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Shining a Light on Pet Food Safety: Risks Associated with Trending Pet Food Formats

Posted June 01, 2024 by Jim Mann, Global Platform Manager - Antioxidants and Food Safety

Opportunities for microbial contamination exist throughout the pet food supply chain. For this reason, suppliers, renderers, pet food manufacturers and pet parents must work together to ensure the safety of pet foods. Below, we explore common incidences of microbial contamination in trending pet food formats.

Food Safety Risks Associated with Dry Pet Food

According to Euromonitor, dry pet food is still the dominating format in the global pet food market, encompassing nearly 60% of all pet foods sold in 2020. Trends in this space are reflected in label claims like clean label, functional health benefits or ancestral diets. Many of these trends include meat-rich formulas, which can present several opportunities for microbial contamination:

  • Raw materials can degrade from inherent bacteria and enzymes present before rendering
  • Proteins like meat and fish can degrade and accumulate biogenic amines that can survive throughout processing
  • Fats, protein meals, meat slurries and other ingredients added during pet food manufacturing are all susceptible to cross-contamination and bacterial growth
  • Ingredients added after extrusion, like fat, can increase risk of pathogen contamination
  • Finished dry pet foods that are handled post kill-step can still be contaminated with mold, yeasts and Salmonella
Dried kibble pet food in bowl. Heart shape dried animal food isolated on white background.; Shutterstock ID 1659011848; BU: -; Region: -; Purpose: -

Food Safety Risks Associated with Minimally Processed and Wet Pet Foods

As more and more consumers see pets as family, they want options to feed them like family. Foods that resemble human foods are growing in popularity, including refrigerated “freshly cooked” foods, raw foods, and wet formats like purees or fillets. These new formats are commonly delivered via subscription models in smaller, single-use packages. The food safety risks associated with these new formats arise primarily from high moisture, mode of transport and storage throughout the supply chain:

  • Refrigerated raw meat materials can still accumulate biogenic amines
  • Improper transport of chilled or frozen foods can create an ideal environment for Salmonella, E.coli, molds and yeasts
  • Improper storage by the manufacturer or pet parent can increase the risk of microbial growth
  • High-moisture foods and treats are at a higher risk for bacteria or mold growth

How Does Microbial Degradation of Pet Food Affect Pets?

If a human consumed the microbes mentioned above, they may experience a minor or severe form of food poisoning. Pets may also present common severe food poisoning symptoms, like vomiting or diarrhea. But because pets eat the same meal every day, they can be chronically exposed to these microbes and their by-products which may present more minor, chronic symptoms like skin and coat issues.

With significant microbial growth, pet parents will be able to notice changes in pet food odor, texture and color. In most cases, pets experience these sensory changes before pet parents due to their heightened sense of smell. Off odors can cause pets to reject the food, refusing to eat or eating with less enthusiasm. When this occurs, pet parents may switch pet food brands with the assumption that their pet no longer likes their food.

How Pet Food Manufacturers and Renderers Can Protect Food Safety

Supply chain controls are critical for protecting food safety. Analyzing raw materials, regulating temperature and storage, properly sanitizing, ensuring packaging integrity and developing a recall plan are all measures that can help protect food safety. It’s also important for renderers and pet food manufacturers to follow strict process flows to ensure raw materials remain separate from finished goods

Kemin pet food safety products can ensure the quality of your ingredients and pet food by helping to  reduce risk of microbial growth in pet food formats, rendered products and raw materials. As a Kemin customer, our Technical Services and Customer Lab Services (CLS) can help you analyze product composition including pH, water activity, and antimicrobial application rate to ensure your product is protected.

Learn more about Kemin's Food Safety Products

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Jim Mann, Global Platform Manager: Antioxidants & Food Safety | Kemin Nutrisurance

Jim has been at Kemin for over 30 years fulfilling a variety of roles in quality control, research and development, and technical services. 

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