4 Research Methods that Create Safer Pet Foods

pet food research

Every year, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration issues dozens of recalls and withdrawals in the pet food industry. Changes in the composition of and production methods for pet food have inserted new and evolving risks for pet food manufacturers. 

In this climate, conducting appropriate research for new and existing products is essential for companies to avoid costly recalls. And of course, the best method of avoidance is taking preventative measures in manufacturing facilities to reduce the chances of bad product making it to consumers. 

In April, Mary Bandu will be speaking on pet food trends, and how the increasing portions of fruits, vegetables and meats in pet food are challenging traditional methods for monitoring Salmonella spp. She’s joining many pet food industry experts at the 2017 Petfood Forum in Kansas City, Missouri.

Here are the four types of research that, when conducted properly, help produce safer pet food products: 
pet research methods

1. Shelf Life Studies

Shelf life studies are conducted to determine the length of time a product may be stored without becoming unsuitable for consumption. Shelf life is dependent on a number of factors, including microbial, chemical and sensory evaluations.

Shelf life studies may be necessary when:

  • New packaging is being evaluated
  • New products or changes to current product formulation are developed
  • Storage or shipping conditions have changed
  • There’s excessive waste due to product expiration

Chestnut Labs has conducted numerous shelf life studies to determine safe consumption periods for products containing multiple matricies. For any new products you may have in the pipeline, make sure to take the necessary steps to ensure your product’s shelf viability. 

2. Validation Studies

Lab validation studies help verify the effectiveness of the processes and equipment used in food production. Specifically, validations are vital for gaging the effectiveness of equipment against target organisms.

The data obtained during validations assist in verifying the inactivation of pathogens at critical controls points. Validations can also be helpful for finding:

  • The effectiveness of sanitation procedures
  • The stability of product during heating/cooling
  • Which thermal processes achieve a specified reduction in pathogens

Our past validation studies have focused on subjects such as commercial kitchen dehydrating processes, thermal processing to reduce pathogens in liquid formulations, and thermal processing to reduce Salmonella in meat pastes. 

3. In-Plant Validation Studies

In-plant validation studies confirm the degree of lethality against a target organism or group of target organisms. Since the conditions of a production plant can’t be fully replicated in a lab, non-pathogenic surrogate organisms are identified and utilized at the production facility.

In-plant validation studies are needed when:

  • Thermal processing cannot be replicated in a laboratory setting
  • Specialized thermal processes must achieve a defined log reduction in pathogens
  • New specialized equipment is being evaluated

Chestnut Labs has conducted in-plant validation studies for pet food formulations using continuous oven processing, protecting dehydration processes against Salmonella spp. and E. coli, and baking processes for dog biscuits. 

4. Challenge Studies

Finally, challenge studies are designed to determine the ability of a food matrix to support the growth of spoilage organisms or pathogens. A food matrix is simply the components, both nutrient and non-nutrient, that bond together through molecular relationships.

Studies may be needed when:

  • New interventions or preservatives are being evaluated
  • Thermal process temperatures and hold times are being established

We’ve conducted challenge studies that help determine the thermal inactivation of Salmonella spp. in pork and fat, that determine reduction levels for Salmonella using chemical intervention, and that determine the ability of an intervention to reduce Salmonella spp. in poultry and feather meals.

Data produced from challenge studies helps to meet FSMA risk assessment requirements.

Bryce Wilks