Kibble is the most common type of food found in the cupboards of homes with cats and dogs. It’s easy to see why it is a favourite in pet-owning households; it is relatively inexpensive, easy to serve, and it has a long shelf life. Despite its popularity, how can we be sure that the kibble we are feeding is safe? Are alternative types of diets safer to feed instead?

Who helps to ensure that kibble in the UK is safe?

Here in the UK, the pet food industry is quite tightly regulated.

The Food Standards Agency

This UK governmental department is responsible for legislation which covers the manufacture of pet food (including kibble). This legislation includes specific rules for how ingredients appear on a food label.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

The APHA is an agency within the UK governmental department of DEFRA. This group approves facilities using animal-based ingredients used in pet food. This requires manufacturers to submit a thorough outline of where the ingredients are sourced and how they will be used as they are processed in the pet food facility.

Additionally, the APHA ensures that all livestock used in pet food are inspected by veterinarians and suitable for consumption.

The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA)

Pet food manufacturers in the UK can join the PFMA on a voluntary basis. Currently, over 90% of the pet food market is represented by the PFMA. Members are able to access technical guidance in pet food production and support with legislation. The application includes a site visit to ensure adherence with food safety and quality guidelines.

What are some measures manufacturers put in place to ensure safe kibble?

With the focus on safety, there are a wide range of safety protocols used in the formulation of all UK pet foods.

Hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP)

A HACCP plan is something that all food manufactures should have in place to ensure the safety of their products. This plan identifies points in the production line where hazards can be introduced and puts preventive actions in place.

Quality Control Testing

Manufacturers can choose to conduct in-house testing of kibble to ensure that they have been produced within the expected parameters. This testing can include checking for moisture content, colour, kibble size, and presence of microorganisms.

Generally, larger companies are more likely to do frequent and broader in-house testing, although there’s no reason that a smaller producer can’t do just as good a job.

Testing of shelf life

There are some innovative ways of investigating the safety of kibbles after their bag’s seal has been broken. In the laboratory, kibbles will be subjected to temperatures and moisture levels that are much higher than what we would find in our cupboards to simulate the period of time elapsed after opening the bag. The information gathered in these tests helps to improve production parameters to ensure that kibbles remain fresh throughout their given shelf life.

Is kibble safer than other types of pet food?

All the safety measured mentioned so far are applicable to all pet foods on the UK market. Kibble, however, does have a particularly high margin of safety because it is a cooked, dry product with a long shelf life.

However, as with any type of pet food, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to minimise any potential risks to you and your pet. With kibble, for example, it is recommended to wash hands after handling and to disinfect feeding bowls on a regular basis. Store kibble bags in a cool and dry area; and use within the stated shelf life of the product.

What about pet food recalls?

Despite all the guidelines and regulations in place, there are instances where a recall must be issued. This can happen with any type of pet food, including kibble. Oftentimes, in-house testing will initiate the need for a recall because of quality standards that fall outside of acceptable parameters. In rare cases, veterinarians may link a pet illness with the food they are consuming and feed that information back to the manufacturer for investigation.

This doesn’t mean that kibble is dangerous- instances of pet illness caused by kibble are extremely rare. Good manufacturing practices minimises the risk of any hazards and catches problems before food is put onto shelves.

Take home message

Kibble is a good option when considering what to feed your pet. In the UK, kibble production is subject to government regulation. Manufacturers will have to comply with these rules and often voluntarily go beyond what is required by law to produce a high quality product that is safe for consumption.

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