Friday, December 4, 2009


In spite of the yeoman service being rendered by NGOs like SPCA, Blue Cross Society, CUPA, Beauty without Cruelty, PFA etc, dedicated to animal welfare, pet food industry in India looks like an orphaned sector with the manufacturers having a free run, unchecked and uncontrolled. They are a law unto themselves leaving millions of pet owners at their mercy. There are no standards, no reasonableness regarding pricing and no accountability for peddling unsafe foods to the unwary pet owners. This is in sharp contrast to the overseeing system in the US where defective products are even recalled once safety questions arise.

"It is reported that, since April 2009, four major pet food companies in the US had to recall their products. inadequate overseeing may be the major reason why safety aspect is being disregarded and growing pet supply sales seems to be further incentive for the pet food companies to focus solely on making money rather than keeping pets healthy. The pet supply distribution in the US has reached a staggering $4.2 billion last year".

Though there are no reliable statistics regarding number of pets being maintained in India, some scattered reports place them at 25 million dogs, the dog to man ratio being 1:40. Though many house holds do maintain cats, most of them being free roaming types, with hardly any foods served to them inside the house, except for milk. In the case of dogs in India, unlike those in the US, where more than 70 million house holds maintain pet dogs under license from the local civic authorities, 80% of dogs are of feral type or more commonly known as street dogs with no restraint on their movements. Only a very small percentage comes under the restricted and supervised category and only these dogs form the clientele for the pet food industry. It is time the pet food industry takes these valued clients into confidence for its very survival.

There are only a few manufacturers of pet foods in India and mostly they are confined to dog foods. Slaughter house waste, with doubtful quality and safety is used extensively in these products and quality control is more conspicuous by its absence. Probably adequate efforts are not made by the organized pet food industry to promote its products and generate good business volume. Unfortunately there seems to be an impression in the industry that pet owners are rich enough to pay any price as evidenced by a spate of high cost imported foods in the Indian market and the only one local manufacturer, offering 2-3 varieties of pet foods, has the monopoly, with absolute freedom for manipulating the price and the pack size. Practically no R & D takes place on nutrition, toxicology, health and formulation of pet foods. Probably FSSAI can step into this vacuum providing guidelines for this industry for putting some science into their products!

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