Notes from AAFCO Meeting January 2018
Another meeting. More drama and frustration. Some potential pet food label changes for your review.
FDA was not in attendance at this meeting; the government shutdown prevented their attendance in person – however they were in attendance via webinar/phone for meetings Tuesday January 23.
I was also informed that the Hyatt (hotel the event was hosted at) had security in the back of the room – assumed to be related to the potential threat that prevented the attendance of several from this meeting. Kudos to the Hyatt for taking these precautions.
Mr. B.C. Henchen did attend the meeting on behalf of AssociationforTruthinPetFood.com. His first meeting as advisor lands him into an AAFCO working group that wishes to change pet food ingredient names, during the Ingredient Definitions Committee session.
It was shared at the last meeting (August 2017) that industry requested name changes of ingredients that consumers have a poor opinion of. AAFCO used the term “villain ingredients”. No mention of which ingredients those are, but we can all safety guess they are ingredients such as by-products (in the past industry has stated they would like to change the name to “co-products”). Mr. George Ferguson of North Carolina Department of Agriculture spoke for several minutes chastising AAFCO for using the term “villain“. It was determined to now call the ‘villain’ “ingredients of confusion”.
Yes…’they’ believe we (consumers) are confused. They believe the ONLY reason consumers don’t accept with open arms feed grade by-products – such as condemned animal material or material from a dead non-slaughtered animal – is because ‘some’ have misled consumers to believe that recycled waste is inferior nutrition. They believe consumers have been so misled…they must change ingredient names to protect consumers. (Honestly…they believe this.)
We will have to wait to hear what the working group decides on the ‘ingredients of confusion’.
The other meeting of interest to consumers was the Pet Food Committee meeting.
During the Pet Food Committee meeting was the concerning proposal to change the definition of human grade pet food – lowering the standard required of human grade pet foods. Myself, Mollie Morrissette, Dr. Jean Hofve and Dr. Cathy Alinovi (representing human grade manufacturers) all posted comments on the back side of the AAFCO website in opposition to the proposed changes. And many consumers sent emails to all the voting members of the Pet Food Committee in opposition to the proposed changes. When this discussion started in the Pet Food Committee meeting session, it seemed as if some of the voting members had already made up their minds on how they would vote. Mr. Stan Cook – Missouri Department of Agriculture/AAFCO President/Pet Food Committee co-chair – and Ms. Kristen Green – Kentucky Department of Agriculture/Pet Food Committee co-chair – made statements in complete favor of the proposed changes. As consumers and consumer representatives expressed opposition to the proposed changes, it was disheartening that these two AAFCO officials clearly did not ‘hear’ consumer voices.
Things looked grim…and then a miracle happened. Someone from the audience went to the microphone and addressed the committee. He stated he had 30+ years experience working with USDA. In no uncertain terms, this individual told the Pet Food Committee they cannot make these changes. Just as we (consumers and advocates) had told the committee, this individual told them a ‘human grade’ food with more than 3% meat must be manufactured under USDA inspection. He reminded the committee that law requires this. He reminded the committee that FDA and USDA can and must work together on human grade pet foods. This unknown individual was awesome!
AAFCO quickly ended the discussion and agreed that a working group must be formed for further discussion. It was/is a concern that individuals to volunteer for this working group was not allowed to be discussed. We most definitely need our representative B.C. Henschen to be part of that working group. Fingers crossed. This topic will be discussed again, probably at the next public AAFCO meeting (end of July 2018). As more is learned, it will be shared. But for now, human grade pet foods remain as is…a true pet ‘food’ – abiding by all ‘food’ law.
The last hour of the Pet Food Committee meeting was providing updates to the work of the Pet Food Label Modernization working group. (I participated in this group up until I was dismissed by AAFCO November 2017).
The following images were shared at the meeting as examples only. No decisions have been made, nothing is final – everything remains in discussion.
To explain the above…
In the green box is the consideration of how to list ingredients. This potential ingredient listing is grouping ingredients – though they will still be required to be listed in order of weight (pre-cooking). Notice there is a “Contains 2% or Less of” section.
Pet food labels are considering using a nutrition facts box similar to that of human food. The goal is for the nutrition facts box to replace the current Guaranteed Analysis on pet food labels. It is unknown if the nutrients displayed in the nutrition facts box image above (those below Moisture) will be the nutrients required to be displayed. One thing consumers did want from pet food labels – carbohydrate information – is provided in the nutrition facts box. Notice the 3rd section from the top – “Calories Per Cup…” Under that line is calorie content obtained from protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
The next change discussed was the complete and balanced seal you see above in the middle of the image. The working group decided that the seal would be required to be placed in a similar location on all pet foods, easy for the consumer to see. All complete and balanced pet foods would be a round seal, treats would be a square seal, and veterinary pet food products to be a octagon shaped seal. All seals will be white background, black lettering. And there will be variations to each depending on the intended use (adult, puppy, kitten…). Below are a few more examples of seals.
Also from the above proposed changes, consideration is being given to including ‘safe handling instructions’ for all pet foods. Several spoke out against the requirement for safe handling instructions on kibble or canned, Chelsea Kent of Hero’s Pets (pet store) provided information that kibble pet foods indeed should require safe handling instructions per FDA data of many kibble recalls due to bacterial contamination.
Here is an example provided of a pet food label (including front, sides, and back panel)…
Here is an example provided of a treat label…
Here is an example provided of a prescription pet food label…
And here is an example provided of a small can pet food label…
Note with the small can label, the small size of the label prevents placement of the nutrition facts box. It was explained that the information from the box IS included on the label, but not in ‘box’ form.
AAFCO stated that they intend to survey “3,000 consumers” in the future for comment on these label changes. But I would like to know your sentiments on the above label changes. Do these potential label changes provide information that you want or need from a pet food label? You can provide those in comments below.
The next AAFCO meeting will be end of July/early August.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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