I would give just about anything for all of you to have been a little bird in the window to have witnessed our meeting with FDA. We left feeling at the very least FDA heard the complaints of consumers – they listened – they really listened. It was a good first step. And you might as well have been there listening…because others listened (even took notes) of our entire conversation with FDA.

I had asked FDA to change the name ‘pet food’ (cat food, dog food) to ‘pet feed’ (cat feed, dog feed). My reasoning is…with most pet foods the ingredients are not held to ‘food’ standards, the manufacturing of the pet ‘food’ is not held to food manufacturing standards, as well as transportation of ingredients or warehousing…they are considered ‘feed’ – not food. Consumers deserve to know what they are buying – is it ‘feed’ or ‘food’? – let’s call it what it is. Dr. Dan McChesney and Dr. Bill Burkholder of FDA agree to meet with me, Jan Jarmon of Minnesota Department of Agriculture who is also the chair of AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee joined them – and I asked Dr. Cathy Alinovi (holistic veterinarian), Roxanne Stone of Answers Pet Food, and Dr. Oscar Chavez (veterinary nutritionist) of Just Food for Dogs to join too.

We all sit down and after introductions I explained to the regulatory folks that my concerns were the detective work that consumers are forced to do to discover the quality of the pet food they are purchasing. And compliments of FDA Compliance Policies, the variations of quality of ingredients can be dramatic. FDA listened to everything – and they seemed genuinely understanding to the consumer dilemma. But…

My concern for consumers is – the pet food label isn’t clear to the quality of the ingredient (shows real meat or grilled meat and it could be meat from rejected for use in human food animals). FDA turned that around and said regardless the food is ‘safe’. There was uniform disagreement from us on ‘safe’. How can it be safe it the food is made from rendered animals that have laid out in the sun for days? To which we were told those ‘food ingredients’ were processed to a level to be safe – killing all bacteria (rendering). Our response – but how can this be safe if rendered ingredients such as these animals that have laid out in the sun for days are ONLY allowed in animal food? If this process was so safe…why isn’t a commercial human food being made like this to cheaply feed the masses of hungry people? FDA responded – because it probably wouldn’t taste very good.

This back and forth went…back and forth. They listened – we listened. They did have an answer to just about everything – which I can’t say we always agreed with – but for the most part we each understood the challenges of the other. Except with my issues of the consumer being misled. They never quite believed the consumer was actually facing that much of a challenge to find a quality pet food. So…impromptu survey.

I got up from the table (the others were still talking) and the only people I could see that were not AAFCO related were the employees of the hotel working behind the desk. I walked over and asked if any of them had a pet. Two did. I asked them for just a couple minutes of their time – can I ask them some questions? They agreed and followed me back to the table to our regulatory meeting.

I asked…do you buy your pet food from a pet store or grocery store?

They both responded yes.

Me: Does the pet food have pictures of ingredients on the front of the bag?

They both responded yes.

Me: Do you believe those pictures of ingredients on the bag are what the pet food is made from?

They both responded yes.

Me: How would you feel if you learned it wasn’t? How would you feel if you learned those pictures which showed chicken breasts on the pet food bag were wrong – and that actually the pet food contained dead chickens rejected for use in human food that sat out in the sun for 3 days before they were pushed by a bull dozer into a big pit along with a couple of bloated dead horses along with some used restaurant grease?

One had to go back to the desk…the other said “I’d be mad”.

This was exactly my point. Consumers are mad – and they don’t deserve to be treated this way and regulators need to do something about it.

The meeting turned to…FDA telling us they probably are not going to be able to clearly clarify the grade of ingredients (feed or food) on pet foods for consumers. The regulatory water is very muddy – there is federal law and state law (50 different states all with different laws!) that would have to be addressed. But perhaps there was another way. They suggested we (consumers) do something similar to the Non-GMO project, where Association for Truth in Pet Food would raise the bar one more level on our Pledge to Quality and Origin by certifying the Pledge – verifying the information on the Pledge for consumers. We – consumers – could make happen what we need with transparency and honesty with pet food by giving pet foods our consumer ‘seal of approval’ if they meet our transparency and quality requirements. And – this part is huge – FDA said they would commit to working with us on this project.

There is a great deal to be worked out – but I can tell you we left the meeting feeling this was a good beginning. FDA heard us and even provided us with an option/method to make happen what we/consumers deserve to have happen.

One last thing on this meeting with FDA. During almost the entire meeting – we had two people actively listening to our entire meeting. One was texting updates to someone the entire time – another (who turned out to be with the renderers association) was listening on the other end of our meeting table and even asked me a question when it was over. There was even another that I caught taking a picture of us all. Our little meeting was more than a little meeting to some – ‘they’ were listening. I’m sure ‘they’ didn’t like what they heard.

 

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

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

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