Supreme Petfoods Ltd has published the results of tests on small animal petfood which, according to the company, highlight significant problems with the on-pack declarations and contents of a number of the leading brands.

The tests, which were carried out by Campden BRI on behalf of Supreme Petfoods, discovered:

  • Evidence of trace DNA contamination indicating some presence of meat by-products in the process of manufacturing rabbit foods (Burgess, Wagg and Beaphar)
  • Incorrect fibre declarations that were misleading and, while being legal, were consistently at the lower end of the allowed tolerances. Plus one sample which contained 14.9% fibre against a declaration of 22% apparently contravening the regulations (Beaphar Care + Rabbit).
  • Issues regarding high sugar levels which are not required to be declared under current rules. The highest average levels of sugar were found in Wagg Optimum (4.57%), Beaphar Care + (5.00%), Burgess Supa Fruiti (5.10%), Beaphar Extra Vital (5.35%) and Burgess Excel (4.04%).

In the company's press release, Chris Childs, Managing Director of Supreme Petfood, commented: "The results greatly concerned us. We were shocked to find food that is marketed for rabbits - ie: herbivores - had traces of mammalian and avian DNA in it. In my opinion, this can only be compared to vegetarian food being contaminated with meat. This was our main concern amongst many other issues revealed."

That strikes me as overstating the case somewhat. Aside from the fact that bunnies don't get quite as het up about their diets as vegans, the report does not define what 'trace DNA contamination is'. Going on the shock expressed by Mr Childs, I'm expecting a pork chop or a drumstick in every bag of Burgess Excel at the very least. 

Molly Varga, BVetMed, DZooMed (Mammalian), MRCVS told that she would expect rabbits to be exposed to trace amounts of animal DNA naturally and that the amounts found in the tests were not likely to have any effect whatsoever on the health of rabbits. Nevertheless, she did feel that the report highlighted important issues concerning the fibre and sugar content of various diets.

As a consequence of the report, Supreme Petfoods is calling for an overhaul of the rules and regulations which apply to pet food for small companion animals. The company suggests the introduction of an accredited quality scheme aimed specifically at pet food for small companion animals, containing strict conditions for the production, packaging and marketing of food for herbivores.

In response, Burgess Pet Care issued a statement expressing considerable reservations as to the timing, purpose and potential negative outcome for the welfare of pet rabbits of Supreme's report. Commenting on behalf of Burgess, Sharon Redrobe, Head of Veterinary Services, Bristol Zoo Gardens, and Head of Rabbit Clinic, Bristol, said: "Any research into small animal health should focus on the crucial role of fibre in a balanced feeding plan and how this can be communicated to rabbit owners, so discussions centring around the detailed contents of pellets are irrelevant in my opinion to this central welfare issue."

To read Supreme's report, click here.

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