China has a poor reputation when it comes to their involvement in the global pet food industry. While the concerns regarding pet foods made in China or with ingredients sourced from China are valid, it should be assumed that the same concerns apply to products made elsewhere in Asia.
Given the massive product recalls that have come out of China, many pet owners are concerned about the safety of products made in Thailand. Here we’ll explore how pet food is regulated in Thailand, whether it’s safe, and why so many manufacturers are moving their wet food production overseas.
How Is Pet Food Regulated?
In the United States, the manufacture, production, and sale of pet food is not specifically regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but many of the standards that apply to human food also apply to pet food.
Though they don’t have any regulatory authority, the Association for American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) offers nutritional recommendations that have become the standard by which many pet food brands formulate their foods. Pet food manufacturers in the Canada typically adhere to the same AAFCO recommendations, though pet foods are technically monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) – the Canadian equivalent of the FDA.
The U.S. serves as the prime example many pet food brands around the world aim to imitate. Many cat owners only trust products made in the USA and, after the giant melamine recall of 2007, understandably so.
In 2007, the FDA received reports of pets getting sick and dying after eating pet foods made with ingredients sourced from China. Through an in-dept investigation, the FDA discovered that several grains and vegetable proteins were tainted with melamine, a substance known to have toxic effects on cats and dogs.
As a result of the investigation, over 150 brands were recalled and pet owners in the United States developed a wariness about pet foods made in China or with ingredients sourced from China.
Is Cat Food Made In Thailand Safe?
Pet food production in Thailand is overseen by the Department of Livestock Development (DLD), similar to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Thailand also has its own Food and Drug Administration which is recognized by the United States FDA.
Regulations affecting the pet food industry vary from country to country, but the DLD makes an effort to ensure the safety of products and ingredients that enter the country as well as the products made there.
The USDA regularly releases Global Agriculture Information Network (GAIN) reports in which they describe a country’s regulations, standards, and certifications for food safety. In 2013, they released a document analyzing the regulation of animal feed importation in Thailand. Here is a quote:
“The Department of Livestock Development (DLD) currently requires plant/facility audits located in exporting countries for products considered prone to severe disease contamination (i.e., BSE and Salmonella). Although the DLD has no clear criteria in determining products under this category, the list currently includes all rendered animal products (i.e., meat and bone meal and offal-derived products), egg products, and dairy products. The importer/exporter is responsible for all expenses incurred during the audit.”
In 2018, the European Union audited Thailand’s control system for poultry meat exported to Europe following a concerning 2013 audit. The audit found, “authorities responsible for the official control system on production of poultry meat and products [were] clearly designated and their structure and organization [was] adequate.” As is true in any industry, however, the audit revealed failures in compliance with and implementation of EU standards.
The lesson to take away here is that there’s no reason to suspect cat food from Thailand as a whole, but it’s worth doing the research on individual manufacturers to determine their reliability.
Why Are So Many Cat Foods Made In Thailand?
The pet food industry in Thailand is growing rapidly. A 2011 paper published in the Journal of Mahanakorn Veterinary Medicine suggested that Thailand’s United States import market share is 25%. This paper was written over a decade ago, so the figure is likely to be much larger now.
But why is so much cat food being made in Thailand these days?
It’s quite simple – it’s cheaper to produce cat food in Thailand than in the United States. While the cost of running the manufacturing equipment is roughly the same, the cost of labor in Thailand is much lower.
Additionally, most of the world’s tuna is caught in Thailand. Another GAIN report published in 2018 suggests that Thailand exports over 25 million kilos of fish to the United States each year. Understandably, Thailand is one of the world’s largest hubs for the canning and processing of fish.
Here are a few of the brands that sell products made in Thailand:
Some of these brands have received A- ratings according to the All About Cats standards. They’ve been thoroughly evaluated for the quality, safety, and nutritional value of their products.
Regardless of where it is made, any cat food recipe should be thoroughly evaluated before you feed it to your cat. Cat foods made in Thailand, Canada, and New Zealand shouldn’t be avoided on principle, but you still need to do your job as a cat owner in making sure the food itself is nutritious, well-balanced, and species-appropriate for your cat.
While it is valuable to determine where a cat food is made, don’t forget to find out where the ingredients are sourced. Avoid cat food brands that source ingredients from China or other countries that don’t have strong food quality regulations in place.
As always, you also need to keep your cat’s nutritional needs in mind when selecting a cat food formula.