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Petco Bans Food, Treats with Artificial Ingredients


November 14, 2018

Press release: Petco

Today, Petco announced it will stop selling food and treats containing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives* for dogs and cats by May 2019. The move makes Petco the first national pet specialty retailer to take a stand against such ingredients, reaffirming the company’s commitment to being the lifelong, trusted partner – for pets and pet parents, alike.

“Since our first store opened in 1965, Petco has been dedicated to ensuring the well-being of pets. That commitment continues today, with our decision to eliminate food and treats for dogs and cats containing artificial flavors, colors and preservatives from our shelves,” said Petco CEO, Ron Coughlin. “Some may question whether this makes good business sense, but putting pets’ health first has always been the right thing to do for Petco. This is both a major step forward for pets and a natural next step on our journey to become a complete partner in total pet wellness. We hope the rest of the pet industry will join us on this path to better health for the pets we love.”

This isn’t the first time Petco taken an industry-leading stance as a champion for pets. In 2014, it became the first national specialty retailer to discontinue the sale of China-made treats following consumer concerns about the safety of such products – and other retailers quickly followed suit. With these new standards, the company aims to raise the bar again for the entire pet retail industry.

In January 2019, Petco will begin removing dog and cat foods and treats with artificial ingredients, both from store shelves and ecommerce, with a commitment to complete the process by May 2019. Some of the more than 40 artificial ingredients Petco is eliminating include FD&C Red No. 3, Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated hytroxytoluene (BHT), Glycerol tributyrate, and benzaldehyde, among others.

“We’re inviting pet food companies to join us on this journey, even working hand-in-hand with some to pursue potential ingredient changes to meet our new ingredient standards,” said Nick Konat, Co-Chief Merchandising Officer for Petco. “In cases where an existing brand is unable to update some or all of their products to meet our criteria by May of 2019, we will stop carrying either specific products or the brand entirely – and we’ll help pet parents affected by such a change to safely transition to a new food or brand that we believe is healthier for their pet.”

“Pet parents are seeking answers that help assure them they are making the right choices,” said Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, Diplomate ACVPM, and Director of Veterinary Medicine at Petco. “We’re stepping out ahead of the industry here because we believe it’s the right thing to do. With Petco’s new nutrition standards, we will only offer food that we believe supports overall pet health and wellness, making the decision process much easier for pet parents.”

Petco has worked closely with in-house and consultant veterinarians, nutritionists and wellness experts to inform its decision and its new standards for pet nutrition.

Setting a new standard for nutrition is only the first step the company has planned in becoming a trusted source for pet wellness. As part of this initiative, in 2019 Petco will also launch the Petco Pet Wellness Institute: a coalition of experts from all spectrums of pet health and wellness.  Together, veterinarians, nutritionists, pet psychologists, academic researchers, and other credentialed leaders will ensure Petco is offering the best information, education, and services – not only for nutrition, but for a wide array of topics and issues impacting pets’ overall health and wellbeing. Part of the institute’s mandate will be funding evidence-based research to help further understand and define industry-wide issues, including the impact of food and ingredients on pet health. While data around pet wellness is currently limited, the institute will help provide clarity and inform Petco’s initiatives, ensuring the brand is continuing to meet the demands of modern pet parents.

While Petco’s transformation will affect certain brands, and ideally motivate companies to change ingredients, the company already carries plenty of high-quality, specially formulated foods that already meet and even exceed its new standards. In addition, Petco currently offers a variety of products, services, and advice to help pet parents care for the complete health of their pets at every stage of life.

“The goal here is superior health and wellbeing for the pets that bring so much love and joy to our lives,” said Coughlin. “Our bold nutrition stance combined with our continued expansion of veterinary services in our stores, are great examples of the many ways we’re evolving to meet the needs of modern pet parents.”

* Through referencing available guidelines provided by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Petco defines artificial colors, flavors and preservatives as:

  • Color from artificial sources: any dye, pigment, or other substance that can impart color to a food that is not derived from a natural source.
  • Artificial flavor: any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products.
  • Artificial preservative: chemical substances added to or sprayed on the outside of food to retard spoilage, deterioration, discoloration, or contamination by bacteria and other disease organisms. Does not include preservatives that are derivatives of natural compounds.
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