The petfood market in China is very small; many retail
outlets for petfood still reside in traditional markets. As the
market grows, it will have an impact on ingredient and product
quality. Photo: SourceMedia
Since the 2007 melamine contamination scandal, Chinese
regulators have upped their oversight, run a four-month-long
food industry inspection sweep that covered petfood makers and
signed a new export agreement with the US that requires Chinese
petfood makers to register with the government.
In early 2007, two Chinese suppliers exported toxic material
to petfood suppliers in the US, killing more than 300 dogs and
The incident spurred a four-month food industry cleanup in
China starting in August and including all petfood
manufacturers and exporters. The sweep was initiated by Wu Yi,
vice premier of the state council, and involved the General
Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and
Quarantine (AQSIQ) and all its local officials.
"With the inspection, all government approved products now
will have to carry a quality mark," said Li Changjiang,
minister with AQSIQ. "We will also present a transparent food
quality situation to the international society by issuing a
Chinese white book every year." The first white book, released
last August, also covers the petfood industry in China.
He Zhongyun, head of Beijing-based China Pet and Pet's
Development Service Center, told
that there are no specific regulations governing petfood in
China, as the market is still very small.
"Most Chinese petfood manufacturers faced no quality checks
within the country, as none of their products are sold on the
local market," He said.
However, on December 11, the governments of China and the US
signed memorandums for the promotion of export and import in
eight business areas, including petfood. Now Chinese food and
material suppliers, including petfood makers and suppliers,
will have to register with the local government, and the data
will be shared with the US Department of Health and Human
According to Nestlé, by the end of 2009 China will have
2,100 supermarkets selling prepared petfood. Currently only about
1,500 such outlets exist. Photo: SourceMedia
"The products go through quality inspection twice," said Lin
Xuanchun, head of production with Xuzhou WeiLong Food Co. Ltd.,
a petfood maker located in Jiangsu province. "The Chinese
government conducts an inspection prior to shipping, and the US
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts the second one at
WeiLong produces dry foods for dogs and cats and ships about
19 tons to the US every month, Lin said, adding that all of
Weilong's products follow a strict quality control process and
have a 100% pass rate with inspections.
According to He, since the 2007 incidents a strong quality
control sense has gripped the management of 166 registered
Chinese petfood exporters.
Michael Wang, export manager with Shanghai Bestro
Enterprises Inc., a privately owned petfood manufacturer, said
the company has its own evaluation system to supervise the
suppliers. Bestro makes chews and pet snacks that are exported
to the US and Europe, with annual sales of about US$20 million,
according to Wang.
"We have many suppliers and the evaluation system helps us
keep the good ones," he said. "All suppliers are required to
send us a copy of upgraded licenses, including the business
license and the food sanitation license." The company also does
sampling inspection at its laboratory and sends a lot of
material for testing to the US.
"After the incident last March, it takes longer for the FDA
inspection, but no matter how strict the process is, our pass
rate is 100%," Wang added.
Michael Wang of Shanghai Bestro Enterprises says the
domestic demand for good petfood is growing slowly in
China, and he believes this will gradually improve petfood
"The number of knowledgeable high-end pet owners is
growing, and they want to buy good quality petfood, rather
than cheap feed or even human food," he said. "Currently,
around 10% of all pets in China are eating petfood, though
they are all foreign brands."
High-end petfood consumption has been rising in recent
years. The imported quantity of petfood from the US in 2007
stood at 84 million kilograms, up 13% from 2006, according
to China Customs.
By the end of 2009, there will be 2,100 supermarkets
selling prepared petfood in China, as opposed to the
current 1,500, according to the Nestlé Group, which owns
He Zhongyun of Beijing-based China Pet and Pet's
Development Service Center added that a small market and
the high costs of branding have been stopping Chinese
makers from developing high-quality petfood under their own
According to He, there is a huge price gap between
imported and locally produced petfood. "A 20 kilogram
package of Chinese dog food made in Hebei province costs
only around 170 yuan (US$23.80) and is only available in
the low-end markets, compared to imported ones such as Pro
Plan, a Purina brand, which costs over 600 yuan (US$84) for
the same quantity," He said.
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