Day 2 at the AAFCO July 2014 meeting was a roller coaster ride. Up the hill to reach a point to be able to meet with FDA (and have them actually listen to us), and then crashing down into a black hole when industry and AAFCO duped me and then approved an ingredient for pet and animal consumption allowed to contain 90 parts per million lead. Top this off with an industry representative verbally insulting us. It wasn’t a fun day.

I feel I owe all of you an apology. I let you down on Day 2. I allowed myself to be duped by industry (specifically the Pet Food Institute). I assure you – they will never do this to me/us again. Lesson learned.

What happened. I have volunteered for a sub-committee of the Ingredient Definitions Committee (it is known as a ‘working group’) for several years that has been working on legal definitions for meat meal ingredients. This sub-committee got started because there was no (and still is no) legal definition for lamb meal, rabbit meal, and venison meal. Problem #1 – do you realize how many pet foods out there contain a lamb meal or venison meal? All those pet foods actually contain an ingredient without an official legal definition.

So in this ingredient definition working group – my side of the discussion when we met via conference call over the years was the definitions of these meat meal ingredients never clearly defined to the consumer what was in that ingredient. Example: meat and bone meal. My perspective representing consumers was the definition did not include what species of animals were in that meat meal; consumers deserve to know what they are feeding their pet. So these discussions went on intermittently for several years and then suddenly stopped about a year ago. At the January 2014 AAFCO meeting it was decided our working group would meet again via conference call before this July meeting – but that never happened. Quoting from the Minutes of the January meeting: “Meat Meal Work Group Report – Meagan Davis. They are working and will report again in August.”

But much to my surprise for this meeting, I see on the agenda the item to approve tentative definitions for these ingredients. Huh? When I asked about this prior to this meeting, I was told this was procedure just to save time on the meeting agenda so that we can discuss this again and get the working group to meet again. That is not what happened. Tentative ingredient definitions that were never agreed on (I actually don’t know where they got these definitions from – thin air perhaps?) were discussed – do we want them to become official? As I’ve said for years on this particular topic – I said no. Our working group never completed our discussion for these definitions. And I publicly said – on the record – that ‘our working group never completed this – we are still working on these definitions’. So AAFCO members agreed to delete these definitions.

But – here is when they duped me – towards the end of this meeting, the chair of this committee made the suggestion ‘Do we want to disband the meat meal working group?’ What? No! And I told them no – how could they disband this group when we just deleted tentative ingredient definitions based on us meeting again? Then our friends at PFI – this time it was Jill Franks of Mars Petcare wearing her PFI hat – convinced the AAFCO committee that we might as well disband this meat meal working group because we haven’t met and no AAFCO person was willing to lead the group. Even the Canadian regulatory authority went to the microphone and told AAFCO this was wrong to disband the group – that the ingredient definitions which were deleted earlier in the meeting were deleted based on this group meeting again! But nope…discussion was over. They duped me and AAFCO assisted. The Canadian authority told me later in the evening I was “bamboozled”. We all were.

I really felt bad about this – that I allowed them to dupe me/bamboozle me – bamboozle us. I trusted their word – it won’t happen again.


The next just unbelievable issue that occurred today was the AAFCO approval of this ingredient (bold added):

Zinc hydroxychloride is the hydrolysis product of zinc chloride having the empirical formula Zn 5 (OH) 8 Cl 2 (HO). The particle size must not exceed 100 microns. It must contain not less than 54% zinc and is intended to be a source of zinc for use in livestock and companionanimal diets. It must not contain more than 20% chloride, 90 ppm lead, 15 ppm chromium, 10 ppm arsenic, 10 ppm cadmium, and 0.2 ppm mercury.

My trusted expert on ingredients told me “that source of zinc because it has been used in Florida for years as a coating for roof tiles to prevent algae infested roofs.” And there are “problems associated with Zinc hydroxychloride when exposed to high temperatures such as extrusion and pelleting”. And “The negative affect of this source of zinc on the colostrum of dogs and cats cannot be ignored. The negative effects of the heavy metals in this product must be addressed by scientists and not AAFCO officials not trained in heavy metal toxicology.”

I told the committee this ingredient was “heavy metal soup” and should not be approved. Three – yes, three veterinarians stood up and told the AAFCO committee to not approve this ingredient – it was a huge risk to animals. AAFCO ignored everything. They approved the ingredient. So make a big addition to your pet food ingredient radar – Zinc hydroxychloride – big red flag!

The industry pushing this ingredient was AFIA (Animal Feed Industry Association – ‘feed’ not ‘food’). In fact, one of their representatives – a Mr. Jon Nelson – was adamant that I agree with his position this heavy metal soup ingredient was safe. When I wouldn’t agree with him – he stomped away trying to sway the opinion of Dr. Cathy Alinovi and Dr. Oscar Chavez – two of the veterinarians that spoke out against this ingredient (the other was Dr. Jean Hofve). He insulted me to them (not knowing they knew me) and when I walked up he got in my face – you know, one of those fun conversations where someone with incredibly bad breath is two inches from your face – and demanded to know my nutritional education background. The conversation went something like this…

Mr. Bad Breath two inches from my face: WHAT IS YOUR NUTRITIONAL EDUCATION?

Me: My education on this ingredient was…

Mr. Bad Breath two inches from my face: WHAT IS YOUR NUTRITIONAL EDUCATION?

Me: My education on this ingredient was provided by…

Mr. Bad Breath two inches from my face: WHAT IS YOUR NUTRITIONAL EDUCATION?

Me: My education on this ingredient was provided by a scientist I…

Mr. Bad Breath two inches from my face: WHAT IS YOUR NUTRITIONAL EDUCATION?

Me: My education on this ingredient was provided by a scientist I trust.

At that point I walked away. But Mr. Bad Breath didn’t. He stayed and proceeded to argue with Dr. Alinovi, Dr. Chavez and Roxanne Stone – telling both women “they must be vegetarians because their hair is dull”. What a fun guy!

Makes you wish you were here doesn’t it? Ugh. Today is the last day – thank heavens. Such evil and reckless concern of animals is challenging to deal with.


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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