We all know that the food we humans buy in the store for consumption is pretty highly regulated here in Canada. We're lucky to have governing bodies such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA), the Food and Drugs Act (FDA), etc. to ensure the products we buy in the grocery store or market are safe and clearly labelled with everything we need to know. But do the same rules and regulations apply to the food we buy for our pets? The short answer is no.
While our well intended government does have strict guidelines on the labelling and importation of pet foods, there are technically no specific organizations governing pet food production in Canada and we are no where close to having the same standards compared to those in Europe and the USA. So basically, any pet food or treat made and sold in Canada it requires no inspection or verification for sale.
Scary right? So how can we be sure that what we are feeding our pets is safe? Enter - The Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act - Competition Bureau Canada.
These guys ensure anything that is put on a label for sale is true and can be verified, in order to prevent false or misleading marketing. Super great right? Well yes, but how do you know the quality or origin of the items listed? You don't - unless the label tells you so. So while the label might say "Beef", unless it specifically says what part of the cow or where the protein was sourced you can't really know.
However, if the label says "Canadian Beef Bone Broth" (like our Canine Craft Original does - wink, wink), then it legally must be made with Canadian sourced beef because the claim has been made. Oh yea, that's right - we're making that claim like a boss.
Another way to weed out the good from the bad is to look on the label for a nutritional analysis. Believe it or not, a nutritional lab analysis is not required in Canada for Canadian manufactured pet food and especially not for pet treats.
However any reputable company will not want to take chances with your pets health or their credibility, and so will have a lab analysis done by a credible food safety and quality laboratory that will do their testing based on the standards proposed for pet food in the USA by The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). As well, they will likely do shelf-life testing to determine how long their product can stay on a retailers shelves before going bad. This may not always be noted with a "best before" on the label, but the retailer will know and ensure it comes off their shelves if it doesn't sell.
Although it is not necessary to do AAFCO nutritional testing on dog treats because they are just that - a treat, not meant to be used as a well-rounded meal - we did it anyway. Better to have all the info we can on our labels so that we can be completely transparent.
We also had a shelf-life analysis done. This was a challenge for the very big and well known Canadian lab we used because they had never tested a product like ours before, and because they didn't know how to charge us. They usually deal with big, multi-million dollar food companies that have big bucks to spend - we did not have the same big bucks. But they wanted to help us do the right thing and so they made it work for both of us and got the testing done.
This included testing a bottle every week from the same batch for months, looking for the growth of various bacteria, yeast, and mold and other nasty things that can grow in our bottles if it isn't bottled correctly with proper sanitizing procedures, and if the correct amount of food grade preservatives isn't used. Our preservatives are approved and used as outlined by the Government of Canada for human food consumption: 11. List of Permitted Preservatives (Lists of Permitted Food Additives) - Canada.ca.
It was a massive learning experience for us and while expensive to do, was well worth every penny.
Luckily, we aren't the only ones who are passionate about ensuring our pets get the safe and healthy food they deserve. Canada has a few organizations that are working hard to help us out in this tricky, unregulated pet food maze. One of them being the Pet Food Association of Canada | Pet Food Association of Canada (pfac.com). These advocates work tirelessly to educate and inform consumers and manufacturers on the safe and ethical practices of making and selling pet food in Canada and they do a great job. We learned so much from them when we first started and are so glad to have had their guidance.
What's the bottom line? Read your labels and do your research! Us animal lovers are also much more educated than we used to be due to investigative reporting - and you guessed it - the internet. Not sure what's in a product? To the Google Machine! You can find the contact information for the manufacturer with a simple click of the keyboard.
Have a question about Canine Craft? Send us an email, Facebook message, Instagram message, or even a Tweet! We'd love to chat with you, and I'm sure any responsible company wouldn't hesitate to give you all the info you need to ensure you're giving your pet the healthy and safe food they deserve.
The Canine Craft Family