Do you know how pet food is made? PFI members provide more choices than ever to feed America’s 180 million dogs and cats, including dry (kibble), wet (canned), semi moist, fresh, dehydrated, freeze-dried and raw-infused food, treats and chews.
Our member companies drive continuous improvement in the safety of ingredients and finished product. Their safety programs are forward-looking and employ practices such as applying advances in technology, adhering to strict testing protocols practicing a zero tolerance for the presence of Salmonella and other harmful bacteria, and continual monitoring throughout the manufacturing process to ensure the safest possible food products for our pets.
Download PDF version of “How Pet Food is Made.”
Pet food safety starts with reliable suppliers. The companies that supply pet food ingredients are regularly inspected by PFI members. This can include a review of the supplier’s quality control procedures and their adherence to good manufacturing practices safety principles, and reviewing for processes consistent with hazard analyses. Even after suppliers are approved, incoming ingredients are scrutinized according to company specifications.
The facilities where pet food and treats are produced are designed with safety in mind, to prevent product contamination and maximize security.
Facility design may include:
Ingredients can arrive to the pet food facility in different ways. Some grains and ingredients are put into silos and shipped in bulk via railcar, some ingredients arrive in bags (meals, vitamin and mineral premixes), and oils are shipped in tanker trucks or drums. Meat, poultry and fish are usually transported in refrigerated trucks.
All ingredients are assessed and tested for a series of requirements, as appropriate. For example, manufacturers may:
Throughout the cooking, shaping and drying process, steps are taken to ensure safety. From pH testing, verification of proper ingredients used, maintenance of proper temperatures to screening for metals, pet food and treat makers are committed to providing the highest quality food for your pet.
Some ingredients, such as meat meals, vitamin mixes, and grains, are blended and ground to a desired size that allows for proper cooking with steam and heat. These ground ingredients are mixed with meat, and liquids (water, steam and fat) are added during the cooking process to ensure the product reaches an appropriate temperature to fully eliminate bacteria and pathogens. This is often referred to as the “kill step” – the point in the manufacturing process that eliminates potentially deadly pathogens.
There are various cooking methods:
Steps to ensure safety during the manufacturing process include:
Regular testing and inspection continue before the food arrives at the store shelf. Examples of these measures include:
Pet food is regulated at both the federal and state levels.
In the United States, pet food is among the most highly regulated of all food products, and PFI members are taking a forward-looking approach to ensuring food safety. While pet food makers and their suppliers have always been required to market safe products under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) of 1938, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – signed into law in 2011 – brought about the most comprehensive changes to U.S. food safety regulation in more than 70 years. FSMA and its implementing regulations promulgated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) place an emphasis on preventing foodborne illness.
All commercial pet food facilities in the U.S. must register with FDA and are regularly audited by agency inspectors. In addition to FDA, pet food makers must adhere to state and federal rules and regulations, including those set by:
Finally, states require pet food makers to register each of their products before they may be sold within state borders. This product registration process involves state evaluations of products and labels to ensure compliance with applicable state requirements. Through the state registration process, regional regulators also have an improved understand of all products sold in their state. In the case of a product recall, state regulators are able to better discern where and which product SKUs are affected, and respond accordingly.