deliver healthy vitamin levels in their products, from a safe and reliable source, in-line with expectations of pet parents and by the regulators.