Costa Rican animal feed production is continually growing, with approximately 1,238,243 metric tons produced in 2018. Production-wise, pet cat and dog food are in fifth place (about 41,635 metric tons per year) amongst animal feeds, and it supplies up to 90% of the national market. Pet food production has increased as a response to the increase in the population of dogs and cats in Costa Rica, where 50.5% of households own at least one dog and indicates more responsible ownership in terms of feeding pets. Part of the process of making dry pet food involves a thermal process called extrusion, which is capable of eliminating the microbial load. However, extrusion can compromise nutritional quality to some extent by denaturing proteins, oxidizing lipids, and reducing digestibility. The objective of this study was to evaluate the quality and safety of dry pet food and to assess the effect of the extrusion process on digestibility and the quality of proteins, amino acids, and fatty acids. Pet food samples were collected before and after extrusion and were used to evaluate Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), based on Central American Technical Regulation (RTCA 65.05.63:11). In general terms, weaknesses in infrastructure, documentary evidence, and post-process practices were observed in two Costa Rican feed manufactories. Feed safety was surveyed through the analysis of Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli, Listeria spp., Staphylococcus aureus, aerobic mesophilic microorganisms, fungi, and yeasts counts. The extrusion process effectively reduced pathogenic microorganisms, and showed no effect on the digestibility of dog food (p = 0.347), however, it could reduce the availability of some nutrients (e.g., amino acids, fatty acids). Furthermore, a retrospective diagnosis was made for puppy food (n = 68), dog food (n = 158), and cat food (n = 25), to evaluate the history of nutritional quality and safety. Finally, it can be confirmed that the correct implementation of GMP allows feed manufacturers to deliver a product of optimum texture, smell, nutritional composition, and safety.
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