Food safety for dehydrated pet treats (UK)

Food safety for dehydrated pet treats (UK)

Pampered pooches and their preferred pet treats

We’re a nation of pet lovers. 

The Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (PFMA)1 annual pet population survey shows around 41% of UK households own a pet. Dogs, unsurprisingly, are the most common, with cats coming in second and rabbits hopping into third place.


We all know owning a pet has many positive health benefits. Our pets can make us physically and mentally healthier and many pet owners have adopted ‘pet parenting’ behaviours, mimicking traditional parent-child relationships.

It’s therefore no surprise pet parents want only the best for their fur babies. Growing concern over the contents of commercial pet foods, along with the expanding social lives of dogs, has renewed interest in quality dehydrated pet treats. Dehydrated pet foods have many of the benefits of fresh/frozen raw food, but in an easier way for people to manage.

Pet owners also want honest food safety information surrounding the sourcing, production and storage of commercially dehydrated pet treats. And rightly so. Turning fresh meat, fruit or vegetables into tasty pet treats is serious business. It’s also big business with UK pet owners spending more than £2.7billion each year on pet food alone.

Sourcing meat for pet consumption

Pet owners place a lot of trust in pet food manufacturers to produce high quality, nutritious, palatable and safe pet foods.

Like human food, the manufacture of pet food is highly regulated. The Food Standards Agency2 is responsible for the manufacture of feed for non-food producing animals. This includes pets. 

However, if you are selling into the EU, there’s more than fifty pieces of legislation governing its manufacture. You can view them all on the European Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (FEDIAF) website.3  

Legislation is under frequent review to adapt to scientific and technological developments. Areas covered include:

  • Official requirements to operate pet food plants
  • Regulations on the labelling of pet food
  • General advertising rules
  • Raw materials of animal and vegetable origin
  • The use of additives according to their utility, efficacy and safety
  • Health and sanitary measures (including specific health certificates for trade and processing of meat products)
  • Sampling and methods of analysis for the control of raw materials and finished products
  • Specific sanitary and safety controls, as well as controls of labelling declarations.
  • The use of dietetic pet food for use for animals whose metabolism is temporarily or irreversibly impaired.

In the UK, the PFMA4 has this to say about direct legislation relating to the manufacture of pet food:

‘All foods for animals are governed by the same legislation and, as farm animals form part of the human food chain, the laws are necessarily stringent. Furthermore, as pet food is manufactured and distributed in the same way as human food, some legislation governing human food is equally applicable to pet food.’ 

There’s also indirect protection:

‘Pet food enjoys the additional legal protection of the law which was designed to safeguard raw materials destined for the human food chain, from which the pet food industry also sources its raw materials. Examples of this include the laws restricting the residue levels of veterinary substances in meat and those of pesticides in cereal products. In addition, there is specific legislation governing pet food.’ 

PFMA have also published a set of guidelines.5 While they’re not a substitute for legislation, they give a great overview of the UK pet food industry.

Storing and transportation of meat intended for use in pet food

Alongside legislation, PFMA guidelines5 state:

  • Temperatures shall be kept as low as possible to avoid condensation and spoilage
  • Animal-by-products (ABP) from meat and meat products that are to be turned into raw pet food should be transported at a maximum permitted temperature of 7°C, PFMA members are recommended to use a lower temperature of the order of 5°C or less.
  • The design of vehicles used for refrigerated transport must ensure the maintenance of an appropriate temperature throughout transport and allow that temperature to be monitored.

The guidelines also advise on vehicle hygiene:

When transporting ABPs or any ABP derived products, the following rules apply: 

  • vehicles and/or containers must be covered and leak-proof 
  • vehicles and containers must be cleaned, disinfected, and dried before and after every use 
  • different categories of ABPs must be kept in separate containers and separate parts of the vehicle 
  • animal protein must only be moved in a vehicle designed for that purpose alone.

This article continues
Link to product

40x40cm Premium Silicone Non-Stick Solid Mats

£ 39.00 
Link to product

40x40cm Premium Silicone Non-Stick Mesh Mats

£ 45.00 
Link to product

40 x 40cm Stainless Steel Mesh Trays

£ 85.00 
Most Popular
Link to product
Link to product
Sale 44% Off
Large Capacity
Link to product
Sale 20% Off
Link to product
High-Capacity Industrial Dehydrators

1 Trolley / 30 - 60 Tray / 8.8 - 17.7 m² Total tray area

£ 23,295.00 
Sale 27% Off
Link to product
High-Capacity Industrial Dehydrators

2 Trolley / 60 - 120 Tray / 17.7 - 35.3m² Total tray area

£ 32,995.00 
Sale 33% Off
Link to product
High-Capacity Industrial Dehydrators

4 Trolley / 120 - 240 Tray / 35.3 - 70.7 m² Total tray area

£ 49,869.00 

Extra ingredients

A great way to have a healthy dog is to introduce fresh fruit and vegetables into their diet. An easy way to do this is via dehydrated pet treats. While fresh fruit and veggies can be added to an animal’s diet alone, it’s more common in commercially prepared pet treats for the fruit and veggies to be incorporated into a meat treat. And similar to a fussy child, a fussy dog won’t even know there’s extra goodness in the food.

A dog’s diet should ideally contain at least 20% vegetables. Vegetables that are especially good for dogs include:

  • green beans, 
  • cabbage, 
  • carrots, 
  • cauliflower, 
  • broccoli, 
  • squash, and;
  • green, leafy vegetables. 

Animals and HACCP

All pet food manufacturers must abide by HACCP6 principles.  Even when producing food in domestic premises, they must still put in place a feed safety management system. 

Originally developed by NASA and a group of food safety specialists in the ‘60s, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) is an internationally recognised food safety and risk assessment plan. The plan outlines seven key principles in food safety:

  • Hazard Analysis
  • Critical Control Points
  • Critical Limits
  • Critical Control Monitoring
  • Corrective Action
  • Procedures
  • Record Keeping.

To lower meat contamination, meat plants are obliged to apply and sustain hygiene procedures based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles for meat plants.7

Packaging and labelling of pet food

In October, 2018 a new edition of the FEDIAF Code of Good Labelling Practice for Pet Food8 was published. It’s meant to be used as a practical guide to pet food labelling and should be read alongside the relevant EU legislation. 

According to Law Print & Packaging,9 a pet food label must contains certain key pieces of information including:

•  Name and product description
•  Composition (ingredients list)
•  Analytical constituents (information about nutrient levels)
•  Additives
•  Best before date and batch code
•  Producer or distributor name (and how to contact them for further information)
•  Feeding instructions (how to use the product)
•  Weight and/or quantity

These mandatory labelling particulars must be given in their entirety in a prominent place on the packaging.

They must be:

  • easily identifiable 
  • not obscured by any other information, and;
  • displayed in a colour, font and size that does not obscure or emphasize any part of the information (unless such variation is to draw attention to precautionary statements).

Complementary pet foods and the social animal

Complementary pet foods are those other than the pet’s main food source. In other words, treats, snacks and rewards. And while nobody will argue cats are deserving of treats and tasty snacks, let’s face it, when we think of snacks, training and rewards, we’re thinking dogs.

The use of treats to reward dogs during training or when out and about is nothing new. However, with the upsurge in recent years of pet-centric people and families, along with a more focused concern about the contents of pet food, the ability of commercially produced dehydrated pet treats to become a true market force has never been more pronounced. 

And not only that, dogs in the 21st century are highly social creatures within the community. These days, walking your dog is an expectation of pet parents and families. If you can’t walk your own, you hire someone to do it for you. Pet parks, pet beaches, doggy day care, pet holidays, the list is endless. 

And what’s one thing these activities have in common? 

The need for a portable, healthy, nutritious and delicious pet treats to keep dogs well behaved and well fed while out and about. 

Cheap and nasty dog biscuits as a treat? The 21st century pooch says a firm no thank you.

Storage and shelf life

Just like foods produced for human consumption, pet foods have a similar shelf life. When safely stored in a vacuum-sealed package in a cool, dark spot, dehydrated pet treats can expect to have a shelf life of up to 2 years. If the package shows any condensation or other signs of moisture, if it looks unusual or smells funny, it’s likely to have spoiled. And if it’s mouldy, throw it in the bin.

Water activity

Water activity (aw) is a measure of available water in food. That’s not as simple as how much water is in the food though, as some water is bound to other ingredients – like sugar or salt – and isn’t available. In the context of dehydration, this is important as it is the available water10 that microorganisms will use to facilitate growth.

When too much water is available, microorganisms can grow. Pure water has aw = 1.00 and raw meat has aw = 0.99. For pet treats, following advice for dried meats is a good idea. Dried meats commercially produced in the UK are legally required to be dried to a water activity level of less than 0.85. It’s a good idea to aim a bit lower for pet treats. For fruits aim for aw = <0.85 to 0.60 and vegetable-based pet treats around aw = <0.60.


There’s a few basic principles to adhere to in any environment where meat and food products are being prepared. These include:

  • Having a safe water supply
  • Maintaining food contact surfaces in clean condition
  • Preventing cross-contamination
  • Hand washing, hand sanitising and toilet facilities
  • Protecting food, food packaging materials and food contact surfaces from things like lubricants, fuel, pesticides, cleaning compounds, sanitising agents, and other chemical, physical and biological contaminants
  • Labelling, storing and using toxic compounds safely
  • Controlling employee health
  • Excluding pests
  • Confining and removing wastes

The highest hygiene standards should be maintained every step of the way.  

Cleaning your dehydrator is also essential 

Best practice is to clean it between every batch. The trays in our dehydrators are dishwasher safe and the insides of the dehydrator should be cleaned using a cloth and warm soapy water (being careful not to splash water onto the electrical parts). We recommend using a food-safe sanitiser spray to eliminate microbial growth. 

Any cleaning chemicals should be appropriately stored. Staff should be trained how to use cleaning chemicals safely, so as not to cause accidents or contaminate foods.

It’s also important to ensure equipment is thoroughly dried after cleaning to prevent Listeria contamination.

As well as daily cleaning, including throughout the day, regular cleaning and sanitising should be scheduled for things like cool rooms and drains. It’s also a good idea to regularly clean shelving in chillers, door handles, door seals, switches.

Calibrating equipment

All equipment used for monitoring should be regularly checked and calibrated to ensure accuracy. This includes:

  • Thermometers: check weekly
  • Cool room gauges: check monthly
  • Dehydrator temperature gauges: check monthly
  • Water activity meters: according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • Scales: according to manufacturer, by an approved agency

Got questions about how to use your commercial dehydrator safely?

If you’ve any questions about cleaning your commercial dehydrator, recommended settings, or other aspects to ensure a safe final product, let us know. We’re here to help guide you to producing pet treats and other dehydrated foods that are delicious and safe.


  1. UK Pet Food. Pawsitive PFMA Confirms Top Ten Pets. URL:
  2. Food Standards Agency. Pet Food. URL:
  3. Fediaf European Pet Food. The Regulation of Pet Food a Warranty for Hygiene, Safety and Quality. URL:
  4. UK Pet Food. Legislation. URL:
  5. UK Pet Food. Responsible Raw Feeding for Cats and Dogs URL:
  6. Food Standards Agency. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). URL:
  7. Food Standards Agency. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system in meat plants. URL:
  8. Fediaf European Pet Food. FEDIAF Code of Good Labelling Practice. URL:
  9. Law Print & packing. A new edition of the FEDIAF Labelling Code has been approved.  This means many of our pet food and care clients will have to change their packaging labels by January 2020. URL:
  10. Food Crumbles. What is Water Activity (in Food)? URL:
Back to top

Kate Joncheff

Kate spends her days doing life as a mother of two young boys, working on her organic vegi garden and developing organic recipes that she shares with her friends via instagram. Researching and documenting comes naturally to Kate as share has a flare for design and photography.