Six pet food suppliers in the county have been told to adhere to guidelines after they were found to be in breach of labelling rules, it has emerged.

Officers from South West Trading Standards (TS) carried out test purchases of dog treats and canine supplements in 10 Somerset and Devon-based firms and found they were all incorrectly labelled.

TS said the majority of the businesses (six) were based in Devon and operating from home, selling through social media platforms as well as their own websites.

In each case the home-based business had not produced the pet food themselves. In addition, eight were repackaged products produced by other firms and the products of the remaining two had been manufactured for them by another business.

TS declined to identify the firms in question in response to a request from this paper, citing confidentially reasons.

However, in a statement TS stressed that although the firms had been in breach of labelling rules the products themselves were not in question.

The pet food providers will not face prosecution, and there was no suggestion, either, that the pets would have been at risk from consuming the treats.

The suppliers have since been given guidance on how to ensure that the products they sell are within the law.

The investigation was launched in response to concerns about the proliferation of small-scale feed business operators setting up online. These types of small business are often not registered with TS, or if using products of animal origin, with the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

Following the inspection, five of the businesses are now registered for feed hygiene and two are purely retailing and have no requirement to register. The other two will soon register, TS said.

Naomi Osborne, the service’s lead officer for agriculture, revealed that many of these types of businesses were set up during or after the Covid pandemic.

She said: “We were particularly concerned that labelling claims, such as the product being ‘home-made’, or ‘free-from’, or ‘natural’, could not be substantiated.

“It’s vital that businesses adhere to the strict regulations and that’s what we are here for, to advise and support and where needed, to intervene.”

Cllr Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for trading standards, said social media platforms such as Facebook had made it easier for businesses to start up as they can reach large numbers of consumers without the drawback of overhead expenses from having physical premises.

He said: “Many of these types of small businesses aren’t registered and as a result they are unaware of the legislative and feed safety requirements when producing a pet food in what is a highly regulated industry.

“Accurate labelling is crucial to provide transparency and ensure that pet owners make informed choices.”

According to UK Pet Food, an association for pet food manufacturers, all information on labels “must be truthful and not misleading about the nature and quality of the product”.