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Pet food labels should be a useful tool to help cat guardians decide which foods to select. Unfortunately, unless you know how to interpret the often confusing information on the labels, they may only add to the confusion. I’ve previously written about how to read a pet food label, but it turns out that you may not be able to trust the information on the label.

Study identifies mislabeled pet food

Researchers in Chapman University’s Food Science Program have just published a study on pet food mislabeling. The study focused on commercial pet foods marketed for dogs and cats to identify meat species present as well as any instances of mislabeling. Of the 52 products tested, 31 were labeled correctly, 20 were potentially mislabeled, and one contained a non-specific meat ingredient that could not be verified.

Science Daily reports that 7 of the mislabeled products were cat food, the other 13 were dog food. 16 of the 20 products contained meat species that were not included on the product label, with pork being the most common undeclared meat species. In three of the cases of potential mislabeling, one or two meat species were substituted for other meat species. In the study, DNA was extracted from each product and tested for the presence of eight meat species: beef, goat, lamb, chicken, goose, turkey, pork, and horse.

What does this mean for cats?

This is disturbing for many reasons, but it is of particular concern when it comes to cats with food allergies. Since the study didn’t identify the brands tested, there is no way to know for sure whether foods that are formulated for pets with allergies contain proteins other than the one identified on the label.

Despite the high percentage of pet foods that were found to be potentially mislabeled in this study, the manner in which mislabeling occurred is not clear; nor is it clear as to whether the mislabeling was accidental or intentional and at which points in the production chain it took place.

What can cat guardians do?

The study raises a lot of questions, and doesn’t provide any answers. So what’s a cat guardian to do? Unfortunately, the reality is that when it comes to food labeling and food safety, there is no such thing as no risk. Perhaps the only way to really be sure what’s in your cat’s food is to prepare it yourself. The vast majority of cat guardians, including myself, will continue to rely on commercial cat food. The best we can do is to stay informed.

For more information about the study, please visit Science Daily.

Photo by camilla, Flickr Creative Commons

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4 Comments on Can You Trust Cat Food Labels?

  1. So scary now days with all the different foods and you don’t really know if your getting a good one. It is very confusing. Thanks for the post.

  2. Infuriating. I first read about the Chapman study back in Sept on Susan Thixton’s Truth About Pet Food. There are samples of the foods that tested mislabeled and although Chapman refuses to reveal any of the manufacturers, a cut and paste of the ingredients reveals likely suspects. (Susan even posted a follow up with possible names.) I’m totally disgusted by the whole thing. My own cats have allergies to chicken, at one point my male cat’s allergy on his neck was so bad from scratching and licking, he had to be treated for a secondary staph infection. I’m mostly feeding Primal now, they are one of the few companies that have agreed to have transparency regarding their products, sourcing ingredients. Thanks for posting this, very glad Science Daily posted the study as well.

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