After mass dog deaths in Victoria, a pet food maker joins vets in demanding mandatory regulations

After a terrifying outbreak of dog deaths related to cracking meat, a raw pet food manufacturer supports the Australian Veterinary Association’s call for mandatory standards for the country’s $ 2.9 billion pet food industry.

Important points:

  • A recent fatal outbreak has been linked to pet meat being processed by a Victorian nibbler
  • The industry is “free for all,” says one manufacturer, with voluntary standards
  • There is no mandatory recall system when food safety concerns arise

Chris Essex, who founded Big Dog Pet Foods 23 years ago and employs more than 60 people, says the self-regulated system is “free for all” with no supervision or enforcement.

“If you are a member of the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA) you will be audited annually to the (voluntary) Australian standard,” said Essex.

“We all hold each other accountable and set new standards, but unfortunately, if you are not part of the PFIAA, everything is really free.”

The members of the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia manufacture pet foods to standards for humans. (

ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols


At least 21 domestic dogs have died in Victoria in the past two months, with the investigation focused on meat processed by a Gippsland cracking factory.

Toxicological reports indicate that horse and camel meat from the Northern Territory contained indospicin, a plant toxin that has traumatic effects on dog livers.

The recent killer outbreak has led to new calls for stricter controls on pet food supplies and production.

Since Mars produced its first can of Pal in 1967, Australia’s commercial pet food industry has boomed with around 2,500 employees.

Manufacturers who choose not to be a member of the PFIAA are not required to adhere to the voluntary Australian standard.

Chris Essex wants a mandatory standard to be introduced for pet food manufacturers. Chris Essex wants the industry to take on more responsibility. (

ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols


Mr Essex wants pet food to be regulated so that companies list product content on labels and explain where their meat-based ingredients come from.

His Queensland factory specializes in making organically acceptable raw foods, also known as the BARF diet, including wheatgrass grown in trays in a converted shipping container.

Staff brew kombucha tea and ferment kefir from milk to add good bacteria to a seasonal mix of Australian vegetables and fruits, probiotics, offal, and fresh and frozen chicken, beef and salmon waste from the food industry.

Trays of wheatgrass on racks in a container. Wheatgrass is part of the BARF animal feed mix. (

ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols


Mr Essex is concerned that most people do not know the difference between human and pet meat.

“Procuring ingredients solely from facilities for human consumption (slaughterhouses) means that you would expect the safety that you would expect from the meat from raw meat bought at your local supermarket or butcher where our animal feed is made, “he said.

“We have 100 percent confidence in our suppliers, we have full traceability and the processes in place should we ever have to call back.”

What should you feed your pet?

According to Dr. There is no easy answer to Alastair Webb, president of the Australian Small Animal Veterinarians Association.

“The standard comment I give people is, if you ask 10 different people what to feed your dog, you will get 10 different opinions,” said Dr. Webb.

“Pets have different tolerances and susceptibilities to different foods, so you can’t have a blanket rule. What works for one dog won’t necessarily work for the next dog.”

A smiling man with a stethoscope around his neck holds a cat up on an exam table. Alastair Webb, president of Australian Small Animal Veterinarians, says there is no one-size-fits-all answer to what to feed pets.

Delivered: Dr. Alastair Webb


He said cooking tends to improve food safety.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) recommends that pet owners review the product they are buying and never feed them food from a non-PFIAA member.

People who make their own pet food at home have been advised to seek advice to ensure they meet the nutritional requirements for their pet’s life stage.

No regulation means more animals are dying

Dr. Linda Fleeman is involved in PetFast, a system the AVA put in place more than a decade ago to allow members to report potential pet food issues.

She told ABC Radio Melbourne that pet food labeling and regulation should be more aligned with food standards for human consumption and include mandatory warnings and recalls when pet health is at risk.

“The delays, the confusion, no recall policy, no regulations to follow, no one to turn to – the fact that there is no home in the Australian government system for anything related to pet food or pets. slowing everything down, it means more animals are dying, “said Dr. Fleeman.

Salmon heads in a tub. Salmon heads, a by-product of human food production, are used in Big Dog pet food. (

ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols


A federal ministry of agriculture spokesman said a pet food review working group will deliver its final report to senior officials next month, including a range of regulatory and non-regulatory options to manage pet food health and safety in Australia.

“Any option to regulate manufactured pet food would have to be implemented by the state and territory governments,” the spokesman said.

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