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Consumers confident in pet food safety

OVER SEVENTY per cent of consumers say they are ‘confident or very confident’ in the safety of their pet food according to three rounds of public opinion surveys conducted by the Pet Food Institute in the United States.

PFI, which represents the makers of 98 percent of the pet food sold in the United States last week announced the results of three public opinion surveys conducted since April 4th. Results also show that nearly an identical percentage say they are staying with their preferred brand of pet food.

The survey findings come in the wake of the tragic pet food poisoning scandal, in which hundreds of pets in North America and Canada have died due to harmful melamine being included in the foods by the Chinese manufacturers.

‘Continued, strong confidence in pet food products is a testament to the fact that Americans' cats and dogs are living longer, healthier lives due in large part to the carefully formulated, safe and nutritious pet foods on the market,’ said Duane Ekedahl, president of the Pet Food Institute.
Results reflect surveys conducted April 4, April 24 and May 18-21. In all three surveys PFI asked participants the following questions:

n In general, how confident are you that the pet food you purchase is safe to feed to your pet?
n As a result of the recent pet food recalls in the news, are you more or less likely to continue purchasing your primary brand of pet food in the future?

The first two surveys were commissioned by PFI and had a margin of error of +/- 3%. The third survey was part of an omnibus poll and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5%.

Since 1958, the Pet Food Institute has been the voice of U.S. pet food manufacturers. PFI is the industry's public education and media relations resource, representative before the US Congress and state and federal agencies, organiser of seminars and educational programmes, and liaison with other organisations.

PFI represents the manufacturers of 98 percent of all dog and cat food produced in the United States.

The pet food recall following the contamination scandal affecting US pet companies is expected to cost the industry in excess of £20m.

Why the food is killing pets remains a focus of investigation, but China’s State Food and Drug Administration and a manufacturer in South Africa have found that several bulk ingredients shipped from China, including wheat gluten and rice-protein concentrate, were contaminated with the industrial chemical called melamine.

Last month, concern about animal safety transformed into a concern about risk to people. California state officials said melamine had been found in pigs bred for human consumption and could pose a ‘minimal’ health risk to people who ate pork from the unnamed pig farm. Wheat gluten is also commonly used in breads, cereals and other foods for human consumption, but contamination has not been found in such U.S. products.

The investigations are unearthing details of the food chain that were previously a mystery to most Americans, including the international dealings that determine how ingredients make their way into the food supply. U.S. companies are under relentless pressure to cut costs, in part from consumers who demand low prices, and obtaining cheap ingredients from China has become an important strategy for many of them.

In the United States and Europe, food is identified by ‘lot’ numbers that can often help authorities pinpoint problems. And increasingly, food producers in developed countries are under pressure to keep records that allow the tracing of problem ingredients to individual farms.

In response to the pet deaths in the United States, China is carrying out a nationwide inspection of wheat gluten, but its government has refuted allegations that Chinese companies are responsible for the deaths.