If you think it’s challenging sorting through slick marketing to find a nutritious dog food or cat food, it’s even worse with dog and cat treats. The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the FDA consider a pet treat as “supplemental” to the pet’s diet so even fewer regulations apply. This is not good news for pet lovers.
Here is an example of what pet owners are up against. A popular cat treat, commonly found in pet stores all across the US proudly states “Shrimp & Tuna Treats” in the name. The name of this treat would cause any pet owner to assume the treat contains shrimp and tuna, right? The truth is that there is absolutely not one drop of shrimp or tuna in the cat treat. Thanks to our friends (or enemies, depending on how you look at it) at AAFCO and the FDA, this is perfectly legal; yet another one of those ridiculous things that are allowed in the pet food/treat industry.
Here is the list of ingredients of the “Shrimp & Tuna Cat Treats”: liver, chicken by-products, chicken by-product meal, corn, sardine meal, animal fat, glycerin, high fructose corn syrup, wheat flour, phosphoric acid, salt, potassium sorbate, citric acid, calcium propionate, BHA (preservatives), natural and artificial shrimp and tuna flavor.
The ingredients tell a pet owner there is “natural and artificial shrimp and tuna flavor,” but again, there is no actual shrimp and/or tuna in this cat treat.
With pet FOOD, things are slightly different. Regulations require a certain percentage of the food to be shrimp or tuna when the name of the food is “Shrimp & Tuna Cat Food” (at least 25% of the food excluding moisture with this example). If a dog food or cat food contains no shrimp or tuna and is just ‘flavored’ with a meat or fish, the name of the food will say: Cat Food with Shrimp & Tuna Flavor. “Flavor” is the key word in the pet food name.
Every company has the right to use whatever quality of ingredients they choose. Similarly, pet owners have the right to know what they are purchasing to feed their pet without a lengthy and mind boggling process to interpret the pet food or pet treat label. There is simply no excuse for AAFCO and FDA regulations to allow a pet treat or pet food label to lie to pet owners. Honesty in pet food and pet treat labeling (quality or grade of ingredients, honest ingredient names, country of origin of ingredients, and so on) should be mandatory. A cat treat named “No Shrimp or Tuna in this Cat Treat but we’re calling them Shrimp & Tuna Cat Treats Anyway” probably wouldn’t be very popular, but at least it would be honest labeling.