The one thing FDA did to help consumers know the difference between a pet feed and a pet food is gone – without warning. FDA has left us absolutely defenseless against marketing lies of pet food.
Over this past weekend, I received a tip that FDA has ended the pet food human grade ingredient verification process (known as FDA Letter of No Objection). This devastation to pet food consumers was confirmed yesterday by the Pet Food Committee of AAFCO. (Questions were sent to FDA, more than 24 hours ago – they have not responded.)
What the FDA did…
Several years ago the bar was raised in pet food. New pet food companies began using actual food ingredients (human grade/human edible) in their pet foods instead of the standard feed grade/pet grade ingredients. Justifiably so, these new pet foods felt they had the right to inform consumers of the differences to their human grade ingredient pet foods as compared to the rest (feed grade ingredient pet foods). Consumers deserved to know the quality of pet food they were buying too (food grade or feed grade). But, just as the bar was raised in pet food, regulatory authorities kicked the bar down. Pet food regulators said ‘No’ – ‘No, you cannot tell consumers your pet food is made with actual food.’
One of these actual food pet foods called the hand of regulatory authorities and sued. In 2007, The Honest Kitchen Pet Food won a lawsuit that allowed them to prove to regulatory authorities their pet foods are actually food (not feed) – they were finally allowed (only because of this lawsuit) to tell pet food consumers the truth about the quality of ingredients of their pet food. That proof – provided to and verified by the FDA – provided this pet food with the first regulatory ‘ok’ to a pet food to make the human grade ingredients claim on their labels. FDA’s Letter of No Objection was born. No objection to a pet food company making the human grade ingredient claim (because all ingredients have been verified to be food by FDA).
The bar that was raised in pet food – actual food ingredient pet foods – kicked down by regulators, was put back up through the FDA Letter of No Objection ingredient verification process. Consumers had the support of FDA to finally help us separate the feed grade ingredient pet foods and the actual food pet foods.
But now, the FDA has kicked the bar down again. The FDA – without warning – has ended the Letter of No Objection ingredient verification program. It’s over.
And now it gets messy. The FDA has decided to let the states (each U.S. state – State Department of Agriculture) figure out the human grade ingredient claim on their own. And guess what? The states don’t have a plan in place to distinguish food grade pet foods from feed grade pet foods – because just like us consumers, they have depended on the FDA for the past 8 years to do this ingredient verification for them.
State Department of Agriculture people who will now be responsible for verifying food ingredient pet foods are feed people. These people don’t work with food – they work with feed. They have massive amounts of feeds and feed ingredients they must oversee, and now the FDA decides they must become food people too.
What this means to pet food consumers –
We don’t really know at this point. I suspect one of two things will happen…
1) AAFCO will make the decision that no pet food will be allowed to tell consumers the truth about the quality of their ingredients (no human grade ingredient claims on pet food labels will be allowed).
2) AAFCO will decide to allow everyone to tell consumers their pet food is made with human grade ingredients even when the claim is not true (no actual verification to quality of ingredients required).
Either way – pet food consumers lose.
You can imagine a pet food store full of feed grade ingredient pet foods – many outright lying to consumers stating the words ‘made with human grade ingredients’ on their labels. It might just be right around the corner.
Or you can imagine the pet foods that are actually food being silenced once again. You, wandering up and down the pet food aisle not having one clue to the quality of ingredients used because regulatory officials won’t allow companies to tell you the truth. This might be right around the corner too.
Right now pet feeds are using images of real food on their labels to mislead consumers – not one regulatory authority is enforcing existing regulations to protect consumers against these misleading food images. And very soon, the same misleading could be done with words – tricking unknowing pet food consumers into believing the dog or cat feed is made with real food (instead of a much lesser quality of feed ingredients). It is infuriating.
The worst to me, is that FDA did this behind the backs of all pet food consumers – secretly, silently. This was not supposed to become public knowledge until the next AAFCO meeting (August 3 – 5, 2015 in Denver, CO). Had I not been lucky enough to learn of this in advance, we consumer advocates would have walked into that pet food regulatory meeting and been blind sided by this news. Huge thank you to the person that believed consumers should be alerted to this and took the chance to trust me with the news.
If you’ve followed this website for long, you are aware of our consumer association’s (Association for Truth in Pet Food) attempt at establishing a pet food ingredient quality and country of origin verification program (it was to be The Pledge to Quality and Origin verified by 3rd party inspectors). Very similar to the Non-GMO Project verifying foods to be free of GMO ingredients. We needed the FDA’s approval for this project – get their official ‘no objection’ for our verification program and subsequent seal of approval to be put on verified pet food labels. Two months ago (March 30, 2015) the FDA told us “no” – they would not give us approval of our ingredient quality verification program. I assumed at the time they were wanting to control the verification of human grade ingredients themselves and didn’t want to provide opportunity for outsiders to do the verification. Now – after FDA dumped their verification process – I’m thinking differently.
It is my own personal opinion that Big Pet Food has urged the FDA to stop verifying that some pet foods are actually food. It is my own personal opinion that FDA how bowed to Big Pet Food’s request to stop providing consumers with verified information to the huge difference of quality in pet foods. Most of the pet food industry does not want consumers to understand that some pet foods are a lesser quality feed grade and others are a much higher quality food grade. And now it appears the FDA doesn’t want consumers to understand this either.
Had FDA wanted consumers to have the opportunity to learn the quality of ingredients in their choice of pet food they would have 1) not ended their ingredient verification program until each State Department of Agriculture had a similar program in place; and 2) would have notified consumer advocates of their decision in advance – knowing we all work very hard to help inform consumers. But neither of these things happened.
I’m not done with this topic or what fight we will present to regulatory authorities to protect consumer rights to know the quality of ingredients used in pet foods. I wanted to alert consumers to this devastating news first – and allow time for it to sink in for all of us (myself included). We will fight for the right to know who is pet food and who is pet feed. I’m going to need each and everyone of you to help when our battle plan is set. Soon.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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