Cat food made safer
Because pet food contains animal substances like beef proteins, we need to be careful when we import it into Australia as these components may carry disease agents. Australia doesn't have many of the serious diseases that have plagued other countries, like BSE (mad cow disease). To protect our relatively disease free status, pet food either has to be heat treated before being imported or it can be irradiated when it gets here. Some human foods are irradiated too but at much lower levels. Irradiation supposedly kills off any nasty pathogens. The problem is that gamma irradiation changes the composition of the food, with potentially lethal consequences.
The RSPCA has been lobbying for a ban on the irradiation of all imported pet food. In saying that, we certainly welcome the decision by Federal Minister for Agriculture, Tony Burke, to ban the irradiation treatment on cat food. It's a good start but should be just that, a first step. Some of cats affected in the case that sparked this decision, actually ate Orijen dog food not cat food. We don't yet know why cats seem more susceptible than dogs to neurological disorders caused by eating irradiated pet food. It may be that there is also a risk that dogs could be affected negatively in ways that are currently unknown. Regardless, there is enough evidence to indicate that eating gamma irradiated imported pet food is bad for pets.
The RSPCA believes this issue is a symptom of the broader problem of the self-regulation of the pet food industry. The industry sets its own standards so there's no independent regulation of what goes into pet food, how it's labelled or what information pet owners have about the type of treatment imported products may receive in quarantine. So if you a buy a product for your cat or dog that has been irradiated, there is no requirement for you to be made aware of that on the label.
We'd like to see comprehensive regulation of the pet food industry in Australia that includes independent safety assessments of pet food and accurate and reliable labelling. That's what the RSPCA continues to talk to the government about.
You can help by emailing Federal Agriculture Minister, Tony Burke MP, or contacting your local MP.