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Regulatory matters: Who’s responsible for keeping pets safe from toxic kibble?

Regulatory matters: Who’s responsible for keeping pets safe from toxic kibble?

2024-01-07

Taiwan is seeing a demographic shift, with people choosing to have fewer children and more pets. With animal lovers on the rise, there’s an increasing demand for pet food transparency and safety. Although pet food is covered under the Animal Protection Act, safety incidents have persisted. Experts are calling for a national certification system for safe pet food practices. Today in our Sunday special report, we take a look at existing laws on pet food and the growing call for stricter regulations.

Chang Cheng-hua has four Pomeranians and a Chihuahua. They’re her treasured “fur babies,” and she feeds them three fresh meals a day to ease their skin allergies and joint pain.

Chang Cheng-hua
Pet owner
As far as pet food is concerned, kibble does have all the nutrition a dog needs. But I think that high-temperature processing and the conditions of storage can lead to nutrient loss. So I like to prepare fresh food myself, offering something different every day and even adding nutritional supplements.

Chang dotes on her dogs. As she shares her experiences with unsafe pet food, she becomes visibly upset.

Chang Cheng-hua
Pet owner
I went to a pet hotel once and they had quinoa in their fresh food. Generally speaking, quinoa is in fact good for dogs, but something went wrong during food preparation. This one, Oreo, had an extremely bad reaction after eating it, throwing up a puddle of blood.

Naturally, the quality of food varies from pet hotel to pet hotel. But even commercial pet snacks can be problematic.

Chang Cheng-hua
Pet owner
Once time, I saw Sesame chewing on a snack for 15 minutes, as if it were chewing gum. I found something stuck on the meat – what looked like a large piece of plastic from the wrapper. It must have melted on during packaging. It would have been quite dreadful if Sesame had eaten it.

Pet food is less regulated than human-grade food. Even pet foods made by global brands have been linked to pet deaths, due to improper food storage or toxic contaminants like melamine. In 2015, Taiwan added pet food provisions to its Animal Protection Act, requiring commercial pet food to be clearly labeled with their main ingredients and expiry date. The law also states that pet food products must not be unsafe to consume.

Chen Chung-hsing
Agriculture ministry official
Human feelings or attitudes toward pets have changed. Pets are now part of the family. I believe that in the future, as pet owners experience more problems concerning these family members, they will make more and more demands on the government.

We’re here at a factory that makes non-toxic pet food. The 4,000-square-meter facility just opened in 2022. Before entering, we undergo a series of disinfection procedures.

Sun Zong-de
Wet pet food brand founder
We have higher standards than ordinary pet food factories do. We see pet food not just as pet food, but as baby food. So our rules and regulations are aimed at exceeding expectations.

At the first stop of the production line, workers inspect chicken breast piece by piece.

Sun Zong-de
Wet pet food brand founder
The meat will occasionally contain plastic or bits of wood. It’s inevitable. We make hundreds of thousands of cans a day. The rate of contamination is 1 in 100,000 or 1 in 200,000. But for the customer who receives that contaminated can, the experience is 100% negative.

A rinse under water doesn’t always remove traces of wood, insects, or plastic in the meat. That has to be achieved by hand. Once the meat clears manual inspection, it’s sent off to the next station, where it’s ground up, mashed into a puree, and canned. But that’s not the last step in the production line.

Sun Zong-de
Wet pet food brand founder
The top of each can is labeled with the manufacturing date and expiration date, as well as this code 112240, which means that it was made at 11:22 and 40 seconds. If there’s a problem with the product, you can pull up the surveillance footage since you know when it was made.

Stringent production standards and cold chain regulation ensure a quality product. Each can is also marked with a unique code for traceability.

These are just some of the measures in place at Taiwan’s newer pet food factories, which aspire to go above and beyond. But as food safety crises evolve, ensuring pet safety remains a challenge.

Hsieh Chang-chi
Pet nutrition and food association
For example, the past few years there have been vitamin D overdose incidents. Too much vitamin D is harmful to dogs and cats, although appropriate amounts are good for bone health.

Currently, there’s no law that requires pet food makers to specify the amount of trace nutrients in their products.

Hsieh Chang-chi
Pet nutrition and food association
Of course, for pet food makers, such a labeling requirement would be a massive blow. Because there are many manufacturers that don’t fully know what’s in the raw ingredients they use, so it would be very hard to spell everything out on the label.

Wayne Huang
Animal hospital founder
I think that labels should do more than provide percentages. Ideally, they should identify the grade of food that’s used in the product. That would give consumers greater freedom of choice.

Mandating full disclosure on pet food labels does ensure consumers’ right to know exactly what they’re buying. But the effect on pet safety would be limited, a pet shop manager says.

Chen Ping-chun
Pet shop manager
Customers may not even look at all the ingredients, so the main advice we give to customers is to at least look at the first four or five ingredients. Because the first four or five ingredients make up 70% of the product.

Over the years, pet store manager Chen Ping-chun has seen changes in customer habits. Nowadays shoppers don’t simply compare prices, but also look at nutrition profiles. But even so, very few people read every detail on the labels.

Chen Ping-chun
Pet shop manager
Internationally, in the U.S. and EU, there are quite a few organizations, for example the Association of American Feed Control Officials or the European Food Safety Authority. Those are the organizations that are most likely to be referenced on packaging.

In Taiwan, there are no organizations that set pet food standards for local brands, which make up 30% of the market. Taiwanese brands can only send their products to the Swiss quality assurance provider SGS for analysis, or to other private groups for toxin testing.

Hsieh Chang-chi
Pet nutrition and food association
There are a lot of issues with SNQ testing. For example, manufacturers will state that a certain toxin was not detected, and I’ll reject that claim, because what they mean is that the testing instrument used was not capable of detecting the trace quantity. That’s why the toxin was not detected.

Professor Hsieh Chang-chi says there should be a domestic safety certification system for pet food, based on guidelines set by experts, academics, and government officials. But for now, such a system is not on the government’s agenda. With exports dominating the domestic market, officials say there isn’t a pressing need for domestic safety certification. The agriculture ministry says that in 2024, its priorities will be to strengthen pet food inspections, and to mandate the disclosure of pet food ingredients that can cause allergies or other reactions.

Chen Chung-hsing
Agriculture ministry official
And in our latest amendment to the Animal Protection Act, we have a provision that allows future announcements of ingredients that we want to ban in pet food.

The official emphasizes that since the Animal Protection Act was passed in 1998, it has been amended 16 times. Its latest revisions crack down on misleading claims on pet food labels. Meanwhile, Taiwan universities are starting to offer training for pet nutritionists, who will join veterinarians in safeguarding pet food safety. Pet food regulation isn’t as strict as human food regulation, but it’s making advances all the time, the official says.

Chang Cheng-hua
Pet owner
I hope the government comes up with a regulatory system. The most important thing is that penalties are spelled out. Our pets are our children. It’s extremely saddening and distressing when anything happens to them.

In Taiwan, one in every eight people owns a cat or a dog. Many see their pets as family, sparing no effort or expense on care. They’re calling on the government to do more for food safety, to give companion animals the best chance at a long, happy life.

For more Taiwan news, tune in:
Sun to Fri at 9:30 pm on Channel 152
Tue to Sat at 1 am on Channel 53

毛孩食安誰把關?

2024-01-07

台灣走向少子化、高齡化,讓越來越多人把貓狗當成「毛小孩」來養。全台光是登記在冊的貓狗,就多達300多萬隻,而且食衣住行都越來越講究,農業部估算,寵物商機一年至少約6百億元,其中有一半都來自於寵物食品。而台灣的寵物食品,早在2015年已經納入「動物保護法」管理,但近年,寵物食安事件的類型,越來越多樣化,要求至少做到無害、無毒,這樣的標準夠嗎?應該做到什麼程度,才能讓毛小孩吃得開心,毛小孩的爸媽也安心呢?

張小姐養了四隻博美和一隻吉娃娃,五隻狗都是她心愛的「毛小孩」,為了照料牠們敏感的皮膚和關節問題,張小姐天天親手為牠們備三餐。

[[飼主 張呈樺]]
“飼料大部分,其實它有狗狗需要的大部分營養,但我覺得像是因為高溫的壓制,再加上我們的保存,其實某一些營養素都會流失掉,所以我都會想要自己做鮮食,每天變化不一樣的菜色,甚至加不同的營養品。”

愛犬如命的她,回想起自家「毛小孩」,曾兩次遭遇食安意外的經驗,忍不住氣憤與心痛。

[[飼主 張呈樺]]
“之前我去一個寵物旅館,他的鮮食裡面有加藜麥,藜麥對狗狗的確是好的,但是他可能中間烹調的時候出了一點問題,這隻Oreo,那個時候牠吃了之後,牠不適的反應非常的嚴重,牠是直接拉了一灘鮮血”

寵物旅館的鮮食,或許依各家業者品質不一,但就連市售的品牌寵物零食,竟然也出問題。

[[飼主 張呈樺]]
“有一次,牠(狗)那塊零食大概吃了15分鐘都還是像口香糖一直嚼,結果我後來發現,它的肉上面黏了一大塊,疑似塑膠袋在封膜的時候,因為高溫而殘留在上面的塑膠片,這個如果真的被芝麻吃下肚的話,真的是很可怕的一件事情”

相較於人類吃的食物,過去寵物食品,被認為是較次級的食品,即便是國際知名品牌,也曾發生因保存不當,或是混入有毒的三聚氰胺等問題,多次爆發食安危機,數千隻貓狗因而喪命,為了避免悲劇一再重演,2015年台灣將寵物食品安全,納入《動物保護法》管理,要求市售的寵物食品,除了標示主原料,有效日期等基本資訊,最重要的,吃了不能影響寵物健康。

[[農業部動物保護司副司長 陳中興]]
“人對寵物的感情或者是態度,已經變成跟人或者是家庭一份子這樣的改變,我相信未來針對我們家庭成員(寵物),發生問題的時候,民眾的要求或飼主的要求,也會越來越多”

要做到無毒、無害,寵物食品工廠的管理不能鬆懈,這座占地4000坪,2022年才剛剛啟用的寵物食品工廠,還沒進門就先經過層層消毒。

[[台灣寵物濕食品牌創辦人 孫宗德]]
“比一般的(寵物)食品工廠,我們要求會再更多一點,寵物食品它不僅僅是寵物食品,它其實是嬰兒食品,所以在規範或者規則來說,我們都希望做到超乎預期”

貓狗罐頭產線的第一站,許多員工正排排站,用手一片片檢查原料雞胸肉。

[[台灣寵物濕食品牌創辦人 孫宗德]]
“肉進來難免會有塑膠,有時候裡面會有木頭,它是機率問題,我們一天做了10幾萬罐20萬罐,它可能是10萬分之一或20萬分之一,可是對於收到的客人來講,它就是100%”

沖洗過程很難清除的,木屑、昆蟲、塑膠片,通通用人工檢查剔除,確認整片雞胸肉上沒有異物,才會送到下一站,將雞胸肉絞碎混合成泥,裝入罐頭,但這趟罐罐之旅,到這還沒結束。

[[台灣寵物濕食品牌創辦人 孫宗德]]
“每一罐除了前面的製造日期跟有效期限以外,它的這個碼112240,意思就是在11點22分40秒(製造),它如果有問題可以調出攝影機,知道是什麼時候製作的”

不只加強製程、管控冷鏈,預防寵物食品變質,孫宗德也堅持,每顆罐頭都要噴上,可以追溯到秒的專屬「身分證」。

新建的寵物食品工廠與時俱進,甚至走在法規之前,但寵物食安危機的類型,正在發生轉變。

[[台灣寵物營養保健食品學會秘書長 謝長奇]]
“就比如說,在前幾年出現的維生素D(過量)的事件,過量的維生素D,對(貓狗) 身體就有害,可是適量的話,對骨骼的保健是很有幫助的”

然而現行法規,其實並沒有強制要求寵食業者,必須標示出這些微量元素,到底加了多少。

[[台灣寵物營養保健食品學會秘書長 謝長奇]]
“當然這對(寵食)業者來說,是很大的衝擊,因為我確信有很多業者,對於他們所進的原料可能也不是完全了解,所以他很難在標籤上,能夠完全展開所有的內容”

[[連鎖動物醫院創辦人 黃聰圍]]
“我覺得(標示)展開的時候,不是單純的說比例是多少,他甚至如果可以的話,我還是會希望說,他是用什麼樣的食物等級,這樣子我想對消費者來講會覺得更有他自由的選擇權利”

寵物食品成分,比照人類食品「全展開」,或許保障了消費者「知的權利」,但寵物通路門市坦言,這樣做恐怕效果有限。

[[寵物通路門市總店長 陳昺均]]
“他(客人)不一定會去看全部的成分,所以最主要我們都會建議客人,在成份上至少看前四到五項的主要成分是什麼,因為這四到五項主要成分,可能就佔了飼料或是這項產品70%的內容物”

根據陳昺均總店長的觀察,多數飼主購買寵食的習慣,已經從單純比較價格,進步到觀察主要營養成分,但會逐一檢視標籤細項的飼主,仍是少數。

[[寵物通路門市總店長 陳昺均]]
“以國外來說,其實有分美國、歐盟,所以他們的單位其實非常多,比如說AAFCO(美國飼料品管協會),或是歐盟的EFSA(歐洲食品安全局),這個都是滿容易常見的一些標章”

但目前攻佔三成台灣寵食市場的本土品牌,卻沒有相關的評比機制,業者只能自行送檢SGS或是交由民間機構進行毒物檢測。

[[台灣寵物營養保健食品學會秘書長 謝長奇]]
“在SNQ(國家品質標章)評核裡面,我發現了很多這個現象,廠商通常送來的這些有害物質,他們通常都會寫未檢出,其實都被我打回票,就是說它所謂的未檢出,並不是真的未檢出,是因為它檢測的設備儀器,沒有辦法檢測到那麼微量,所以都是未檢出”

謝長奇教授強調,如果要推台灣寵食專屬的安全標章,要有專家學者和政府共同把關,但農業部動物保護司,對此態度保留,表示目前台灣的寵物食品市場,仍大量仰賴進口,本土安全標章的需求,並沒有這麼緊迫。2024年的目標,會先放在加強抽檢市售寵物食品,和要求寵食業者在標示上適度展開,對貓狗較敏感的成分,開始做起。

[[農業部動物保護司副司長 陳中興]]
“我們在這一次《動保法》的修法裡面,我們也留了一個法條,未來我們可能會主動公告,有哪一些的原料它是絕對不可以添加在寵物食品裡面的”

動物保護司強調《動保法》從1998年公布施行至今,已經修過16次,2024年新法規上路後,政府也將針對廣告不實、宣稱療效的寵物食品業者開罰,全國各地設有動物科學相關科系的大專院校合作培育「寵物營養師」專業人才的學程,也正陸續開設中,未來「寵物營養師」有機會和獸醫師一起把關寵物食安,雖然沒有辦法比照人類食品的高標準一步到位,但寵物的食品安全正逐年完善。

[[飼主 張呈樺]]
“我希望政府可以有系統化的規範,最重要的是要有處罰這件事情,其實牠是我們的小孩,所以牠們如果發生什麼事情,我們也會覺得很傷心、會很受挫。”

每八位台灣人中,就有一人飼養貓狗,其中有不少人像張小姐一樣,將貓狗當成家人,甚至是「毛小孩」,食衣住行樣樣都不得馬虎,畢竟只有養得好,才能將牠們養到老,在飼主身邊長久相伴。

更多新聞內容,請鎖定:
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