Below are my notes from the January 2016 AAFCO Pet Food Committee Meeting.
The recent AAFCO meetings were held in Isle of Pines, South Carolina. Tuesday January 19th at 9:30 AM was the Pet Food Committee meeting. These meetings always begin with an introduction of Committee Members and advisers. There are multiple representatives of various State Department’s of Agriculture, FDA, industry – and Dr. Jean Hofve and myself were the consumer representative advisers.
Discussion began with an announcement that the 2016 Official Publication (OP – AAFCO’s big book of pet food regulations) has an error (or two, or three) in it found in the significantly important dog and cat nutrient profiles. We were told that the corrections would be made and each person that has purchased the 2016 Official Publication (I believe $125.00) would be issued corrected pages. Anyone reading this that owns the 2016 OP will be contacted by AAFCO for your corrected pages.
Next the committee discussed the ‘Guidance document’ that goes with the Human Grade definition. Most readers here read my progress reports of our Working Group that developed the definition of Human Grade (and Feed Grade) over the past months – you know that this was quite a challenge to get these definitions and guidance written and agreed upon. But, it was decided that the Guidance document needed some rewording. Nothing serious, just minor changes for clarification. (The actual definitions were part of the Ingredient Definitions Committee which will be discussed/explained in another post coming soon.)
One of the most significant things that came from this meeting was – the AAFCO Board of Directors asked the Pet Food Committee to begin a process to update pet food labels. I firmly believe the AAFCO Board of Directors has heard consumer concerns on pet food labels and they want to make changes based on consumer concerns. Dr. Hofve and I both felt that this was a huge step forward – we want to officially thank the AAFCO Board of Directors for asking the Pet Food Committee to take this on.
So…When the announcement was made that this is something the Pet Food Committee has been asked to tackle, the topic was then open for discussion.
A representative from Purina Pet Food stated there is a need to update labels. He stated that ‘consumers who purchase mac and cheese in the grocery are the same people going to the pet food aisle to purchase pet foods’ – and the labels of each food are very different.
Others agreed there are needs to update, but were concerned that nutritional data that is on pet food labels would not be appropriate or work well in pet food. I shared with the committee the recent survey data from consumers proving that pet food labels are not properly understood by most consumers. Dr. Hofve and I both volunteered to be on this working group to take this challenge on.
An industry representative seemed to take a stab at consumer representatives by stating he wanted to make sure that any label updates that would be made would not be “polar opposites” of the Food and Drug Association Amendments Act (FDAAA).
Explanation: The Food and Drug Association Amendments Act (FDAAA) are the laws that Congress developed in response to the 2007 pet food recall. While FDAAA includes regulation for human food, Congress took swift action really based on the 2007 pet food recall; they did not want another deadly pet food recall and they did not want a similar deadly situation to happen in human food. Those laws required that FDA update pet food manufacturing standards, update pet food ingredient definitions, and update an adverse event reporting system of a suspect bad pet food – all to be completed by September 2009. Only one of these legal requirements have been completed (the adverse event reporting system).
By bringing FDAAA into the discussion, things turned sour quickly. FDA stated they have been working on FDAAA for 8 years and they have no date when the work will be completed. Several from industry complained (including the Pet Food Institute – lobby group for Big Pet Food) that FDA has not given industry any opportunity to give input on FDAAA regulations. They asked if they could read what FDA has already written on FDAAA. One industry representative stated knowing what will be in FDAAA is “critical to a $20 billion industry”. They again asked FDA to read what has been written thus far on FDAAA.
FDA stopped them in their tracks saying “you are asking to write guidance”. (Thank you FDA.)
Since FDAAA was the topic, I added the following statement to the discussion: “I understand that industry has their concerns, but the people buying these products and the pets lives that depend on these products are why we are here. FDAAA was developed after the 2007 pet food recall. It was determined by Congress they didn’t want this to happen again. Those pets – hundreds of thousands of pets died – those pet owners are still waiting for FDAAA.”
At this point several in the audience (industry) told me my ‘hundreds of thousands’ number was incorrect. My response: “Yes – hundreds of thousands of pets died and were sickened in 2007 – some pets lived for years with serious health consequences. Those pets deserve as much consideration as industry.”
And then…a Purina Pet Food representative stated…“I actually agree with Susan.” He continued with ‘when we talk about industry, it is not a big dark hole of people, it is a bunch of folks that care about pets.’
A co-chair of the Pet Food Committee (Kristen Green of Kentucky Department of Agriculture) did a wonderful thing at this point…she told everyone that what the Pet Food Committee is looking for is data – not industry’s opinion or position on what should or should not be on labels. She mentioned what Dr. Hofve and I provided to AAFCO – which was data on what consumers wanted on pet food labels. She asked for the same from industry (data, not opinion from any one particular company). Thank you Pet Food Committee (Kristen Green). This was fair – and that’s all we are asking for – fair.
Overall, I believe we are seeing a small shift in fairness. Industry has had their way for decades, but we are slowing getting regulatory authorities – both State Department of Agriculture (though not all of them yet) and FDA – to be fair. To give consumers an opinion and giving those opinions full consideration. We were very pleased.
Notes from the Ingredient Definitions Committee will be posted soon – I haven’t gone through all my notes yet on that meeting. Hopefully will have that completed by tomorrow (1/22/16).
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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The 2016 List
Susan’s List of trusted pet foods. Click Here
Have you read Buyer Beware? Click Here
Cooking for pets made easy, Dinner PAWsible
Find Healthy Pet Foods in Your Area Click Here