From my first regulatory meeting, I’ve referred to the process that controls pet food as a ‘good ol boys club’. With a month away till the next regulatory meeting, this post isn’t going to make me the most popular person at the July AAFCO meeting…but this needs to be said. Consumers and their advocates are NOT going away and we’ll never again accept recycled waste as food for our pets.
The ‘club’ was/is state and federal regulatory authorities and big industry/trade groups. When I walked into my first meeting of the ‘club’ several years ago (an AAFCO meeting) I was aghast at the buddy buddy system of pet food regulations. Industry/trade representatives had such close ties to federal and state regulatory authorities they almost finished each others sentences. It was/is a very strange love affair between the two sides (industry/regulatory). I have felt (and witnessed) the regulatory system of pet food is a cooperative effort between state/federal authorities and industry – ‘you got my back, I got yours’ appeared to be the club motto.
This system didn’t have any room for consumers…or perhaps better phrased, consumers that ask questions. ‘They’ felt they had the system worked out perfectly. The good ‘ol boys were pleasant – ‘Hi there little consumer!’ – but, the pleasantries ended when those pesky consumers questioned their well oiled system of pet food regulations. ‘We know what we’re doing little consumer, you just mind your own business.’
To regulatory authorities, pet food is either kibble or can and it is made using waste ingredients with a ton of added supplements…end of story. This is what pet food regulations are based on and this is all most of the authorities that enforce those regulations understand – the only pet food comes in a kibble or a can and it is made with rejected for use in human food waste with a side order of supplements from China.
But somewhere along the line, new companies came into the pet food picture. In many, many cases these small companies were started by a frustrated consumer. A consumer that watched their pet die from eating the brown-and-round waste ingredient pet food. These new pet foods were made with USDA inspected and approved meats and vegetables (certified human grade), or raw meat pet food, or pet foods that are so like human food (even made in human food commercial kitchens) a person could actually eat the pet food themselves.
And just how ‘the buddy system’ didn’t have room for consumers asking too many questions, the system didn’t have room for these trendy, new-fangled pet foods either. Nutritional requirements were established for waste ingredient pet foods with tons of added supplements – not whole food pet foods with little to no supplements. Human grade? Forget about it! Pet food has no definition of ‘human quality/grade’ ingredients (though federal law does). They stand firm…’that’s not pet food!’
A very recent consumer advocacy effort from Association for Truth in Pet Food (ATPF) was to ask each state if their regulations included labeling laws that would protect consumers from misleading labels. All responses of this consumer advocacy effort will be published on the ATPF website, but overall it was discovered that many states have no pet food specific regulations, and many states have antiquated pet food regulations. Many states haven’t responded yet.
One State flat out refused to answer our consumer association’s simple questions – stating their responsibility was only to consumers within their state and the industry.
The response from this particular state representative, the lack of state regulations in so many states, and the lack of response at all from so many states was a reality check for me. Pet food is such a regulatory mess, it allows the good ‘ol boy club to thrive. It allows authorities the opportunity to turn their head at violations of law by some manufacturers (from labeling to serious food safety law as diseased animals becoming pet food ingredients), while targeting other manufacturers who are using such safe ingredients that a child could eat the pet food.
It’s the pet food regulatory system that is working to protect their good ‘ol boys club and deter consumers from discovering who the true quality pet foods are. It’s the regulatory system that has to change.
We are a little more than a month away from another pet food regulatory meeting (AAFCO). With certainty more consumers and consumer advocates need to be there – letting the good ‘ol boys know you aren’t going away. With certainty more human grade ingredient pet foods need to be at regulatory meetings – telling authorities human grade or raw or whole food (supplement free) pet foods aren’t going away.
Beyond that, I’m not sure what we need to do. Regulatory authorities are fighting back to the changes consumers want more than I’ve ever seen before. And Regulatory authorities are targeting the non-traditional pet foods more than I’ve ever seen before. Something has to be done.
We need laws that are uniform across all 50 states. We need laws that provide the consumer with pet food labels that accurately describe the contents of that pet food. We need laws that require manufacturers to disclose country of origin of ingredients and country of manufacture of a food or treat. We need nutritional requirements that address the use of whole food and no use of supplements. And then we need enforcement of those laws.
At a conservative 5% – pet food alone provides more than $1 billion dollars in sales tax revenue to states each year. This doesn’t include the fees that many pet foods pay each state to even sell their products in each state.
Government is earning significant income from sales of pet food – it’s time they protect those that consume it.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients? Chinese imports? Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 2500 cat foods, dog foods, and pet treats. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee. www.PetsumerReport.com
Susan’s List of trusted pet foods. Click Here
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Cooking for pets made easy, Dinner PAWsible
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