Day 1 of the January 2014 American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is done. Here are some highlights of the day.
Just an FYI…AAFCO is an independent organization made up of representatives of various State Department of Agriculture representatives and a few representatives of FDA. Together these regulatory officials develop what is known as ‘model bills’ – which in most cases become law in each state. Part of the goal of AAFCO is to have uniform laws within each state for pet food and animal food. That goal is not always met however. Some states implement into law every update to the model bills produced at AAFCO meetings, others might take years to implement, while other states pick and choose which model bills that will incorporate into law. AAFCO itself is non-regulatory; the organization does not enforce law, they only develop potential laws. The model bills developed by AAFCO influence pet food regulations all over the world. AAFCO meets twice a year.
At the opening session – at least since I’ve been attending – there is a roll call so to speak of States that send representatives to the meeting. At this meeting about 25 states were represented with one or more State Department of Agriculture employees in attendance. After the state roll call, each in attendance stands and states their name along with their ‘affiliation’. Every year this attendance count has always been labeled as ‘representatives of industry’. My first AAFCO meeting – since I was certainly not industry – I didn’t stand and state my name. After I learned I should include myself (us) in the industry roll call.
In the midst of representatives stating their affiliation with ‘Mars Petcare’, ‘P&G’, ‘Cargill’, ‘Purina’, Del Monte’, ‘Hills Science Diet’ and all the others in attendance – there were two consumer advocates…myself and Mollie Morrissette (weather permitting Dr. Cathy Alinovi will join us tomorrow). There are an estimated 200 representatives of industry representatives here – either directly working for a manufacturer or ingredient supplier or industry trade groups. Standing and stating my name and “Association for Truth in Pet Food” is quite an honor (kinda fun actually stating those ‘truth in pet food’ words knowing many are cringing at the name).
278 people were in attendance today.
After roll call, there were various final votes on animal feed ingredient definitions that would become model bills (included into the next AAFCO ‘Official Publication’ – OP) and then came a vote on a “civil penalties provision”. These civil penalties – if the vote was approved – would be included into the next OP so that states that accept the model bill into law would be able to levy financial penalties against companies that are not in compliance. At the August 2013 meeting – representatives of Pet Food Institute, National Grain and Feed Association, and American Feed Industry Association (trade groups) were all adamantly opposed to civil penalties. But the AAFCO Board of Directors were in favor. Today more from industry spoke in opposition to civil penalties including a representative from the Wild Bird Feed association that stated ‘this rule could enable bigots and zealots to bankrupt a company’ (no kidding…she really said that). I spoke that consumers (in general) would be in favor of such civil penalties as currently we feel there is little to no accountability in the industry. I was very glad to see that this motion passed – so soon more states will be able to fine companies that violate pet food/animal feed laws.
We learned from a presentation by FDA that there is a ‘Food Safety Preventative Controls Alliance’ developed by the agency – currently the only consumer representative is the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Mollie and I approached this FDA representative after and asked to be included…I believe this will happen as things progress with this FDA project.
Another presentation emphasized the great need for quality control (so to speak) in laboratory testing of pet foods, animal foods, and food/feed ingredients. The perfect example of this need is jerky treat testing (my example – not given today at the meeting). If you recall when the FDA announced in October all the various testing done on the jerky treats over the 7 year investigation – testing for antibiotic residues had been done before. But because New York Department of Agriculture did things a little differently (thank you New York!) finally a contaminant was found and the treats (some of them) were removed from store shelves. Everyone – regulators and consumers – need the latest testing procedures and equipment in order to keep us and our pets safe.
And giving credit where credit is due – almost all of the AAFCO members we’ve spoken with at this meeting have been very helpful and gracious. We might not agree on many topics – but most of the AAFCO and FDA folks have been kind and at the very least open to discussion.
Tomorrow is the big day – with afternoon meetings of the Pet Food Committee and the Ingredient Definitions Committees. Both of these committees Mollie and I (representing our consumer association) are advisers (it’s a big deal and was a long hard fought battle for us to get there). I’ll update everyone as soon as I can.
Thanks to all of you for supporting us – allowing us to be here representing pet food consumers.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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