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Pet Food Labelling Keeping up the Standard
Pet food labelling in Australia should comply with Australian
consumer law and the Australian Standard for manufacturing and
marketing of pet food(AS5812) provides detailed guidance on
labelling of pet foods.
The PFIAA represents the prepared pet food industry in Australia
and along with state and federal government departments, the Australian
VeterinaryAssociation and the RSPCA developed the Australian
Standard AS5812 for pet food labelling.
The nutritional recommendations of
globally recognised bodies including the Association of American Feed
Control Officials (AAFCO) are utilised bymajor pet food
manufacturers as reference for the nutritional requirements of cats and
The old adage of "when in doubt, read the label" applies to pet food as
to other products. Pet food labels contain a large amount of information
which can be useful when selecting the appropriate pet food and
determining how to feed your pets.
The Australian Standard for manufacturing and marketing of pet food
(AS5812 - 'The Standard') provides detailed guidelines for compliant pet
food labelling in Australia. All the major manufacturers of prepared pet
foods in Australia have been subject to independent audits and are now
compliant with the Australian Standard AS5812, providing an added
element of quality and trust to Australia's popular and widely fed
prepared pet foods.
Label requirements under AS5812
The labelling guidance in AS 5812 has been developed to reflect and align
with other existing global standards such as those in Europe and the USA
and help companies comply with Australian consumer law. The Australian
Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has a central role in
promoting competition and ensuring fair trading. The ACCC were informed
about the development of the standard and reviewed the PFIAA Code of
Practice, which pre- dated the Standard and served as the basis for the
subsequent development of AS5812.
Pet food labels complying with The Standard are required to include the
following information on labelling:
Identification as pet food
The words "PET FOOD ONLY" (or words to similar effect) is to appear
conspicuously on the label (or printed onto the end of a can) and an
illustration of the whole body or head animal species for which it is
intended (e.g. a dog or cat) is also to be included on the label.
Nutrition information panel
A statement of either guaranteed or typical (average) composition, in
regards to protein and fat is required to be included on labels. Labels
may also include information about energy content and other nutrient
levels in the food.
Variety and Namers
AS 5812 states: 'The variety name of a pet food shall be informative and
an accurate description of the style and flavour.' The Standard includes
detailed guidance to assist both manufacturers and consumers in
regards to content and variety names of pet foods. For instance with
regards to variety naming of canned pet foods, section 3.1.3 states:
'If a meat ingredient constitutes 25% or more of the meat component
and is the main meal ingredients then that meat may be referred to as the
variety name of the product'.
Example: Where beef is the main meat ingredient in a
product and is present at more than 25% then that variety can be named
It is important to realise that hese "rules"concerning names are
provided in AS5812 to defineminimum conditions that must be
met. For insance, in the above example, the canned 'beef' variety
pet food may include a much higher beef content than in the example
Nutritional adequacy statement
Information as to whether the product provides a complete and balanced
diet for their pet at a particular life stage, or whether it is intended
to be fed with other foods for nutritional completeness (e.g as a treat
or complimentary food) is required. The nutritional
recommendations of a globally recognised USA body - the Association of
American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) are used as reference by AS5812
with regards to nutritional adequacy. These AAFCO nutrient profiles for
dogs and cats are regularly reviewed and updated, reflecting new
scientific studies in assessing the nutritional needs of pets.
Scientifically validated feeding protocols have also been developed by
AAFCO to assess the nutritional adequacy of pet food products for a
particular species and life stage.
Directions for use (Feeding guide)
Labels provide directions for feeding the food to pets. It should be
recognised that these are only a guide and individual pets may require
more or less food than recommended, depending on their metabolism,
lifestyle and lifestage. The pet owner is usually best placed to
determine how much and how often to feed their pet, using the pet's
demeanour, body condition and general health to guide them. If in doubt,
please consult your veterinarian.
Pet food labels with a longer shelf life (e.g 2 years +) shall include a
packaging date. In the case of shorter shelf life products such as those
requiring refrigeration this date labelling will include either a 'best
before' statement or a 'use by date'. It is important to follow any
specified product storage conditions to ensure product integrity and
The Standard advises that pet food labels list the ingredients (with the
exception of water) in descending order (by weight) and states:
"Ingredients will be presented in an informative and consumer friendly
manner". It is also required to provide pet owners with information
concerning what species of animal meats (e.g poultry, beef, fish) are
included. A further requirement is that the statement of ingredients
shall list food additives, including advising if flavours, colours,
preservatives, vitamins and minerals are added. The Standard
specifically requires that where preservatives such as sulphur dioxide or
sulphites are included these shall be identified on the label, by
inclusion of their common, prescribed, proprietary name or
the FSANZ Food Standards code number.
General consumer information
In common with many other packaged foods sold in Australia, prepared pet
foods labels provide further useful and important information to help pet
Pet foods often include product features and these are
required to be consistent with Australian consumer law. Reflecting this,
the Standard advises that "labelling should not directly or indirectly
mislead or misrepresent the product to the purchaser".
Manufacturer's generally ensure that their brand name appears in a
prominent position on the pet food label. The words, pictures, logos and
colour schemes which define the product may be registered as trademarks
for exclusive use.
Name and address
The name and address of the company responsible for the product must
appear on the label.
Weights and measures
The net weight of the product is to be included on the label.
Bar coding information
Bar coding is an international system of product identification, and all
pet food products sold through the major retail outlets in
Australia carry bar codes.The bar code is a series of numbers represented
by the width and spacing between the bars.The bar code provides
information on the country of the manufacturer, the manufacturer's
identity and product identification, plus a check digit for bar code
A badge of honour, a sign of integrity
Pet owners are now provided with considerable information on pet
food packaging to help them decide which foods are appropriate for their
pet dog or cat. The development of Australian Standard 5812 and the
widespread adoption of the Standard by PFIAA members (who provide
over 95% of packaged, commercial pet foods in Australia) means that
all Australian pet owners can have confidence on the extensive
information provided on-label. It means even more peace of mind when
choosing your pet's meals.
This article is for general information only
This information is provided by the PFIAA as general information only.
For detailed advice about the Australian Standard AS5812, please refer
directly to the Standard. For advice and information concerning treatment
and feeding your individual pet, we recommend that you seek the advice of
your veterinarian. The PFIAA does not warrant that this document provides
a comprehensive review of all relevant clauses of AS5812 or legal
requirements for pet food labelling under Australian Consumer Law.