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Misreading Pet Food Labels

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A new study conducted by petMD shows pet nutrition is a confusing subject for the average consumer, which leaves it, in part, for retailers to help educate them.
The five key findings include misunderstood terms, feeding trials, misidentifying potential allergies, an under-appreciation of balanced nutrition and skepticism of label accuracy.

According to the survey, 57 percent of respondents look to pet food labels for information about the ingredients in their pet’s food, but what is written is often misinterpreted.

“Understanding how to feed our pets properly is critical to their well-being,” Dr. Jennifer Coates, a spokesperson for petMD, said. “This knowledge gap is worrisome, but also represents an opportunity for improving the health and longevity of our beloved companion animals.”

The first key finding of the study was misunderstood terms. A majority of survey respondents said they believe that animal hair, teeth and hooves are included in meat by-products, when in fact, the Association of American Feed Control Officials expressly prohibits these body parts from being included as a by-product used in pet food.

Second was feeding trials. While the majority of pet owners look to the label to learn about ingredients, they failed to look for other key information.All AAFCO approved pet foods must display a statement indicating how the pet food manufacturer determined that particular diet would meet the needs of pets. This can be done via a formulation, or by actually feeding the food to animals.

The third finding shows owners are misidentifying potential allergies. More than 40 percent of respondents cited grain ingredients as the most common allergens in pet food, with more than 30 percent specifically implicating corn.

Fourth was an under-appreciation of balanced nutrition, with 69 percent of respondents recognizing that protein is a key nutrient for pets. Of the respondents, 2 percent named fats, 3 percent named carbohydrates and less than 25 percent named vitamins and minerals.

The last bit of confusion was over skepticism of label accuracy. More than 70 percent of pet owners surveyed believe pet food labels do not list all of the ingredients.

However, AAFCO regulations mandate that every ingredient in pet food be included on the list, from the biggest to the smallest contributor, by weight.

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