Many pet food companies, especially those making the more expensive premium brands, often advertise that their ingredients come from USDA inspected plants. But does that mean that the ingredients are inspected?
The answer is no.
United States Department of Agriculture or USDA inspection is required in any facility that handles or manufactures food for humans. The job of the USDA is to ensure the safety of food intended for humans, not pets. Most meat, grain and vegetable ingredients in pet food are sourced from USDA inspected slaughterhouses or plants. The ingredients for pet food are the food parts that the USDA does not allow into the human food chain.
Generally these are the internal organs and scraps from meat and the scraps from milling and processing grains and vegetables. The USDA is not guaranteeing the quality of these ingredients, but only designating that they be used for purposes other than human food. This can include whole animals or products that were diseased or rejected for human consumption. Generally that means they end up in pet food, fertilizer or other industrial products.
Once these designated ingredients leave the USDA inspected facility there is no oversight for their transportation and handling. There is also no required USDA inspection of the pet food manufacturing facilities that turn these ingredients into pet food. The USDA does offer a voluntary inspection service for canned foods, but few pet food makers use the service.
So, if your pet food maker advertises USDA inspection you might want to do a little more research and find out what that really means. Or you can buy real USDA inspected products from the grocery store and make your own homemade dog food.
Dr. Ken Tudor,
The Dog Dietitian