Day 1 report from AAFCO meeting.

Opening session of every AAFCO meeting is always the same. It starts with a roll call of State Department of Agriculture representatives that are present – and then an introduction of every other attendee. It is always interesting to see how many people from industry are present. I didn’t count – but I’d guess there are around 20 representatives from Purina, another 20 from Mars, 5 to 10 Big Heart (formerly DelMonte) and then one or two representatives from many other brands (BilJac, Ainsworth – even someone from Petsmart). It is always a moment of great pride when I get to stand up and say Association for Truth in Pet Food – and this meeting was no exception.

The ingredient definitions of pea protein/fiber/flour were approved as tentative ingredients – the next step they will be published in the AAFCO Official Publication and then it will be officially legal for pet food companies to be use these ingredients (that’s right – it has not been legal up till now). It was mentioned these ingredients have been ‘flying under the radar’ (being used in pet foods without a legal definition). How sad that at regulatory meetings, in a room full of enforcement authorities (State Department of Agriculture representatives) it was acceptable to discuss an ingredient was being used in products without regulatory approval.

A great deal of talk today was about the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) from FDA. FDA says they will put public health role first – regulatory role second (not sure exactly what this means for pet food consumers).

A speaker today was from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. During his presentation – and I’m not sure how this was introduced – he made the comment ‘we all know what its like when a company can’t find a good strategy to sell a contaminated product’. When he said this…the entire room laughed. I found it insulting he could joke about a ‘strategy to sell a contaminated product’ and so many could relate to that strategy. Do they not even consider who might be consuming that contaminated product? And worse yet…this speaker who made the ‘joke’ was regulatory.

During a break – Curt Galliger of Pet Food Institute (the same one that purchased the domains and .org) came up to me and said…’we need to talk about something that I think you and Pet Food Institute will agree on’.  After I picked myself up off the floor, I told him ‘Ok, I’ll listen…I doubt we’ll agree – but I’ll listen’. It ends up that the topic was something I do agree with PFI on . AAFCO is wanting to escalate their voting process where advisors (such as myself) have only a week to respond (this would be issues in between meetings without much involvement from stakeholders such as consumers). We’ll address this issue with AAFCO on Sunday.

A presentation by a representative from the USDA National Organic Program was a first…a first for someone other than educated consumers to discuss illegal ingredients allowed in pet foods/animal feeds.  She was discussing what would be allowed or what wouldn’t be allowed in organic feeds (feeds not food) and she stated ‘cannot feed an ingredient/supplement that is in violation of the FD&C Act’. There it was! Somebody else admits illegal ingredients are used in feeds (and foods). It was of no consequence to authorities here – but it was certainly nice to hear someone else say it (besides us).

And also from Day 1 meetings was a presentation from a representative of Canadian government about their updating of food regulations. Oh…but not pet food. They are ‘redoing everything’ that is except establishing government regulations and enforcement for pet food. Ugh. Her discussion was mostly about food that humans consume or livestock feed. And on the livestock feed portion – a response from AFIA (Animal Feed Industry Association) got a little combative with the Canadian representative. She handled herself well during the verbal battle from AFIA, even when she/the Canadian government was called a ‘socialist’.

It was a pleasure to be joined at the meetings by Dr. Cathy Alinovi (my partner in Dinner Pawsible). And a pleasure to meet with Roxanne of Answers Pet Food and Dr. Chavez of Just Food for Dogs. A pet food consumer who lives here in Sacramento – who readers of the site know as Pacific Sun in her comments – picked me up at the airport (and even brought me a goodie bag of treats for hotel room snacking) and we all met for dinner last night. The conversation between us all was just fabulous! A consumer, a consumer advocate, a holistic veterinarian, and two manufacturers of real food pet foods…priceless!

Today (Saturday July 26 2014) I will be meeting with FDA regarding our challenge of calling most pet ‘foods’ a food (when they are actually a ‘feed’). I’ve asked Dr. Alinovi to join me on this meeting, to give FDA the perspective of a vet trying to find a quality food for her clients – and I’ve asked Answers Pet Food (Roxanne) and Just Food for Dogs (Dr. Chavez) to join me on this meeting too – I don’t know their challenges to try to tell consumers about their use of ‘food’ ingredients. So…fingers crossed – I feel we have a good slice of representatives to present a good argument to FDA on why consumers deserve to know what they are buying when purchasing pet food. I’ll keep you posted.


Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
Association for Truth in Pet Food

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