We’ve talked a bit about counterfeit medicine and how the drug supply chain needs to be made far more secure. However, we also care about family members who have a bit more fur than the others. Counterfeit pet products are becoming more of a problem in this day and age, and it’s important to know how they enter the supply and how to combat this issue.
The pet industry is a huge business. In the United States alone over $60 billion was spent on pet products, making it a larger economy than almost two-thirds of the world’s nations. About 40% of this is spent on food.
One way bootleg food can enter the supply is through online marketplaces, such as Taobao or Alibaba. Companies which make counterfeit products advertise incredibly low prices for huge amounts of bulk food. Often, a seller or distributor will buy out these listings and resell them at home for huge markups that are still far below market value. Even if the food is made of the same ingredients, the quality standards are almost universally lower when the source is a country with loose regulations. Unscrupulous companies will add toxic materials to food to cut costs and cheat the minimal nutrition requirements. Others may have unsanitary production facilities, completely inaccurate expiration dates, along with other hazards that could harm or kill an animal.
This circumvents many of the rules and restrictions put into place by various governments. There’s no guarantee the ingredients listed on the packages are accurate, nutritious, or even non-toxic. Melamine is a particularly common ingredient used in counterfeit pet foods, due to the fact that it can make food appear more nutritious when tested. There was a massive worldwide crisis in 2007, in which many counterfeit pet foods were killing pets because products from China contained this harmful chemical. In 2008 it was also found in baby formula, which prompted changes in regulations and some arrests.
There was also an incident in 2013 in which Chinese officials investigated a company that had been selling counterfeit food on Taobao for years, and found they had rented multiple warehouses for evading inspectors, utilizing food scales, repackaging equipment, and reprinted bags. These were all labeled with brand names popular in Western countries.
These major brands aren’t taking this lying down, however. A number of different companies have released statements to educate customers on how to be sure their pet food is genuine. When purchasing food online, customers should always make sure the website is licensed directly by the brand to sell their food. Additionally, authorized websites will always link back to the distributor’s and the manufacturer’s sites. Most popular brands have at least two authenticity labels on the packaging to ensure that they’re the ones making and selling the product.
The best way to prevent your pet from falling victim to these products is vigilance. Always buy pet food from a trusted retailer. If the food seems too cheap to be real, then it probably is. Check the expiration date every time – the date itself is important, but so is the format. Fuzzy print on the packaging could be a sign that the product is counterfeit. If it looks off, don’t chance it. Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not buy pet food online, and never from a seller, you don’t already trust. Finally, check the country of origin. While not all products from a country with relaxed quality standards are dangerous, it’s not worth the risk to your pet.
Personally, I have a policy to never feed a pet something I wouldn’t trust to eat myself (and vice-versa isn’t a bad policy to have, either). It may not be tasty, but if it’s not nutritious or safe, then don’t feed it to your pets. Always buy pet food from a trusted source.
IDLogic is committed to making sure that everyone – people and animals alike – have access to real medications and foods which are safe and not counterfeit. We are using our technology to help people and their pets around the world.