The last day of the AAFCO meeting was the Pet Food Committee meeting. Again, more interesting events to share.
There was several small discussions regarding work in progress – such as the AAFCO website (information specific to pet food consumers) and future workshops for industry to be hosted by AAFCO (pet food labeling requirements). Of interest was the discussion on tartar control claims of pet food/treats.
A veterinarian representative of the American Veterinary Dental Association (AVDA) spoke and provided the room with a perspective that AAFCO regulations need to be strengthened on tartar control claims. His suggestion was not received well by industry – several spoke out against any changes to regulations. An AAFCO member and State Department of Agriculture representative shared his own story of purchasing a dog treat based on tartar control claims and he felt the labeling was misleading and the product was basically useless. An industry representative disagreed and blamed any misunderstanding of the label on the consumer.
It was left that the veterinarian from the AVDA will join a AAFCO working group to provide input to potential changes in regulation.
The long awaited updated nutrient requirements for cats and dogs was discussed as well. It will be a 2 year wait for these new nutrient regulations to go into effect – as industry requested they need time to change their formulas. It occurred to me that industry pushes to get quick approvals for new ingredients (such as waste leftover from the production of biodiesel fuel), but they need years to implement any other changes. Several years back at an AAFCO meeting, one industry representative stated ‘they’ needed 15 years to put calorie statements on their labels…same group pushed for approval of waste ingredients in 180 days time.
And during this session there was discussion (again) of ingredients that are used in pet foods/animal feeds that have not gone through the FDA process for approval. This FDA representative was reminding industry that these food ingredients must go through the approval process. And at one point when he said ‘food’ – he followed with “I’m using the term food loosely”. What he was meaning was ‘feed’ – but he termed it as food. I felt this was a step in the right direction – small step – but still good. They know we know there is a significant difference between feed and food. And they are just beginning to acknowledge it too.
Several topics were discussed if existing pet food regulations need to be changed – such as any reference to quality or grade of ingredients in the list of ingredients on a pet food label (example prime beef). As well, the topic of images or graphics on a label was mentioned to perhaps update. Dr. Jean Hofve – who was unable to attend but participated in the meeting via conference call – spoke up in favor of providing consumers with more information to quality of ingredients and not allowing misleading pictures on the label – as did I. I used the example of images of grilled meat on pet food labels when in each case the meat in the pet food is not grilled. An FDA representative provided comment that I did not agree with – stating these images are “a matter of free speech”.
If free speech is the issue, then I have to ask why pet foods made with 100% human grade ingredients are forced to jump through numerous FDA and AAFCO hoops to state ‘human grade’ on their labels? Why wouldn’t that be free speech as well?
In my private meeting with AAFCO President and the chair of the Pet Food Committee I shared with them lack of enforcement of existing regulations is a huge concern to consumers. Through this meeting (the entire AAFCO meeting) there was much time spent on asking industry to go through the proper process to gain ingredient approvals. I asked them why this wasn’t stopped by regulatory authorities? I used the example (that I’ve complained about before) of the ingredient pea protein. Pea protein has been used in pet food for five years or so now – and it only just became an official legal pet food ingredient. I asked why regulatory authorities didn’t just pull those pet foods using an illegal ingredient from store shelves? Fine the manufacturers that continue to use illegal ingredients. I was asked…’So if we fine a company (example) $30,000 for using illegal ingredients you think that will stop them?’ My response: “Bingo!”
There is a reason people don’t speed when there is a cop with a radar gun tracking their car.
Overall, I think we are making progress. Slow, but progress. They know we are here for the duration – we are not going away, we are not going to be silent, and we are watching their every move.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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The 2015 List
Susan’s List of trusted pet foods. Click Here
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The 2019 List of Pet Foods I would trust to feed my own pets