Author Topic: Composition & labels on well rated foods  (Read 1832 times)

COASTER

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Composition & labels on well rated foods
« on: Sep 13, 2016, 11:39 »
For me labels are important but can fail the whole picture.

With increases in label awareness, some manufacturers are keen to ensure their labels atract the increasing number of us who are more selective & label aware.

With percentages often omitted, some could argue that some ingredients or supplements could be added in small quantities that tick a box, market a product in a certain way or maybe secure a good review rating/score.

Label aware customers form an increasingly growing sector of the market & are arguably potentially vulnerable to carefully marketed & labelled foods.

Previously I have messed about with the review generator on here. I believe it is possibe to secure a decent rating by adding various ingredients.

I accept the issues in not being able to give accurate ingredient pecentile breakdowns for every ingedient & supplements, however,  I sometimes wonder if certain ingedients & supplements are always added in meaningful & beneficial amounts........(I am not discussing specific health condition diets).

For discussion & shared thoughts.........



(Please note I have purposely not mentioned specific brands/foods etc)



Tinyplanets

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #1 on: Sep 13, 2016, 19:21 »
I have never had absolute confidence that the labels reflect complete nutritional needs or that one food ever can be complete. I do tend to stick to one or two foods for the main diet so try to make sure they contain a balance as far as I can know. However as you say, I have wondered if the amount of each ingredient is sufficient.  Sometimes I notice things like, my dog will eat more grass if she hasn't had her usual complete raw, or she will eat clods of earth if she hasn't had her cold pressed for a while.  I try to give her both foods plus an egg occasionally , also some natural yogurt and some veg with her meals. Generally I will keep an eye out for strange eating behaviour and stools and if all is well, I hope she is getting what she needs.

I also give her something unhealthy occasionally and feel it won't do much damage as she eat well most of the time.

Dottie

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #2 on: Sep 14, 2016, 12:06 »
Years ago, there was a group of enlightened pet food companies that formed the Campaign for Real Pet Food.  It is not available now but at the forefront of their aims was the push for clear labelling.  Fortunately, the Dog Food Directory has a 'Clearly labelled' option under the the food properties filter so that the pet owner can make an informed choice.  Personally, when I am doing a search I always tick that box. 

For anyone who is interested, the relevant legislation for pet food labelling is here:
Pet Food Manufacturers' Association Legislation.
Pet Food Manufacturers' Association Labelling.

Coaster - I haven't experimented with the review generator but I understand what you are saying. It reminds me of James Wellbeloved who managed to put the meat source at the top of the list of ingredients by splitting the rice into white and brown.  The quantity of rice was the same (or similar).

For the pet owner who is not sure about something that is in the food (or not as the case may be), it is always worth telephoning the company's help line and if a satisfactory answer is not supplied, maybe move onto another product.
Your post and comments may be helpful to others. Please remember to update your thread. Feedback to the forum is appreciated.

David

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #3 on: Sep 22, 2016, 06:09 »
An excellent point Coaster and one that has been troubling me for some time.

Almost every week I am asked by one or more manufacturers 'what can we do to improve our rating?' - not recipe but rating. And just last week one asked 'if I put in w, x and y and cut back on z, will I get 5 stars?'. I also know that some nutritionists at some of the UK's biggest pet food factories regularly use the Instant Review Generator to test new recipes.

All very flattering but...

The first thing to say is that the Review Generator is far from perfect. It is a relatively blunt tool intended only to give an idea of how a food might score while people are waiting for the full official review to be added to the site. It is certainly not intended or suitable for testing new formulas. 

Secondly, and far more importantly, the idea of manufacturers using the rating algorithm as a template for developing recipes makes me very uncomfortable. Although I think it gives a relatively good idea of how beneficial a food would be for the majority of dogs, I don't flatter myself that it is perfect. It is and always will be a constant work in progress and I’d hate for it to encourage manufacturers to get lazy or simply tick boxes in order to improve their ratings.

As far as I’m concerned, the onus is on manufacturers to do all of the research and testing necessary to ensure that their foods are as balanced, bio-appropriate and beneficial as possible. Every ingredient should serve a nutritional purpose and the amount used and its interactions with the other ingredients should be carefully considered before going anywhere near processing. It’s only through this work that the industry moves forward and people like me gain the knowledge needed to create tools like the rating algorithm, not the other way around.
 
But how to make that happen? As the site continues to gain influence, I may well be fighting a losing battle but some measures do spring to mind:

When the new rating algorithm goes online (don't hold your breath - it's taking much longer than I thought) I think I will take down the Review Generator which will hopefully deal with some of the problems - apologies to all of you that use it regularly but I think it is starting to do more harm than good.

One other very necessary measure is to require manufacturers to disclose percentages of certain ingredients (herbs, fruits, botanicals, supplements etc) before they can receive any rating boost from them but it is a huge undertaking that will take time.

As always, if you have any ideas for improving not just the site but the pet food industry, please do let me know.

COASTER

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #4 on: Sep 22, 2016, 20:38 »
David,

Thanks for replying in some detail.

I totally understand all points made.

It was a phone call to the proprietor of a pet food company that made me further question the potential for some to tick boxes to yield a score.

I agree re your comments on meaningful percentages & ingredient interactions.

I currently feed a 5 star rated food and another before this one, however, I have also happily fed suitable foods of slightly lesser ratings. 

One useful detail I have seen used by some is to state the metalobisable energy ratings of foods (it is important to know that the highest rating may often not be the most appropriate for an individual dog).  I also think it would be good to see maximum carbohydrate figures (simple & complex). As we know, labels are only as good as the ability of the reader being able to interpret them......even if labels don't always tell the whole story.

I will let you know if I have any further useful thoughts for your consideration.

Thank you.

Pegasus

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #5 on: Dec 22, 2016, 15:31 »
Labels on dog foods are a bit of a headache - I did complain to one (major independent) dog food manufacturer that their food was incorrectly labelled according to PFMA guidelines and was told that 'it was only a guideline and not legally binding' (and it shows on this website as being labelled well). I've also noticed new foods with a 'scattergun' approach to ingredients, adding small amounts of many different beneficial ingredients without stating the benefits of each or whether they are in sufficient quantities to be beneficial.

Meg

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #6 on: Dec 22, 2016, 23:27 »
Please will you reconsider taking down the instant food review generator? It is so very useful when I happen upon a food that has not yet been reviewed on the website. And really does highlight in dark red or light red those ingredients that are to be avoided! It's good also to have an idea of a score yet more important to me to see those highlighted red ingredients.
A couple of suggestions for the instant reviewer, which may also deter a manufacturer attempting to tweak to a better score:
What about using a bold blue text for any ingredients that are not given an amount that is  used in the food?
Or a red minus sign if a label appears to be unclear?

David

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #7 on: Jan 02, 2017, 12:31 »
Some good suggestions as always Meg. I'll give it some more thought

COASTER

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #8 on: Jan 02, 2017, 21:13 »
Some while since I started this thread & good to see some thoughtful input.

Having given further thought I have the following comments to make.......

1. The food generator, (even in current form), can perhaps be open to abuse by those looking to score higher ratings, however, some woukd argue that the generator has had a significant positive influence & has caused manufacturers/ brand names to have to add meaningful ingredients &/or avoid others.

2. David &/or perhaps others deemed appropriately skilled, could underwrite any computer generated score adding comments to support a score or in some circumstances,. marking down a score if it seems the food is lacking, or food suspected of being a "code cracker" & with negligible quantities of point increasing ingredients/nutrients.

3. Points could be added for ingredients but only if quantities declared were genuinely deemed beneficial. Examples might include adequate levels of Omega 3 & 6 in fish based foods with an appropriate Omega 3:6 ratio. Meaningful joint aid supplements in claimed joint supportive foods, meaningul levels of vitamins. Caged vs free range eggs, ethical protein ingredient sourcing. A point could be added for declaring metabolisable energy ratings, (importantly  higher energy ratings should not encouraged as some want high enery foods & others may want to feed a food with a lower metabolised energy figure).

4. Clearly some companies that score highly are doing far more to show what is in their foods than their price equivalent competitors. Care needed not to discourage or demotivate the better companies. Regulars on here will know likely companies I am talking about.

5. As a customer &/or potential customer I have had occasion to verbally speak to various companies.....wherever able  engaging with business owners themselves or there established staff. I am mindful that many customers stop short of  doiing this. I can honestly say that there are huge variations in terms of customer service, product info, transaprency & passion for what is being sold. Perhaps wrth consdering prior to awarding a final score. Penalisation should not be given if required info not immediately available but vague engagement & misinfornation are clearly not worthy of positive recognition.

6. We do, however, need to be careful what we wish for......It would be ironic if better food companies working to favourably score highly were forced to hike prices merely to score against a newer algorithim.....This brings me back to the potential value of underwriting of scores.

I am very mindful that the task to create a genuinely improved alogorithim & rating system will be difficult. I hope that my expressing concern that some companies could abuse the generator do not result in it's total removal !  Whether existing generator improved or not users should be encouraged to look beyond scores to avoid rejecting a food that is potentially more suitable than a slightly higher rated product,  (e.g. Intolerances, ease of sourcing locally, celivery cost, storage, acceptable carb levels, local prices etc ....all factors that may be more important than say one decimal point either way on a review score).

David - Apologies if my ramblings cause a New Years headache.....Please take at face value, dismiss any suggestions too complex & PM me if you wish.

Meg

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #9 on: Jan 03, 2017, 01:19 »
Good post Coaster.

May I add also :

Positively or negatively scoring for declaring/not declaring phosphorous to calcium ratio, crucial particularly for larger breed puppies.

Ditto pos/neg scoring if a manufacturer declares/doesn't declare carbohydrate amounts in their foods. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a requirement to do this. It can be worked out from water/protein/fats/ash (fibre is part of carbs) -I believe you already code this David for the charts? - so is there a legitimate reason why manufacturers do not include the percentage of carbs ?

Again for amounts, if any, of glucosamine, msm, chondroitin, green lipped mussel, more importantly if the food is sold as an aid to help with arthritically/elderly dogs. If these are added but are not in the correct amounts then the food may not help the dog as expected.

I'd also like manufacturers to provide their added vitamins and minerals in detail. Some will provide this information if asked, yet it is not provided by rote on the packaging. This could also be pos or neg scored. Reason for this is if a food is lower in a particular vitamin that may be helpful with an existing health issue (eg skin + vit E) then a dog may be given a food with higher amounts of that vitamin, with a more informed chance of being supplemented correctly.

It's a reasonably 'new' addition to dog food, yet manufacturers may add probiotics and not name the probiotic they've added. Not the amount of Colony Forming Units in the concentration, nor how long the potency of the CFU is guaranteed. Again pos/neg scoring as appropriate.

Manufacturers can be more transparent and thus be 'rewarded' by greater sales if their transparency results in greater scores; if that is what is the driving force of the market.

It's not information overload if dogs are given healthier foods then it is to be commended.







Pegasus

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #10 on: Jan 03, 2017, 15:16 »
re quote - Manufacturers can be more transparent and thus be 'rewarded' by greater sales if their transparency results in greater scores; if that is what is the driving force of the market. - unfortunately most people perceive all dog foods to be the same and go on advertising, presentation and price rather than ingredients - hence Bakers being the No1 best seller.
As to making better labelling enforceable - this would be a non starter as the vast majority of dog foods are manufactured by Nestle, Mars, etc and they thrive on the ambiguity of labelling and have a much bigger 'clout' than the independents when it comes to legislation. As an example have a look at the way some human foods are labelled - they brought in a traffic light system for fats, sugar etc - I've picked up some foods where the 'traffic lights' are green and found they are only green if you eat half the portion.
I agree that the well rated foods could be labelled better, but if they go into the minutest detail then it would male it very easy for a rival to copy it. Also it would be hard for new companies to come up with inovative foods at an affordable price if they have to test and provide data on all ingredients (such as CFU of probiotics).

Meg

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #11 on: Jan 03, 2017, 21:36 »
" ....unfortunately most people perceive all dog foods to be the same and go on advertising, presentation and price rather than ingredients"
Yes I agree there are many who do. This is where the allaboutdogfood website is becoming a marvellous reference for people, and if the ratings on the site, plus the nutrient charts encompass greater transparency shown/lack of  by manufacturers this could (hopefully if David thinks it's a helpful idea)  be encoded in the new algorithm.  As people question what they are feeding their dogs (perhaps driven  by dog becoming ill/expense of current dog foods/etc) and find the website they will get access to the data, and be able to make a more informed choice of which food to feed and why.

".... but if they go into the minutest detail then..... "
Yes I understand what you are saying.  I'm asking when a manufacturer adds in a substance (example probiotics)  they know what was added, &  could label as such, including important details like amount and how long is the potency  of the substance. Arguably on a par with a 'best before' and a 'use by' date. 

The hope is the 'risk'(?) of being 'penalised' by a lower score may help encourage more transparency with labelling. Hopefully It's an encouragement for a manufacturer to label what is in their food to a greater degree than they do now.  I'd like to think that encouraging food manufacturers to be more transparent would not discourage a new company, nor discourage food manufacturers from improving their foods.



 


David

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #12 on: Jan 04, 2017, 12:49 »
Some really excellent points being raised. It's very heart warming to see how invested you all are in the future of the site.

First off, in answer to Meg's question

So is there a legitimate reason why manufacturers do not include the percentage of carbs ?

Basically, companies are not obliged to state carb content so most don't. It probably stems from the fact that carbs have a bit of a bad image these days and manufacturers don't want to put anything on the label that might cause customer concern. I'm sure, if they could choose, most also wouldn't include the fat percentage for similar reasons. Carb levels are, however, very easy to calculate but to save our visitors time, I have added a carb dial to each product's page.

David

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #13 on: Jan 04, 2017, 12:58 »
About the various coming updates, your collective input is fantastic and when I return fully to work at the end of next week I'll certainly attempt to incorporate many if not all of the suggestions.

To summarise some of the coming changes:
  • The rating algorithm will finally get its overhaul. Everything from top to bottom will be scrutinised but one chief concern is the awarding of points to health supplements like herbs, certain fruits, extracts, seeds, probiotics and so on. It will take quite a lot of work but my aim is to only give points if a percentage can be provided and only then if that percentage is sufficient to provide the desired benefit.

    I agree that the well rated foods could be labelled better, but if they go into the minutest detail then it would male it very easy for a rival to copy it. Also it would be hard for new companies to come up with innovative foods at an affordable price if they have to test and provide data on all ingredients (such as CFU of probiotics).

    You're absolutely right that many companies regard their recipes as trade secrets and would be very reluctant to divulge the information but I could always refrain from publishing the data on the site provided they give me enough information to make a full appraisal of their food.

  • I am still unsure of whether the cooking method of a food will factor into the algorithm. I have asked a whole host of companies whether they have any hard data to support their claims that raw is better than cooked or cold pressed is better than extruded etc but as yet nothing has come back. I'll keep you all posted.

  • Confirmation of the vitamin/mineral mix is also a great idea as it would help to reveal which foods do and do not contain controversial supplements like sodium selenate, copper sulphate and so on. Right now manufacturers don't even have to mention that their food contains a multivitamin/mineral supplement, let alone what vitamins or minerals it might be comprised of.

  • Coaster, you're spot on that more full written reviews are necessary to back up the scores awarded and I will be making that a priority.

  • The 'clear labelling' logo will soon be much harder to achieve. Any dodgy labelling at all will disqualify a food.

  • With all of the changes, the rating will depend on a lot more factors than just the ingredients list so, if the review generator is to remain, it will have to be either be as a very simple tool or as a more advanced feature that will require much more user input. Maybe both versions could be incorporated but the question of manufacturer abuse will still remain. We shall see.

Thanks again for all of the great ideas and discussion. Do keep it coming!

Dottie

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Re: Composition & labels on well rated foods
« Reply #14 on: Jan 04, 2017, 15:11 »
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this interesting and informative thread. With regards to calculating carbohydrate content in Dog Food, I don't recall whether we have talked about this before. There is an explanation on how to do this on the Dog Food Advisor website here. More on the Slim Doggy website here.
Your post and comments may be helpful to others. Please remember to update your thread. Feedback to the forum is appreciated.


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