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Food Safety: Ainsworth Pet Nutrition

• Ainsworth's Triple Check System looks at all stages of the manufacturing process.
• Long-term relationships with like-minded suppliers ensures ingredients are held to the same food safety standards.
• Retailers trust Ainsworth enough to produce their private-label lines.

When it comes to food safety, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition takes its pledge, “Every day you get our best,” seriously.

The Meadville, Pa., maker of Dad's Pet Care has made a name for itself with its thorough approach to food safety for its private-label and branded pet food products.

“Our philosophy is simple. Food safety is our top priority. Nothing could be more important,” said Gary Provencher, corporate food safety director at Ainsworth Pet Nutrition.

A large part of Ainsworth's comprehensive food safety program is the company's Triple Check System, adopted in 2009, which looks at all stages of the manufacturing process.

The system addresses ingredients and materials used in the pet food products, and Provencher said that the first “check” involves Ainsworth's long-term relationships with local and domestic suppliers.

“Our team of sourcing experts [has] carefully chosen every supplier to make sure that their ingredients are the highest quality, safe and beneficial for a pet's health.”

On top of working with ingredient suppliers it knows and trusts, Ainsworth performs onsite audits at the ingredient supplier facilities “to make sure they have a food safety program in place and follow the same rigors as we do with intense focus on [good manufacturing practices], and sanitation practices,” Provencher said.

In its second check, Ainsworth monitors the production process for product accuracy, and in the third, final check, the supplier tests finished products.

“Unlike many manufacturers, all of our products are held in our warehouse for 48 hours, allowing us the time needed to complete our testing,” Provencher said. “This ensures that no harmful pathogens are present and all nutrient values are accurate and in accordance with regulatory and formulated standards.”

Ainsworth is also certified with Safe Quality Food Level II auditing standard in accordance with the Global Food Safety Initiative. Provencher said working with the globally recognized SQF standard has been a great guidance model and has helped the supplier stay focused.

Although the number is growing slowly, other than Ainsworth's two certified facilities, only 11 other sites are SQF certified for animal food manufacturing, according to Ryan Curry, administrator of customer relations at the Safe Quality Food Institute.

In part due to Ainsworth's safety protocols, several large retailers have entrusted the supplier with contracts for their private-label pet food, including Wal-Mart, Kroger, H.E. Butt Grocery, Ahold USA, Meijer, Loblaw, Delhaize and Wegmans, as SN has previously reported.

When asked how Ainsworth is able to maintain the trust of its retailer partners, Provencher said, “This is probably a question best answered by our trade partners. But I believe it's our commitment to the long view in all relationships.

“Our food safety principles are the same for all pet food and treats that we make. Our standards are rigorous regardless of whether we are making the food for brands, large retailers or small retailers.”

Earning this trust is no small matter. Many retailers' private-label pet food lines were affected by the Menu Food recall in 2007, when tainted pet food sickened and killed many pets.

For example, after Wegmans' private-label line was impacted by both the Menu Foods recall and by another recall in 2008 due to salmonella concerns with a Mars Petcare facility, the retailer turned to Ainsworth as the supplier for its private-label Bruiser dry dog food and Buju and Ziggie dry cat food in 2009, according to a previous SN report.

Provencher said Ainsworth has always had a strong food safety culture, but did make additional improvements after the Menu Food pet food recall.

“In preparing ourselves for the unknown, we did modify and modernize our programs to address previously unrecognized threats. Food safety is our top priority and it always has and always will be.”