LCQ15: Pet food regulation

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (March 28):


     Quite a number of pet owners have relayed to me that at present, the authorities do not regulate pet food and that such food products vary in quality, affecting the health of pets and even causing the death of some pets.  They criticised that there were loopholes in the current practice.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  whether it had conducted any sampling test on the safety of pet food and verified the accuracy of the package descriptions in the past five years; if it has, of the details, if not, the reasons for that;

(b)  whether it knows if the authorities or the Consumer Council had received any complaint about pet food in the past five years; if they had, the number of such complaints;

(c)  whether it knows, among the places of origin of the pet food which is imported to Hong Kong at present, those places of origin where pet food is subject to sampling inspections before it is exported or is regulated by relevant local legislation;

(d)  which government departments members of the public can approach to seek assistance when they suspect any inconsistency between the ingredients of pet food and its label information or contamination of pet food, together with the channels for seeking assistance; and

(e)  whether it will consider amending the relevant legislation to bring pet food under regulation; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     There are no large-scale commercial enterprises producing pet food in Hong Kong.  While some pet owners may prepare pet food from fresh ingredients, in recent years the majority of pet owners choose to feed their pets with processed and pre-packaged food readily available in the market.  As pet animals often feed on one single food item on a long-term basis, pet food producers usually employ veterinary surgeons and animal nutritionists to develop different food products providing a balanced diet for different types of animals.  This is to ensure that the pet food products are suitable for long-term consumption by pet animals and are able to sustain the pets' healthy growth and living.

     Unlike the case of food for human consumption, there are currently no pet food safety standards commonly recognised by international organisations.  Producers mainly rely on the professional advice of individual experts or make reference to standards drawn up by some authoritative organisations.  Most of the pet food sold in Hong Kong is compound formulated food imported from the United States, Europe and Australia which, as pet food producing countries or regions, have their own regulatory regimes for the production, quality control and description of ingredients of pet food.  There have not been any significant pet food safety incidents in Hong Kong in many years.  Where necessary, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will proactively seek information on the quality of pet food products from the importers or distributors concerned.  Pet owners may also find out more about the particulars of pet food or the needs of individual pets from distributors or veterinary surgeons.

     At present, most of the pet food available in the market provides information including the description of its ingredients, places of origin, etc.  The Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362) prohibits any person from applying false or misleading trade descriptions, including descriptions as to composition or place of origin, to goods in the course of trade or business.  The Ordinance applies to general goods which cover pet food.  The public may report to the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) regarding any suspected cases of false trade descriptions in relation to pet food.  Dissatisfied consumers can also lodge complaints about pet food with AFCD and the Consumer Council.

     My reply to the five parts of the question is as follows:

(a) and (b) Over the past five years, C&ED conducted testing on samples of two pet food products.  No violation of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362) was found.  During the same period, C&ED received one complaint about fish feed involving false description regarding the product's place of origin.

     According to AFCD's records, a total of 11 complaints relating to pet food were received in the past five years, which mainly involved the hygiene, ingredients and expiry date of the products.  In handling these complaints, AFCD contacted the importers or distributors of the pet food concerned for information about the problem food and then relayed the relevant information to the complainants.  During the same period, the Consumer Council received a total of 81 complaints relating to pet food which mainly involved its quality and hygiene.  As there have not been any major safety incidents, and there is no universally applicable pet food safety standard, AFCD has not taken any samples of pet food for testing in the past five years.

(c)  Pet food in Hong Kong is mainly imported from the United States, Europe and Australia.  Production and listing of ingredients of pet food are subject to the regulation of respective governments or authorities.  Different jurisdictions adopt different regulatory approaches.  For instance, the European Union has enacted specific laws on animal food whereas the United States has in place a single regime governing food for both human and animal consumption.  In Australia and Canada, self-regulation by the trade is practised.  As such, different jurisdictions will formulate different regulatory approaches according to their own needs, and major pet food producing countries usually have more stringent regulations to control these products.

(d)  As mentioned above, pet good as a category of commodity is regulated by the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362).  The public may report to C&ED regarding any suspected cases of false trade descriptions in relation to pet food.  For cases of suspected contamination of pet food products, the public may contact AFCD apart from making enquiries with the source of purchase and importer or distributor of the pet food concerned.  AFCD will assist the complainant by following up with the importer or distributor concerned.  Consumers who are dissatisfied with pet food products may also seek the assistance of the Consumer Council.

(e)  As the safety of pet food in Hong Kong is generally satisfactory and its trade descriptions are regulated under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362), we do not consider it necessary to introduce legislation to regulate pet food at this moment.  AFCD will continue to keep in view overseas development in the monitoring of pet food, as well as the general condition of the safety of local pet food.  At the same time, AFCD will gather information for compiling a catalogue of local major pet food products available in Hong Kong, with a view to facilitating follow-up on enquiries or complaints concerning such pet food in future.  We will review animal welfare-related legislations from time to time to ensure that the regulation keeps pace with changing circumstances and meets the needs of our society.

Ends/Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:16