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About 40 Percent of Pet Foods Tested Were Mislabeled

First Posted: Oct 01, 2014 12:53 PM EDT

Are you giving your pets food that's safe to eat? A new study may prove that there have been more than a few instances of pet food mislabeling. It turns out that out of 52 products, 20 were potentially mislabeled.

"Although regulations exist for pet foods, increase in international trade and globalization of the food supply have amplified the potential for food fraud to occur," said Rosalee Hellberg, co-author of the new study, in a news release. "With the recent discovery of horsemeat in ground meat products sold for human consumption in several European countries, finding horsemeat in U.S. consumer food and pet food products is a concern, which is one of the reasons we wanted to do this study."

The pet food industry is a huge market in the United States. About 75 percent of U.S. households own pets, which totals about 218 million pets, not including fish. On average, each household spends about $500 annually on their pets, which is about one percent of household expenditures. In the past five years, pet industry expenditures have increased by $10 billion overall.

In order to see whether mislabeling occurred, the researchers tested 52 products by extracting DNA and testing it for the present of eight meat species: beef, goat, lamb, chicken, goose, turkey, pork and horse. In the end, the researchers found that chicken was the most common meat species found in the pet food products. Pork was the second most common, followed by beef, turkey and lamb. The least common was goose, and none of the products tested positive for horsemeat.

Of the mislabeled products, 13 were dog food and seven were cat food. Of these 20, 16 contained meat species that weren't included on the product label, with pork being the most common undeclared meat species.

Pet foods are regulated by both federal and state entities, yet it's clear that they're being mislabeled. The manner in which mislabeling occurred, though, isn't clear. In addition, it's not clear whether the mislabeling was intention or not.

The findings are published in the journal Food Control.

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