The HUGE Difference Between FDA and USDA Pet Food Definitions
Briefly put – the USDA definitions of pet food ingredients require them to be food (legal), FDA’s definitions allow pet food ingredients to be illegal feed. Something is very, very wrong – two federal agencies with two VERY different perspectives.
Two U.S. federal agencies.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA): “The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.”
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): “Our agencies help to keep America’s farmers and ranchers in business and ensure that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and properly labeled.”
The FDA is the official governing body over pet food, however the USDA governs pet food in a separate way – through their voluntary “Certified Pet Food” program; a program very different than anything FDA requires of pet food.
Here is a look at how each government agency defines pet food ingredients.
The FDA – through a “Memoradum of Understanding” – allows the independent, non-governmental organization Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to write, own and copyright protect (not accessible to consumers) pet food ingredient definitions. The FDA/AAFCO definition of meat in pet food is (per the 2017 AAFCO Official Publication):
Meat is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to the part of the striate muscle which is skeletal or that which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart, or in the esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.
The USDA defines meat in a certified pet food as (per Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9, Chapter 3, Sub-chapter A, Part 355) (bold added):
Meat means the U.S. inspected and passed and so identified clean, wholesome muscle tissue of cattle, sheep, swine, or goats which is skeletal or which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart, or in the esophagus with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of skin, sinews, nerves, and blood vessels which normally accompany the muscle tissue and which are not separated from it in the process of dressing. It does not include the muscle found in the lips, snout, or ears.
These two definitions are night and day different. The USDA definition of pet food ‘meat’ assures the ingredient abides by federal law; “inspected and passed” just as the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act requires. But, the FDA/AAFCO definition – does not require the ingredient (meat) to abide by federal law. The FDA/AAFCO definition of pet food meat holds no requirement for the ingredient to be sourced from inspected and passed meat (as federal law requires of any food).
What about other pet food ingredients? Same thing. The USDA definition of poultry (bold added):
“Poultry means any domesticated bird slaughtered in accordance with the Poultry Products Inspection Act, Public Law 85–172, 85th Congress, S. 1747, dated August 28, 1957 (21 U.S.C. 451 et seq.).”
Very unlike the FDA/AAFCO definitions, the USDA even requires by-products to be inspected and passed (human grade). USDA definition of meat by-products and poultry by-products (bold added):
“Animal food meat by-product means the part other than meat which has been derived from one or more cattle, sheep, swine or goats that have been U.S. Inspected and Passed and is fit for use as animal food.”
“Animal food poultry byproduct means any portion of carcasses of poultry slaughtered under inspection and passed in accordance with the Poultry Products Inspection Act which is fit for use in animal food.”
Opposite of the USDA pet food ingredient definitions, the FDA/AAFCO definition of poultry (chicken/turkey), poultry (chicken/turkey) by-products and meat by-products contain NO requirement for inspected and passed (human grade) meat; any of these ingredients can be sourced from diseased animal material or condemned material per the FDA/AAFCO definitions. These FDA/AAFCO definitions do not require the pet food ingredients to be legal, abide by federal law.
And there is one more significant difference between the FDA/AAFCO pet food ingredient definitions and USDA pet food definitions…
…the USDA definitions are part of public record – free for the public to read. The FDA/AAFCO definitions are not public record, they cost the public $110 a year to read.
How can this be happening?
It is beyond explanation, beyond understanding. But…let’s look at one possibility in an effort to understand why/how FDA could openly ignore law in pet food…
The answer could be tied to the lack of access consumers have to pet food ingredient definitions. Consider this…there will NEVER be a federal law that states it is acceptable for a ‘food’ to contain diseased animal material or material from a dead non-slaughtered animal carcass. This will Never happen. So to enable the current ‘system’ of illegal waste ingredients in pet food/animal feed – perhaps ‘they’ (‘they’ being FDA/AAFCO) worked out a system where these illegal ingredients are defined privately…through AAFCO. AAFCO owing the definitions keeps them as un-official…not actual law. They are used as “legal definitions” – but they are not officially law. Perhaps…they are not officially legal.
Back to the USDA definitions – these pet food ingredient definitions are officially law. They are public information published in the Code of Federal Regulations and the definitions adhere to the requirements of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Opposite of the USDA definitions – the FDA/AAFCO definitions are NOT officially law – as they are not published anywhere publicly and not published in the Code of Federal Regulations and they do NOT adhere to the requirements of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
Maybe…this is how ‘they’ get away with their crimes. Don’t make the pet food definitions officially law, and hope no one will notice.
Pets are dying, pet food consumers are being lied to. Yep, we noticed.
Within federal law is the Administrative Procedure Act. This Act requires all government agencies to (briefly)…
- to require agencies to keep the public informed of their organization, procedures and rules;
- to provide for public participation in the rulemaking process, for instance through public commenting;
Currently, the FDA does NOT keep the pet food consumer public informed on pet food procedures and rules; these procedures, rules and ingredient definitions are owned by AAFCO. Currently, there is no “public participation” in the pet food “rulemaking process” as AAFCO charges $500.00 for anyone to attend these “rulemaking process” meetings.
Filed with FDA today (11/27/2017) was a Freedom of Information Act request for all pet food/animal feed ingredient definitions. If the agency provides those definitions – they will be provided to all pet food consumers on this website (and the request will be repeated each year as ingredient definitions change providing consumers with current definitions). If the agency does not provide those definitions, then we have foundation to violation of our rights as pet food consumers.
Over the next few weeks, The Administrative Procedure Act will be read in great detail. When these laws are fully understood, we (pet food consumers) are going to battle the powers that ignore law in pet food.
Taken from the movie Camelot starring Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave (I’m showing my age here): “Right is Might.” This is right. Pet food should be food, should be legal. Pet food consumers deserve a voice in the “rulemaking process” – law requires it. And we will battle whoever ‘they’ may be for that right.
And borrowing Rodney Habib’s hashtag – #PetFoodMatters.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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