I wish there was more to report, however this time at the AAFCO meeting topics were more on animal feed information than pet food. But, here are highlights of from this summer’s meeting.
Day two was the Pet Food Committee meeting and the Ingredient Definitions Committee meeting – two of the more significant committees for pet food consumers.
In the Pet Food Committee meeting, there was a report from the Carbohydrate Working Group (Working Groups are smaller sub-committee groups that work in-between meetings on their respective topics – reporting their work at meetings). This Working Group is trying to determine an appropriate method of testing for carbohydrate percentage in pet foods.
Carbohydrate listings on pet food is in the works but here is the regulatory dilemma. In the future, when carbohydrate amounts are included in the Guaranteed Analysis on the label, this will be the company’s ‘guarantee’ there is X amount of carbohydrate in the pet food. For a pet food regulator, there must be a way to prove this ‘guarantee’ is correct – a testing method. Currently, there is no analytical method that will provide consistent results for State Department of Agriculture laboratories. The working group reported that in the volunteer testing they have done, there was a variety of up to 20% in measuring carbohydrates. So, they are still looking for a means to accurately prove carbohydrate levels. Once this testing method is found, my guess will be the next step is moving forward on the legal requirement of carbohydrate content statements on pet food labels.
During the Pet Food Committee meeting as well, there was a great deal of time spent on the soon to be published updated nutrient profiles for dog and cat foods. The issue was clarifying the calcium content for growth dog foods (for growing puppies), specifically large breed growth dog foods and how this information will be stated in the AAFCO Official Publication.
Dr. Burkholder of FDA stated there is science that shows for large breed puppies (adult weight over 70 pounds), there are health risks associated with calcium content over 1.9%. Current calcium maximum levels for all growth pet foods is 2.5%. The discussion was not to question the science, it was only to define how the new calcium maximum (which will be set at maximum 1.8%) for growth large breed dog food will be listed in the next AAFCO Publication. But, there was some complaints from industry about having to change their formulas to the lower level of calcium maximum.
It was disheartening to me to hear two industry representatives complain they will have to reformulate their dog foods (to the lower calcium levels) – right after Dr. Burkholder just told them there are health risks associated with higher calcium levels. These industry representatives seemed to care more about the work involved to lower calcium levels than the risk their foods could cause to the dogs consuming them.
Dr. Burkholder also made a brief statement that the FDA Compliance Policy being developed to allow pet food labels (and marketing of those products) to state the pet food can “cure, treat, or prevent disease” is on hold. I find this a good thing – that it is on hold. Because consumers understand that drugs are typically the only thing that FDA allows to claim can “cure, treat, or prevent disease” – and that these drugs go through extensive testing – when a pet food is allowed to make these claims it will be confusing to the general pet food consumer. Certainly these pet foods will be confused with a tested drug, when the reality is far from that. Let us hope this stays on hold for a long, long time.
During the Ingredient Definitions Committee meeting, the topic of pet food ingredients ‘meat meal’ and ‘meat and bone meal’ were scheduled to be discussed. This didn’t happen. Myself and Dr. Hofve are on the working group to develop improved definitions for these ingredients, so we’ll be working on this in-between now and the next AAFCO meeting in January 2014.
And…that is about it. Most of the discussion in the Ingredient Definitions Committee meeting was related to livestock feed ingredients.
Although there was not a great deal of pet food related discussion at this meeting, it was significant we were represented there. I’d like to encourage more pet food consumers, veterinarians, bloggers – whoever – to start attending AAFCO meetings. We certainly need more representation. Industry groups hold special meetings at the same time as AAFCO – it would be great in the future if we could do the same. The next meeting is in New Orleans – January 7-9, 2014. Please consider it.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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